If you want a quick read, the Sword of Truth Series by Terry Goodkind is not for you. This series consists of twelve novels, and one novella, and most of the novels clock in at 700-800 pages; they are definitely not meant to be carried around in one’s back pocket. But, that being said, if you have the time and effort to dedicate to reading this series, I think you will find it well worth it.
The Sword of Truth Series is named for the weapon carried by the saga’s main character, Richard (for those of you wondering, yes, Richard does have a last name – however, I am going to avoid using it in order to prevent spoilers). Richard begins the saga as a simple woods guide, living his utilitarian and secluded life in the forests of Westland – a place where no magic exists. Richard is quickly catapulted in a life of danger and battle soon after he meets the last Confessor, Kahlan. Kahlan is searching for the First Wizard, who left the midlands decades ago, so that he can appoint the Seeker – the only one who can defeat the evil ruler of D’Hara, Darken Rahl. As it turns out, Richard’s old friend, Zed, is the First Wizard Kahlan is searcing for. Coincidentally enough, Zed appoints Richard to the position of Seeker and gives him the Sword of Truth, a magical weapon of untold power. The story unfolds from there into a sprawling quest across the entirety of the known world including the Midlands, where magic is prevalent; D’Hara, a great military empire ruled by a long line of egomanical wizards; and into the Old World, which is ruled by the Order – an group of bloodthirsty savages dedicated to eradicating all magic.
Goodkind’s first few books are fairly simple compared to the later books, and are full of borrowed characters and settings from prior fantasy books. One example of this is the character Samuel, who covets the Sword of Truth as his own, even though the sword left him a corrupted and grotesque creature with large yellow eyes (sound familiar, *Gollum*). As the series progresses, the writing becomes much more mature and engrossing. Goodkind has plenty of page space to flesh out his characters, but, unfortunately, he tends to sacrifice those opportunities in ways that don’t necessarily move the characters or the story forward. There are several instances where Goodkind instead chooses to expound upon dry and tedious details of how magic works in Richard’s world, or has the characters launch into pages-long diatribes about the importance of freedom and mercilessly crushing any opposition to freedom. I am all for everyone being entitled to their own political opinions, but I found myself getting pretty perturbed, especially in the last three books of the series, at Goodkind’s blatant attempts to shove his own political views down my throat. Those pages would have been better served by adding a few more dimensions to his sometimes rather flat characters.
But, in the end, this is series of books is worth reading. While it may not have the character development on par with George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, or the intricate world development of Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen, it does seem to balance those two competing priorities fairly well, resulting in memorable characters and a fairly engrossing story. I have purposefully avoided going into very much detail in order to avoid spoilers, but I can say that the series does have enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes.
Final Word: Read this series, but be prepared for the political tirades. Feel free to skip through the boring rants and dry descriptions of magic spells and rituals.
Score: 3.5 out of 5 Short-tailed Gars
*Wizard’s First Rule Coverart by Keith Parkinson