A while ago, I reviewed Wizard’s First Rule and later decided to read the whole series by Terry Goodkind. While there were some good points to it, I have no hesitation in saying that the latter half was predominantly bad. Now that all eleven books are over, I can pronounce my judgment. Unlike the Wheel of Time, I’m going to start with the bad since it stands out so much. In case you’re wondering why I went through and read eleven books, it’s because once you read the first 4 books, you have to know what happens!
Note: No specific spoilers here, but only a general commentary on the series.
The Ugly – Repetitive Sword of Truth Themes
Several things bug me about this series. One of them is that each book makes use of the same themes over and over again. For example, Terry Goodkind seems to be completely obsessed with people getting captured. In the course of the series, every single good guy has been rendered helpless in the hands of the enemy at least once, and many of them more than once. Each book contains people getting captured and then escaping. I’ve lost count of how many times the main protagonist (Richard) has been rendered helpless by someone or the other.
Also, Richard is somehow or the other deliberately crippled in each of the books. Either he gets debilitating headaches, or he’s prevented from using his gift (or forbidden from doing so), or he’s losing his magic or whatever. As a result, we never get to see him at his full potential as a war wizard.
And what’s with everyone being tired? I mean does no one sleep in the books? Whenever we see Richard, we hear about how he hasn’t slept well for weeks – or any of the main protagonists for that matter (Zedd is the only exception. He’s my favorite character). Another means by which Goodkind incapacitates his heroes. They’re always hungry or tired.
The next huge issue is the love story between Richard and Kahlan. Ok they’re in love. We GET IT! They behave like lovestruck teenagers. Whenever Kahlan isn’t present, Richard loses all capacity for thought and the world can go to hell. It’s sick. He doesn’t behave like an adult, but some moonstruck juvenile. Kahlan is a little (just about) better. At least she can operate cogently without Richard being around. Every book in the Sword of Truth series has to have at least one mandatory separation of Richard and Kahlan. Every single book. The two are so boring together that Goodkind is forced to pry them apart and thus provide the motivation for Richard to get off his butt and do something. Sometimes it seems that it’s the only thing that works.
Richard is supposed to be the most powerful wizard in 3,000 years and a war wizard to boot, and even at the end of the book, he still doesn’t know how to use his powers. Time and time again he gets an opportunity to learn about them from his Grandfather Zedd who’s the First Wizard of the land, and each time he throws away the opportunity – and for what? Yep – that’s right. To spend time with Kahlan. He doesn’t care that if he doesn’t learn, his gift will kill him. He just wants to be alone with Kahlan. But then hey! If he learns how to use his powers, he can actually ward off the threat from every Tom Dick and Harry who captures him! And we can’t have that can we? How will he get the motivation to rejoin Kahlan then hmm?
Just once in the series, he gets his wet dream. Kahlan is injured and she recuperates with him in a forest where it’s just the two of them. If it wasn’t for a nice evil sorceress who stole Richard away, he’d still be cuddling with her in his wooden shack in isolation. A pathetic hero to say the least.
I’ve saved the worst for the last. After the fifth book or so Richard who’s supposed to be the Seeker of Truth, mutates into the Preacher of Truth. Pages and pages (and pages) of the books are devoted to long winded black and white monologues by Richard who suddenly gets a Christ complex. The funniest part is that after dozens of pages of monologue, his listeners instead of going to sleep or throwing a rotten egg at him, stroke their chins and say “Y’know? I wish I had thought of that!” As if you can change a person’s entire nature by just boring them to death. I mean who talks like that? Goodkind tries to stuff his sickeningly righteous Ayn Rand bullshit down the throats of his readers over and over again. And then he does it again for good measure. Richard, who’s originally a nice sort of guy becomes this holier than thou – Oh I’m so wise and all knowing – jerk.
One final aspect of the entire series. What’s up with Richard losing his sword all the time? I mean I know that Goodkind has to do his usual thing of incapacitating his hero again and again, but why even bother to link the sword to Richard if just about anyone can take it and use it? Richard is separated from his sword over and over again (and Zedd even castigates him for it) – makes him seem careless you know what I mean?
Also, the whole Sisters of the Light concept was a knockoff of Robert Jordan’s Aes Sedai – complete with Sisters of the Dark resembling the Black Ajah.
The villains in the books also seem to be blessed with good luck. Somehow, the main evil guy (Jagang) repeatedly gets his hand on the rarest books in existence when they’ve been sitting right under the noses of the good guys all along. I mean his luck is simply unbelievable. All the books have a theme where things are going really really bad for the good guys and then in the last 100 pages or so, Richard the Preacher of Truth saves everyone with some jiggery pokery.
There are several really nice interesting characters in the book. They provide a refreshing break from the two main boring ones. Zedd, the First Wizard and Richard’s grandfather is the most entertaining, powerful and nicest old man in the series. Adie, the blind sorceress is an excellent complement. Nathan the powerful 1000 year old prophet is also a commanding character, but he doesn’t get much onscreen time unfortunately.
For me, the best concept was a set of scary guards called the Mord Sith. Fantastic addition. They really gave the entire series a breath of fresh air.
The villains were quite decent, though not as good as the one in Runelords (The villain called Darken Rahl however, was the match of Raj Ahten). I wish there were more good things to say about the books. I really do. After all, I spent a lot of time reading all eleven books. But I don’t feel sad that it’s over – unlike with the Wheel of Time series, or Runelords. I just feel relieved.