Review: Wizard’s First Rule (Sword of Truth, #1) by Terry Goodkind

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Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date read: November, 2008
Read count: 1

After watching a couple of episodes of Legend of the Seeker*, I became interested in the Sword of Truth series and had to pick up the first book.

Wizard’s First Rule starts out okay but kind of slow. There’s some action and some interesting things happening that gradually build up to more action and those interesting things coming to a head as the story unfolds. So basically classic fantasy plot with a classic fantasy setting (with some interesting embellishment).

The world is divided into three lands: Westland, the Midlands, and D’Hara. D’Hara is ruled by the evil tyrant Darken Rahl who is in the process of taking over the Midlands and has plans to breach the magical barriers separating D’Hara and the Midlands from Westland (or is it Heartland? It’s called the Heartland in the show, I think… I don’t remember).

The story opens with Kahlan Amnell, a Confessor (a powerful mage of high ranking), on her way to find the Seeker (find the Seeker…hah) to bring him back to the Midlands so he can fulfill his destiny, defeat Rahl, and bring peace to all the lands. But first, Kahlan must find a powerful wizard who lives in Westland. Only he knows who the true Seeker is…or something like that. Kahlan breaks through the magical barriers separating the lands and stumbles into Westland while being pursued by D’Haran assassins. She runs right into Richard Cypher, a trail guide (and the Seeker, though unbeknownst to himself and everyone else). He helps her escape from the guards and then takes her to his village where she finds the wizard she’s looking for. The rest of the story is about Richard discovering who he really is, with help from magical and non-magical people he meets along the way. And his journey leads him ultimately to confront Rahl and bring him bring down. The end… to be continued.

The adventures are somewhat fun and interesting for most of the book, but they take a dark turn close to the end. So basically what you’d expect from high fantasy with the exception of a gratuitous amount of torture. Well, I suppose that depends on your threshold for torture in books. What’s in this book is gratuitous to me. But for much of the book though, story revolves around just Richard and Kahlan (and sometimes Zedd) traveling through the lands and running into all sorts of trouble in the form of assassins and mythical creatures, sent by Rahl. And that’s fun, more fun to me than the gratuitous torture scenes.

Like the adventures, the characters are also somewhat fun and interesting, but somewhat generic too. Richard and Kahlan are likable enough, and the secondary characters like Zedd and Shota are amusing in their own way. They all add something to the overall world in which they exist. And that world is an interesting study in turmoil and suffering; there’s a lot of tension between the different factions and magical creatures that live within these lands, and that’s all part of the charm of this world. Another charming part of this world is the magic. It’s dark, mysterious, and violent, and the epic hero’s rites of passage set against this backdrop, with everything working against him, is an interesting take on a worn-out trope. Richard is put through a lot and suffers a great deal before achieving hero status.

Normally I give books I like well enough 3 stars, and the first half of this book is a solid 3 because I enjoyed the journey and world building and was all prepared to jump into the second book, but alas I can only muster up 2 stars because the second half was just too long-winded. The plot took too many detours and they just went on for pages and pages. I was left exhausted by the end of each leg of the journey. And also, did I mention there’s a copious amount of torture in this book? Much of it borders on BDSM. A few mentions here and there might have been good enough to portray how much Richard had had to suffer, but no, all torture scenes are described in gratuitous detail. By the end, I couldn’t see the point of it anymore. (Like, is this supposed to be erotica or not…? I couldn’t tell.)

After reading reviews of the other books in this series, I don’t think I will read on. As interesting as the landscape and magics are, I don’t think I can stand more of Terry Goodkind’s style of storytelling. The consensus is the author becomes too preachy further into the series and interjects too many of his own personal beliefs into the story, and so the rest of the series after the 4th book reads like propaganda manuals. Another thing is Goodkind is convinced he doesn’t write fantasy…as though “fantasy” is the worst thing to call his books. Right, because a wizard character named “Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander” makes it definitely not fantasy.

* not bad for a sword & sorcery show, but you know, probably not something you’d watch if there’s something better on TV. This was a time before I had decent internet service, so streaming/Netflix wasn’t an option. You couldn’t just pull up any show or movie you wanted to watch on a whim because you were at the mercy of the Regularly Scheduled Programming gods. Those were the days. How far we’ve come…

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