Ossus Library Index
Fantasy Index


A novel by Terry Goodkind
(1996, TOR Fantasy)

The Sword of Truth, book 3

Richard cements his authority against the Imperial Order, while Sister Verna tries to weed the Sisters of the Dark out of the Palace of the Prophets.


-- First reading (hardcover)
April 18th to 28th, 2001


This series has been calling back to me for a long time, and I'm glad I finally returned to it.  This book was truly excellent, with none of the easy answers that faced Richard and Kahlan in the first book.  The writing kept me interested every page of the way.  Truly the best book so far.

Spoiler review:

I don't even really know where to begin!  The book basically only covered a few days, even though weeks passed between chapters.  Two storylines ran throughout the book, with a third picking up about halfway through.  The first is about Richard, and how he becomes Lord Rahl, bonding his people to him.  The second concerns Sister Verna, who is promoted to Prelate in the Palace of the Prophets.  She has to deal with all the little things that go into running the Palace, as well as wondering who are Sisters of the Dark, as opposed to Sisters of the Light.  Finally, more than halfway through the book, we are reintroduced to Kahlan and Zedd.  The whole book is a whirlwind, and I had to struggle not to read it in less time than I actually did, so I could enjoy it, absorb it for longer.

One thing that I didn't really like, as with the last book, was the way the author presents the will of men as simply lusting for women and violence.  Women have no status in the world where men do not grant it, except at the Palace.  It seems to be a hallmark of the new order of things when Richard takes over that women are to be treated fairly, if not entirely respected.  But it served to show who the bad guys were, I guess.  Brogan gives the Duchess of Kelton to his aide to rape, and Emperor Jagang turns the Sisters of the Dark over to his troops to do with as they please.  

We have met Brogan before, if only in the tale Adie tells about her past in Stone of Tears.  He is the founder of the Blood of the Fold, and he plans to destroy all magic in the world.  He accomplishes this with a hundred thousand troops, and his sister, who is gifted with strong magic, which she channels through a talisman.  She believes in her brother, who convinces her that she is evil.  I am not sure about Brogan's transformation throughout the book.  He starts off as very reasonable.  It is not clear until the end why he thinks magic is an evil taint, but he believes his work is sanctioned by the Creator himself.  He does not think the terrible things he does are evil.  It makes for a much more interesting story.  But he starts to go to great lengths to explain the things that happen to him, and eventually believes the Creator has gone insane, and that he has become the new Creator.  It turns out that he has magic himself, but his sister was protecting him.  He dies at Kahlan's hand.

From the very start, Richard is making the rules up as he goes along.  He starts off as a nobody, hiding out after he killed the Imperial Order's Council, at the end of the last book.  He still has his pet gar, Gratch, and he is consistently battling mriswith, the creatures he battled while at the Palace of the Prophets.  As he starts seeing that the city of Aydindril, Kahlan's home, is completely overrun, he feels that he has to do something about it.  

Together with three Mord-Sith, similar to Denna from Wizard's First Rule, and two body guards, he first convinces the soldiers from D'Hara to be loyal to him, and then demands surrender from all the peoples in the Midlands.  It was quite a speech, and quite a thrilling segment of the book.  Richard learns things the hard way.  But he acts on instinct, and often without thinking.  I liked the three women.  They were really funny and just fun to be around.  At first they were loyal to him because he was their master.  But later they began to see things his way, and were loyal to him because they believed in him.  

Back at the Palace, Verna has ascended to Prelate, since the previous one, Ann, has died between the last book and this one.  She gets tied up in paperwork for a long time, but she eventually figures out that Ann is actually still alive, and is trying to help several prophecies along.  But when she figures out how to identify a sister who has turned to the Keeper, she is imprisoned.  She escapes only with the help of the new prophet Warren and her little maid, in a terrifically-written scene.

What I loved about this book was they way the author introduced some sort of magic without explanation, and then, in another scene with totally different characters, explained the events in completely different context.  In some scenes it worked the other way around.  I would come across some magic, and remember reading something  about it earlier.  In this way, we didn't have to stop the action for lengthy explanations.  

As I mentioned, the first half of the book takes place while Richard and Verna are coming to grips with their new power.  Not much actually happened, but it was written in a way that whetted my appetite for whatever was being done at the time.

I began to get worried when the Keltan Princess (now Queen) comes to seduce Richard, and nearly succeeds.  His love for Kahlan has always protected him from most magic, so I couldn't accept the seduction, even though she was ensorcelled.  But Richard figured it out in good time, and in a very believable fashion.  In this way, he was able to figure out that one of the Mord-Sith was also bewitched, and in curing her, he brought her to greater understanding of his purpose.  

Unfortunately, it also started his belief that the mriswith were no longer his enemy.  From his point of view, it made sense, but from mine, I could see that they were using him, expecting him to do something for them, something that would bring him to harm.  

This is also what I loved about this book: the fact that different people had different knowledge, and acted on that knowledge.  Quite often it was incomplete, and so mistakes were made, or things were done with great difficulty because of it.  But as a reader, it was frustrating, because I knew when Richard was going over a cliff, and there was nothing I could do about it.

The beginning of the end begins when Brogan and the mriswith capture Kahlan and Adie, and bring them to the Palace of the Prophets, collared, so that their magic could be controlled.  The Palace is controlled by the Sisters of the Dark, who are preparing it for Emperor Jagang, the dreamwalker.  Jagang wants the prophecies, which will almost certainly guarantee him victory, as well as the life-extending spell that covers the Palace.  

Zedd is captured by Ann, the "dead" Prelate, and also brought to the Palace.  There, she intends for him to destroy it, so that Jagang cannot get his treasures.  By then Verna has found all the Sisters loyal to the Creator, and has removed them from the Palace.  But Zedd does not have the power to destroy it, but stacks some magical kindling, in case somebody else comes by who has the power to do it.  I wonder if he knew Richard would be there.  In a wonderful final scene to the book, Zedd reveals to a bunch of unimportant gamblers (and more importantly to us, the readers) that he was never under the control of the collar in the first place.  So I really wonder what his reasoning is as to why he did what he did.  It will have to wait for the next book, I guess.

As for Richard, he unwisely goes into the Wizard's Keep to find something to help him win the war.  He and Berdine, one of the Mord-Sith, begin translating a book that reveals many different things about the ancient magic, and the powerful magical war that occurred three thousand years ago. He discovers a distance portal, which he uses to get to Kahlan at the Palace.  There, he destroys the Palace (not entirely intentionally), but first makes a deal with several of the Sisters of the Dark, in order to get to his love alive.

Everybody is to meet in Aydindril, eventually, so that they can rally against the Imperial Order.  When Richard and Kahlan take the portal back, an evil Sister is waiting for them, and nearly kills them.  I think this will be a major point in Richard's next downfall, since he interprets the words of the portal (called a sliph) in what I believe will be completely the wrong way.  Merissa  is "part of the sliph now", which means she may still be able to "bathe in Richard's blood", and she may have control of the sliph, too.  Only time will tell.

After they defeat the mriswith queen, whom Richard allowed into the sliph when he was under yet a different kind of spell, they still have to fight against the raging Blood of the Fold, who, with the mriswith as their guides, have nearly taken over the city.  Fortunately, with the help of Gratch and hundreds of other gars, they succeed.

And all the magical devices now make sense.  When we are introduced to them, in all three of these books, all seem evil.  The Towers in the last book seemed to serve no purpose, but they were put in place to stop the dreamwalkers.  The gars are ferocious beasts, but they were created to hunt down mriswith!  Richard's bond to the D'Haran people seems a form of slavery, but it is really to protect them from the dreamwalkers, too.  It all makes sense, and it's wonderful.

There is so much more I could say about this book, but I don't think it's necessary.  The plot was wonderfully developed, and aside from Richard getting caught up in two spells that should have had warning signs all over them, it was completely engaging.  (I'm still not quite sure what the second spell had to do with anything. It seemed to let the mriswith into the New World, but the Queen didn't serve any purpose, and if mriswith are wizards who traded their power for invisibility, then why is the queen such a hideous dragon-like beast that lays eggs?)  I was ready to downgrade this book if the city of Aydindril was recaptured by Richard, because it would seem like yet another easy victory, but I changed my mind because of the way it was done, and the dread and guilt that it brought up in Richard.  And it was terrifically written!

The writing throughout was top-notch.  The battles went on for pages, and even though I knew the likely outcomes, every single one had me rapidly turning the pages to find out how they would win this one.  When there were lulls, the characters were so well developed that I was interested in every single one of them, with the exception of the duchess of Kelton.  

So this was a wonderful book, and I look forward to the next one.  Maybe I won't wait so long before getting to it.  I expect Richard to have to battle the remaining Sisters of the Dark again, as well as continue his campaign against Emperor Jagang.  I can't wait.


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