The final novel in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series begins in near-hopeless darkness. The hero of the series, Richard Rahl is not only a slave to the black hole of evil known as the Emperor Jagang, but he’s also been stripped of his magical powers, forced to play a murderous game rigged against him, and wakes to find an unhealthily devoted fan of another team trying to stab him to death. How can he possibly get free, save his wife, his friends, and his kingdom from millions of life-hating fanatics of the Imperial Order come to burn his followers from the earth?
The answer takes some doing to get to. Between you and the final resolution lie some brilliant set pieces; epic sequences of pulse-pounding battle action (and sports action in a game best described as naked football to the death with rocks); and some of the most glaciated, pace-killing, engine-gumming dialogue ever laid out on the slab of an otherwise well-paced story. Some of the characters are interesting and likable, but lord, don’t get them talking! They blather on about the principles of a well-lived life, the course of prophesy, and the evils of mindless devotion to religion so long, you wish you could conjure a little Wizard’s Fire to shorten the book.
Completing the tale also takes a healthy dose of credulity to accept a non-magical mensch getting up after two nights without sleep to play a brutal blood-sport for hours on end and then slice his way through a million-man army before hiking to the top of a mountain to fight his way through a packed room of elite warriors. But even more so, it takes a strong stomach for clinically detailed, lavishly prolonged violence against women. Apparently, it isn’t sufficient for Jagang to be bad; he has to be over-the-top, heinously Dark-Lord evil. What should be a quick, stark characterization draws on so long, it begins to feel like a creepy fetish.
This is the only novel of the entire series I have read, and I’m certainly glad of it. It was entertaining, overall, but I can’t imagine wading through ten-thousand pages of Goodkind’s uneven prose only to get to the slightly anticlimactic climax that Confessor brings. In sum, it wasn’t bad, but it isn’t good enough to be great, and certainly not good enough to cap a dozen books in a way I would have found satisfying.
Posted by Kurt Dietz