Book Review: Wizards First Rule by Terry Goodkind 6.0
Published by Tor Fantasy, Paperback
Release Date: Out Now
With the imminent release of the new TV series, Legend of the Seeker, based on Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, we at IGP thought it would be a good idea to review the first book of the series, Wizards First Rule. The story tells the tale of Richard Cypher, a woods guide in the land of Westland. After the gruesome death of his father, he meets a strange woman, Kahlan Amnell who is pursued by assassins. This chance encounter leads him on a journey to the Midlands, where the magical boundaries between the lands have come down, and to the evil tyrant, Darken Rahl, who desperately searches for the magical boxes of Orden, in order to have domination over all the land. For those that aren’t familiar with the series, this was Goodkind’s first novel, a fact that is fairly obvious, particularly during those first few chapters.
Overall, I found the story far too simplistic for such a large book (this paperback edition is over 800 pages long). Many have already mentioned the distinct similarities between plot points in Wizard’s First Rule and a certain movie set in a galaxy far far away. Of course, even that movie, took ideas from earlier movies, so that in itself might seem a little unfair. Anyway, aren’t most fantasy stories based around the idea of somebody discovering their destiny and fighting the evil menace with the help of wizards? However, I did take umbrage with the brief appearance of Gollum. Okay, not literally Gollum, but a character that bore more than just a few passing similarities.
As for the story, the book contained two major mysteries. One was the mystery of who Kahlan is. It seemed that everybody in the novel, aside from Richard, knew who she really was. For the most part, I could buy into the fact that she didn’t want to tell him who she really was, but by the halfway point of the novel, it just got on my nerves. Particularly, during a certain part of the novel where she becomes so afraid of using her powers on him that she is desperate to commit suicide, so it wouldn’t happen. This seemed to border on the ludicrous, and frankly, by the time that her secret was finally revealed, I really didn’t care. The fact that she made her revelation precisely when she did, was a little too convenient, also.
The second major mystery was not a mystery at all, if you remotely had paid attention during the first few chapters. Like any good fantasy novel, there is a big betrayal. But who will the betrayer be? Kahlan tells Richard of everything that had happened when Darken Rahl took over the Midlands. Understandably, it may not have been obvious to Richard, but Kahlan should have seen the warning signs right away. Supposedly, she had tried to warn him, but if she had, she didn’t do very well, which, considering if you’re trying to save the world, is pretty stupid.
Much has been made of certain torture scenes in the novel. All I can say on that is that it was far too long. I understand the phrase, “show, don’t tell” but the whole torture scene, while moderately important to the book, took up a good quarter of the novel. Perhaps, the passage of time should have been marked in other ways instead? Strangely, despite the overly long torture scene, I felt disappointed to not learn more about the torturer, Mistress Denna and the Mord Sith in general.
This isn’t supposed to mean that there weren’t some decent parts to the novel. I found the parts with Rachel, an abused child, to be most intriguing, and would also have liked to have seen more of the wizard, Giller, who was a tad more three dimensional than Richard’s friend, Zed. There were some nice moments between Kahlan and Richard, but it would’ve been nice to see a lot more of Chase, and also Addie. As for the bad guys, they are shown to be truly despicable, with absolutely no redeeming qualities, and this is where the novel truly does fail. Darken Rahl has no personality. While we’re given a lot of information about him via others, the character himself remains just a foreboding shadow to be eventually beaten by the good guys; while the means of defeating him did come as a surprise, there was certainly no doubt who would win, or even, who would be alive by the end of the book. However, this was Goodkind’s first novel, and thus shouldn’t be judged too harshly. While being fairly formulaic, it is still a fun fantasy outing, and I’m very curious to see how they are able to translate this large volume to television.
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