||Excellent characterization, and a
great tale... until the contrived and very rushed ending.
Characters are what make these books so
enjoyable. I am especially fond of characters who are not Richard or
Kahlan. So I am probably in the minority of readers who was not
impatient for those two to arrive. It's nice to get a side-story once in
That's not to say that the story was
fully engaging all the way through. Jenssen is a beautifully written
character up to a point. Her personal journey is well worth spending
many pages on. Unfortunately, she is naive, and inexperienced. While
worth it, her journey took way too long relative to the other events in
the book, which were rushed as a result. We didn't have to get every
single thing Jenssen and Sebastian did in exquisite detail. Instead, we
could have had more plot developed later in the book.
My favorite parts of the book were
references to the world Richard inhabits. Jenssen's talk with Althea,
the sorceress, highlights this, and opens all sorts of questions. We
already knew that the original Rahl created the bond to protect his
people. Fortunately, we are given the answer to the role the ungifted
Rahls play: balance. Everything is about balance. Richard's powerful
magic is balanced by Jenssen's lack of magic- complete lack.
Jenssen has been hunted all her life
because of her lack of magic- it represents the potential to end magic
in the world forever generations in the future, if she has offspring. When a quad finds her,
murdering her mother, she and Sebastian (who happened along her
coincidentally) set off together into the
wilderness. Jenssen wants Althea to cast a spell to hide her from
Richard, but magic doesn't work on her. All the while, Sebastian insists
that she kill Richard to be rid of his "wrath". I did find this
Even though it was staged, Jenssen's
plight emphasizes the lack of communication between Richard and the
people he is commanding. Apparently he disbanded the quads when he came
to power (did that happen in Blood of the Fold, which is the only time
he is really governing?). He should know what kind of special
assignments his patrols are on. He seems to know the significance of the
ornamental knife with R on the hilt, though I can't see how. If he is to
save his people, he needs not only to fight the battles, but to govern,
There is a lot of time spent moving
around the lands. Jenssen does things the hard way, which allows us to
see the People's Palace of D'hara and the lands surrounding it. I like
seeing the various places from an outside point of view, much like we
did in Faith of the Fallen. Although fun to visit, not much of it is
noteworthy in terms of plot or character, except as we see Jenssen come
to her decisions.
Sebastian and Jagang show here how
ignorant they are of Richard's attitudes and beliefs. They think that
just because Jenssen can't be touched by magic, that she can kill
Richard. They seemed to think that he would only use magic to stop her.
As I fully expected, she was easily stopped by simple knife-fighting
technique. Anyone could have stopped her.
Sebastian really shows how he is from
the Old World, through his attitudes and beliefs. Claiming that the
People's Palace was a waste because so many people were poor and
suffering is an attitude that we saw shattered in
Faith of the Fallen -in
the heartland of that religion. Yet when he wants Jenssen's body for
himself, he doesn't hesitate to dominate over her, even though she
agreed (reluctantly) to it. Jenssen, for her part, is intelligent,
though she doesn't realize it. She sees the falsehood behind Sebastian's
claims, and could easily counter all of them, as she does in her mind.
But she doesn't know her own worth, and has trouble standing up the the
passion Sebastian has for the Imperial Order.
When Sebastian is captured in D'hara,
Jenssen goes to Althea to try and find a solution. When that proves
fruitless, she uses her own wits and intelligence to bluff her way past
the guards, and a Mord-Sith, to help him escape.
And just when the story was starting to
get tiring, we turn around, and go to Aydindril! We know from
the Fallen that Kahlan and Zedd evacuated the city and surrounding
countryside (to D'hara?) while the fighting was going on in that book. I
was very much looking forward to seeing Jajang's reaction to the
deserted city. I was not disappointed. It was just as spooky as I had
It was at this point that I really
started to wonder if Sebastian and Jajang knew about Jenssen's special
ability. Jajang too easily grants her desire to kill Richard if the
opportunity should present itself. I am also always suspicious of people
who come bounding into camp like Sebastian did spattered with blood but
nothing more, claiming to have encountered soldiers and "we must move on
now!" He could have been sincere, but I was not quite convinced. I also
thought it highly improbable that Jenssen could spend even one night in
Jajang's camp and not witness the rape and other perversions he
practiced in Temple of the Winds. The Sisters of the Dark never hid
themselves in other books. They never claimed to be Sisters of the Light
in Jajang's company. It didn't make sense for them to do it for Jenssen
except if they were playing a charade. Yet both Jajang and Sebastian
seemed surprised at her ability. Good acting on their parts, I guess.
I don't claim to understand Jenssen's
ability, but I don't accept that she could shield others from magic the
way she herself is shielded. The magic went through her and Oba to destroy the
walls behind them, so the fireballs should have also gone through her to
the bodies of those she tried to protect.
The short passages dealing with the
Confessor's palace were fun, and they highlighted how insane Jajang is.
Imagining him and his troops running through the hallways shouting
"there she is!" was hilarious, and reminded me of the Scooby Doo
cartoons! It was nice to see Zedd and Adie for a short while,
masquerading as Richard and Kahlan. But I wonder why, when they realized
Jajang was coming in person, they didn't simply collapse the building.
Removing the dream-walker would have put the army in chaos for a very
long time. It might have even ended the war.
I wish I could recall exactly when
Brother Narev died. I thought it was at the end of
Faith of the Fallen,
when Richard single-handedly brought down the holy building and faith.
But that doesn't give enough time to send his head all the way to Aydindril -not without Richard returning with it.
The other main character in this book
is Oba. This is a character we are meant to hate. Oba's scenes are given
from his point of view, and we get to see him rationalizing his actions and
thoughts. I wonder how the author could get so precisely into this evil
man's head. It was intriguing, as long as we didn't stay there too long.
I liked the way he hated people who stole from him, always trying to get
at his hard-earned wealth, when he stole it off the sorceresses and
other women he killed and skinned (after raping). Oba could rationalize
everything, even watching the life bleed out of people as he did
unmentionable acts. Fortunately, we didn't get to witness too many of
them firsthand, and only one or two of them dealing with people.
It's a pity that we didn't get to see
the good things in such exquisite detail as Oba's perversions and evil
deeds. Do we need to see all of that to tell how evil he is? I think
there is a little too much Oba in the book. We see in detail how he
tries to rape the Mord-Sith Nyda (because her agiel doesn't work on
him), but we don't get details on the good sex between Jenssen and
Sebastian. The scene with Nyda was satisfying however, because she was
able to use her other strengths against him.
So after spending hundreds of pages
getting to know Jenssen (and a few dozens getting to know Oba), the book
wraps up in less than a hundred pages, giving me whiplash, and undoing
much of the good stuff that came before. The cover gives the impression
that the Pillars of Creation is a place, which it is. However, it is
also people, like Jenssen and Oba, but we are never told why. It is also
the name of a book that Nathan the prophet sends to Richard -and which
Jajang also has in his possession.
Suddenly, we are there, Jenssen tries
to kill Richard, fails, and the book ends. From what we were given
earlier in the book, the ending was just about what I expected, and what
I was dreading. Sebastian reveals his treachery in detail, Oba doesn't
do much, and Richard talks and talks and talks his way out of the mess.
I did like the fact that he let her live, because she is a free person,
even though she presents a danger to him and to all of magic.
Althea's husband Friedrich delivers the
Pillars of Creation book to Richard, and they are suddenly set upon by a
spell from the underworld that renders them all unable to move, and ripe
for Oba. But Oba doesn't kill Richard, which I thought was the whole
purpose the Keeper took control of him through the Voice. But it turns
out that's not the Keeper's plan at all! Richard's death would only be a
side effect of his real plan, which I thought was neat, if confusing.
Apparently the veil to the underworld would be torn if the balance of
Richard and Jenssen was broken by one killing the other. But Oba was the
same as Jenssen, being a magic-less Rahl. But for the veil to be broken,
vengeance was needed, and only Jenssen had that, because she thought
Richard had had her mother killed. It feels like a very
contrived way of getting the story to the physical Pillars.
The author maintains the stipulation
that neither Richard or Kahlan can be permanently hurt, so when Oba
wants to rape Kahlan in her paralyzed condition, the Voice doesn't let
him. Instead, he takes Richard's sword and carries Kahlan to the Pillars
of Creation, so that Richard will follow and be killed by Jenssen (or
Richard will kill her -either way, the veil breaks). The Voice makes it
seem like it is humoring Oba for taking the sword, but Richard wouldn't
have known where to go without his link to the Sword of Truth. In any
logical circumstances, Oba would have killed Richard right away, ending
the world then and there.
When Richard shows up, he uses muscle
instead of magic to avoid Jenssen's attack, because he has read some of the book.
I am perplexed as to how likely it is for Richard to have read any
of the book: when he woke up from the spell, he would have been in a
rage, and taken off right away for Kahlan, stolen horses and galloped
them to death (as he did in the rushed ending to
Stone of Tears). He would not
have stopped for anything. much les to read, especially given what he says of Nathan before the ambush.
This also begs the question how Cara and Friedrich got there so quickly
after him -they weren't seen racing toward the army like Richard was.
When Jenssen learns of Sebastian's
treachery, she lectures him about loving life before other people, so he
couldn't know love. Blah, blah, blah. I thought the speech was directed
more at the readers, because it was completely out of place here. She
figured it out because Sebastian tells her she is immune to magic and
she wonders how he knows. Maybe he is simply intelligent, and discussed with Jajang how she managed to shield them from Wizard's fire, and how she
saw through Adie's disguise. It was entirely plausible that he would
have figured it out on his own.
Jenssen also remains untouched by the
Keeper. Instead of taking her body in a typical Keeper's rape to get at
her soul, she strikes a deal with him that he could have her flesh after
she kills Richard. I wonder if the Keeper had sex with Oba to cement
their relationship, but somehow I doubt it. The author uses a
double-standard in his rules about dealing with magic and the Keeper.
This deal allows Jenssen to be useful for some other purpose that will
presumably take place in the next book, Naked Empire. I wonder if we
will step backward in time to see how Richard, Kahlan and Nicci got into
whatever trouble they were in when Friedrich found them. It seemed that
Jenssen had already surrendered to the Voice in her head, and didn't
need to make such a deal, as she was able to influence people like Nyda,
as Oba had influenced the D'haran guards to escape his cell.
This book was much more linear than the
other more recent books in this series. It was also refreshing to get a
break from the horrors of war for most of the story, and focus on how
the rule of the New World affects an individual, albeit a special
individual. It was extremely interesting to see how different
impressions can be made from the same events. Jenssen has been hunted
all her life. She only sees the horrors of D'hara. She assumes that
Drefan was like her, and was killed for no reason, not knowing the deeds
he did in Temple of the Winds.
For that reason, I enjoyed almost all
of this book, even though it didn't deal with Richard and Kahlan. My
favorite events, though, involved Zedd and Adie and the Imperial Order's
discovery of the abandoned city of Aydindril. When Richard finally
arrives in the story, it became too rushed and contrived to be enjoyable
at all. By the way, I figured that Zedd and Kahlan were the two
protectors left after Althea and Lathea died, but they were never
specifically mentioned, so I can't be sure.
Still and enjoyable read, and perhaps
necessary for the next book, and not just a side excursion to be
forgotten? Hopefully, and we'll see.