CHAINFIREA novel by Terry Goodkind
(2005, TOR Fantasy)
The Sword of Truth, book 9
Richard tries to convince the people around him that Kahlan was an important part of his life, when nobody can remember her at all.
-- First reading (hardcover)
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.Spoiler review:
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 must lead.
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.
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