||Excellent writing and a great story
make this one of the best Sword of Truth novels yet. The fact that it is
book one of a trilogy doesn't hinder it in the slightest, mainly because
each book continues on from where the last one left off. This story is
only slightly less finished than previous ones.
The book is about Richard's search for
Kahlan, who has disappeared -not just from his side, but from everyone's
memory, as well. Nobody can remember her, and they all think he is
delusional, from a mortal wound Nicci barely saved him from. Everything
centers around Richard trying to convince the people around him that
Kahlan existed, and trying to realign their memories with what he knows
to be true. But it is all to no avail, which is frustrating to him, and
interesting to us, because we know Kahlan was real. There are clues, as
well, but they are scattered amongst the various characters, who don't
realize they have pieces to a puzzle they don't know they are part of.
Verna, for example, can't recall how she convinced Richard to put the
collar around his neck back in Stone of Tears.
The book starts in the Old World, where
Richard, Nicci and Cara make their way back to Altur'Rang, Jajang's home
town and the place where Richard started the revolution in
Faith of the
Fallen. Nobody there remembers Kahlan, either. Richard is called to the
defense of the city because Jajang has sent an army to reclaim what was
to be his centre of power. Richard refuses, because he sees that
Kahlan's disappearance is the key to the larger picture. He also,
rightly, states that they can't use him as a crutch to save them and
their newfound freedom from everything Jajang sends at them. Instead,
because the army have a wizard with them, Nicci stays, even though she
thinks Richard is making a mistake.
Nicci's defense of the city, and her
provocation of the army was very rewarding. It's nice to see the
character written so completely different from the person she was when
Faith of the Fallen began. She actually felt shame riding into the camp
topless and as nothing more than a display plaything, where before she
would have thought it was her duty to provide for these savage and
pathetic souls. It's nice to see some truly powerful magic for a change,
explicitly used, and Nicci is one of the most powerful people when it
comes to magic, being a sister of the dark and having stolen the magic
of a wizard in Stone of Tears. Although we didn't get to experience the
entire attack, her initiation of it was very nicely done.
Richard, meanwhile, is being chased by
a beast of magic and chaos created by Jajang's sisters of the dark. It
appears in one guise at one time, then another at another time. It takes
Shota to clear up the mystery: it is a truly unpredictable beast,
because Richard can outthink and out-predict anything that can be
predicted. The beast attacks randomly, and doesn't learn from its
mistakes. Worse, though, is that it was drawn to Richard's blood when
Nicci used subtractive magic to remove the barbed crossbow bolt and some
clotting blood to save him in the opening pages. Now, every time Richard
uses the magic that is tied to his blood, it will call the beast. Or
not, because the beast can't be predicted.
Shota is even more wicked than I
remember from Wizard's First Rule. She gives Richard brutal honesty. I
loved the way she also gave him a taste of his own medicine in expecting
her to answer his questions. "You must help me" is the command he
rejected from the people of Altur'Rang. Now he demands it from Shota.
Although she does give him some information, mostly about the beast that
hunts him, it comes with a very steep price. In order for her to answer
his questions about Kahlan, whom she also doesn't remember, she demands
his Sword of Truth, which she gives to Samuel, the previous Seeker. For
this, she gives Richard three pieces of information, about which she has
no context. I suppose it's like being a prophet, but being partially
blind to the prophecy.
"Chainfire", "buried with the bones of
the Deep Nothing", and "beware the four-headed serpent" seemed like a
cheat to Richard, but he later discovered that he had, in fact, paid a
good price for the information.
After visiting Shota, Richard visits
Zedd at Wizard's Keep. He goes so far as to dig up Kahlan's grave in
Aydindril to prove his truth is the absolute truth. After finding an
actual body buried there, he goes into depression. Nicci rejoins
Richard's story at this point, and I discovered I really liked this
character. We see how much she loves and worships Richard, ever since he
gave her that revelation in Faith of the Fallen. This entire book, she
was written in such a lovely way, I looked forward to the parts that
were given from her point of view. She convinces Richard to keep to his
ideals, even if she and everybody else disagree with them.
At this point in the story, Ann and
Nathan also catch up to Richard. With their obsession about prophecy,
they insist that Richard take command of the D'Haran army to lead them
in the final battle, which prophecy states as being lost if he doesn't.
Richard, of course, has abhorred prophecy ever since he found out about
prophecy, and he doesn't take well to being told what to do.
In a secret room deep within Wizard's Keep, he
finds a book about the Boxes of Orden. When Zedd, Ann and Nathan ask
Nicci to remove the "fantasy" of Kahlan from Richard's brain, she
instead urges him to leave. He knows the people involved in the
conspiracy, so he can't take any of the usual routes out of the Keep.
Instead, he uses the sliph, discovered nearby in
Blood of the Fold. The sliph
actually knows where the Deep Nothing is, so he goes there. There, he
finds a book called Chainfire.
I love the way all the other books in
this series are referenced, even down to the plague of
Temple of the Winds. Richard uses
every experience they shared with Kahlan from all of those other books,
all to no avail. There are also things
like the Boxes of Orden, which seemed like abandoned storylines, have
now come back into play. The serpent with four heads turns out to be the
four sorceresses who pledged to Richard to escape Jajang, but who don't
actually serve him.
They are the ones who have kidnapped
Kahlan, and have initiated Chainfire, the ancient spell that could cause
the rearrangement of people's memories and the complete disappearance of
the person they wanted to hide. Even Kahlan doesn't know who she is, or
the power she holds inside her. She is sent to steal the Boxes of Orden
from the Garden of Life in the People's Palace in D'hara. It was obvious
the Boxes would become important again, because of the way that Verna
went to check on them near the beginning of the book. The boxes are
split up because Kahlan can only fit one in her backpack at a time, at
least without giving up her most prized possession, the statue Richard
carved for her, and which he modeled the huge statue in Altur-Rang
after. She must leave it behind, though, after she gets a massive
beating. When Richard finds it, he finally feels vindicated.
So one of the Boxes is sent away early,
with a sister of the dark who is attacked along the road by the new (or
old?) Seeker of Truth, who then steals the box! Richard arrives at
D'Hara in time to hear of the woman near death. Nicci
takes on her former persona of the Mistress of Death in order to take
the confession of the dying sister of the dark, and when she hears of the thing
they did to Richard by stealing Kahlan, she makes her pay dearly.
In the last few pages of the book, we
learn that Darken Rahl told the Keeper that a Confessor was required for
opening the Boxes of Orden, which is why the four dark sisters needed Kahlan. I wonder
how they were planning to open them without Richard, however, because they
need the book he has memorized to accomplish that. Probably, they were
going to lure him there with Kahlan, later. They felt that they were
keeping their vow to Richard even as they were going to release the
Keeper into the world, by making him immortal using the Boxes.
In an interesting twist of fate, we
also learn that the Boxes of Orden were created in ancient times to counter the Chainfire
spell. How, I'm sure we'll find out before the end. As it stands,
however, Zedd and Nicci and Cara and those closest to Richard now know
the truth about Kahlan, and how they have misinterpreted prophecy
-again. The final battle is not against the Imperial Order, but against
the Keeper, through the Boxes of Orden, and that is the battle Richard
What will become of the battle against
the Imperial order? I haven't a clue, but I am happy to continue this
series to the end to find out. These books are better and better written
all the time, though sometimes go on for too long about the same things.
Still, they are very enjoyable.