Ossus Library Index Fantasy Index

THE FIRST CONFESSOR

An e-novel by Terry Goodkind (2012, Terry Goodkind)
A prequel to The Sword of Truth

As the wife of the First Wizard struggles to find out why he killed himself, she finds courage and conspiracy, and a way to start turning the tide against the armies attempting to stamp out magic.

 

 

3+ stars

Read November 12th to 29th, 2013 on my Kobo Vox  
    To anyone who has read and enjoyed The Sword of Truth books, this will be a welcome look at the origins of some of the magic and troubles that resurfaced in Richard's time. Magda Searus is a very strong character, and it always brought a smile to my face when she outsmarted her enemies. Based on the knowledge of what must happen by the end, the only mystery was how it came to be. So the story rests on its execution, which is where I sometimes have trouble with this author. The repetition that he puts into the stories gets annoying, and he spends so much time on elaborating one small detail that it can get tiring. As usual, there was a lot of action, interspersed with a lot of thinking and talking and discussing various issues from different points of view. For the most part it was fun, but I think it makes more sense to readers who have already read the previous stories.

Full spoiler review:

This book takes place somewhere in the middle of the first war against the old world, the war in which the enemy created dream walkers and other weapons made out of people. The intent, however, is worse than Emperor Jajang's desire to rule the world. In this time, Emperor Sulachan wants to rule the underworld, too, and make all people into half-people, whose souls are stuck in between worlds.

The story takes place entirely from Magda's point of view. She is the ungifted wife of the First Wizard Barraccus, who jumped to his death for no apparent reason, after returning from the Temple of the Winds. Depressed, she doesn't realize she has a Dream Walker in her mind, urging her to do the same thing. She is able to resist it, however, and finds a note left by her husband, urging her to search for Truth.

We already know many of the main characters from Richard and Kahlan's research. There is no point in the author trying to keep too many things a secret, because we already know the purpose behind them. She meets Alric Rahl, who asks her to recite the devotion he created, which rids her of the Dream Walker. But she is far too trusting, taking everyone's word that they have taken the devotion, and believing they are sincere.

Fortunately Merritt, a wizard maker who can create magical weapons out of people as well, is on her side. He has fashioned the Sword of Truth, which Magda names, as a key to secure the boxes of Orden, which Magda tells him have gone missing from the hidden Temple of the Winds.

Then there is Prosecutor Lothain, who sneers so much that he is obviously a villain. Even though Magda doesn't know he is a traitor, the readers certainly must. I believe he was mentioned in The Sword of Truth as well, so since the readers know him as a villain, I guess the author decided to make him as villainous as possible. Right from the start, I believed the Council must be full of traitors, but it was always possible that they were simply being politicians.

So Lothain manages to get himself elected First Wizard, and decides that Magda must marry him. He even tortures a servant to make sure she accepts.

All is not well in the Wizard's Keep, as people are being mysteriously murdered, and magical experiments are going wrong. Magda witnesses this first-hand as she goes to visit the spiritist Isadore. The book moves into a different gear at that point, as Isadore recounts in way too many pages how she went from being a sorceress in a border town, which was invaded by the Old World, and she made her way to the Keep. But now, after she give the devotion to Rahl, she is murdered by a corpse. The story gave us information on the war and the half-people that the enemy was creating, but it was much too long, with too many details, and didn't have any direct bearing on the story. It was full of repetition, the author restating so many things he had already stated, which is typical in most of the Sword of Truth novels, as well.

Later, Merritt and Magda infuse the Sword of Truth with the magic that makes it the key to the boxes of Orden. They go to question a prisoner from the Old World, against anybody's knowledge and authority, and end up killing the guards on their way out. The sorceress rejected the Emperor's vision of the future and defected to the Keep, but Lothain immediately put her in a cell and subjected her to torture, not wanting anybody in the New World to know what she had to offer to counter the Emperor's forces.

One of the big problems with this book is that it leaves so many motivations unclear. What did Lothain, especially, have to gain by helping the Emperor? Was he to rule the New World until the Emperor breached the veil, turning everyone into soulless half-people or undead? Did he think he could topple the Emperor and take his place before that happened?

When Lothian traps Magda in her room the night before their wedding, she escapes through the window and rescues Merritt using the Sword of Truth, decimating a regiment of the army and their wizard. She decides she must become a Confessor, a concept that Merritt talked about with her, despite her views of being turned into something she was not.

Finally, although the ceremony doesn't go as planned, she manages to touch Lothain, releasing her new power and turning him into a mindless slave, who confesses so many of his co-conspirators before he is killed by one of the council members.

What follows seems especially rushed, as Merritt and Magda plan for the future that Richard and Kahlan will take up. There are the rules for the Confessors and their wizards, the knowledge in the Temple of the Winds, and especially the misinformation about the key to the boxes of Orden, all decided upon with almost no discussion, where much less important decisions earlier in the book were made by examining all angles, sometimes ad nauseum.

Obviously we haven't seen anything of the half-people who they planned to capture, and Rahl says he knows of a ravine that would hold them, out of the way. Did any of them escape during the time of the Chimes, when all magic stopped working for a while? Do any of them appear in The Omen Machine, which I have not yet read?

I was very interested in what Merritt calls the "star shift", which is presumably a time when the boxes of Orden were used for the first time. Maybe it took "our" world, and transformed it into the one we have in these books. This is a very popular path for fantasy authors to take (see Shannara, Darksword, Death Gate Cycle, among others...).

So while there were interesting concepts throughout the book, its execution was not as good as it could have been. Magda wasn't the inspiration, I think, that the author hoped she would be, though she was a very strong character, and went through all this, including a fundamental shift in her ideals, to figure out why her husband killed himself. He actually did it because he was a prophet, and he could see only one way to prevent the end of the world, and Magda had to do it -and she wouldn't do it if she didn't have the proper motivation. Simple as that. As a spirit, he also tells her that he made it possible for somebody to be born to counter the future uses of the boxes of Orden, which would of course turn out to be Richard. 

 
   

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