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A novel by Terry Goodkind
(2021, Ad Astra)

A Sword of Truth novel

When a man warns Richard to surrender or be destroyed by an alien Golden Goddess, he and Kahlan fight a wizard, a witch woman, and the wilderness as they try to get to the safety of the magical Keep so the twins can be born.


+ -- First reading (ebook)
May 23rd to June 12th, 2022


I was frustrated beyond belief by the terrible writing style of this book. I remember the previous books being well written, even if I had to sit through a lot of sudden coincidences that were forced only by the plot, and a lot of explanation by the characters trying to do the right thing. This book takes that and multiplies it tenfold. Richard has to explain everything to everyone, and even when he’s not doing it in dialog, the narrator will repeat his thoughts multiple times within the span of a couple of pages. The Mord-Sith were completely wasted here –none of them could use their power to capture any magic user in this entire story. Even Kahlan can’t use her power for “story reasons”, until a very satisfying moment when she does. And that’s the big problem with this book. There’s not much to say, though the author says a lot to tell the story –but when he finally gets down to the important details, there is some satisfaction. Unfortunately, it’s the satisfaction of having something done that should have happened dozens of pages ago. The book also forgets itself partway through. Kahlan insists on sitting on the throne to entertain beggars though she is grievously injured, because it’s *most important*, though she parades around the secret passages of the Palace a day later just to see a pile of bodies, or magic users, and doesn’t give a thought to those people for the entire rest of the book, whether they are in the palace or not. There are several examples of this (including the sudden reversal of Richard’s sword with the sliph near the end), which make me think the story should have gone through several more drafts, or at the very least, an editor. There were some good ideas and satisfying moments in this book, but they were hard to get to.

Spoiler review:

It’s been fifteen years since I read Confessor, and I recall the author’s writing style and method to be much neater than this. I first read The Scribbly Man as a novela two years ago, but waited for the complete novel before continuing. Even just the first part could have used a lot more editing. The Sword of Truth was always full of plot contrivances and smart people doing stupid things, but because the book quality was so good, I often overlooked that. Here, Kahlan and Richard do stupid things right from the start. The early foreshadowing of locking all the doors before Kahlan was first attacked was so excruciatingly torturous that I couldn’t stand it. Have they learned nothing over the last eleven books? When we got into the exposition, things were a little better, but still long.

The next parts of the book didn’t get much better. It was very frustrating to read, from bad dialog to illogical choices. I have a lot of very specific complaints, but won’t go into a list of them. The worst part of the book was the writing. I had trouble with it every time I picked it up. Richard’s penchant for repeating every detail to everyone he meets is more than just annoying. (I just used an example of one section of the book, which uses hyperbole like “more than just annoying” so often, the use of which disappears after a while.)

Richard and Kahlan are pretty much the same as in the previous books, meaning that Richard is obsessive, and Kahlan insists on keeping information from him for his own good, even though he is the Seeker and needs as much information as possible to properly operate. Early in the book, she discovers she’s pregnant, but withholds that from him, because of the danger of the Glee, where Richard insists that they can’t expose potential children to this threat. After a runaround trying to figure out what the Glee could be and their purpose, seeing that they have been in the world long enough to pile up a lot of bodies, Richard assembles a group of gifted high in the Palace. One brings her daughter, who is not gifted, and Richard sees that the Goddess is looking through the child’s eyes. He brings her into a shielded room and slaughters her and her minions.

I appreciated that Richard never used the same technique twice to battle the Glee, but it got tiring that he kept winning overwhelmingly, with no casualties to his side except in the hallway with the soldiers.

The book is so long because it has three villains. As they prepare to move out of the People’s Palace to the Wizard’s Keep, they are delayed by an evil wizard who kidnaps Vika. Richard of course goes to save her, much to the chagrin of Shale, the witch/sorceress who joins the group at the beginning of this story, and who saves Kahlan. Once they defeat Michec, they have to deal with Shota, the witch who said she would kill Richard and Kahlan’s children if they ever had any. Finally, Richard has to fight the Glee every so often, and finally travel to their world to defeat them.

Michec was a worthy villain, except when he wasn’t. I don’t know why he couldn’t avoid any of the magic by turning to smoke to escape. And given that Kahlan’s magic is inversed from the others, in that she has to withdraw her will to get it to flow, how does Wizard’s First Rule apply to her? Can anybody just say “your power is gone” and all nine of these people will believe them? It sounds quite ridiculous. I was at first annoyed that Michec’s magic couldn’t be captured by the Mord-Sith, but I suppose it makes sense that since he taught them, he would know how to avoid getting caught.

Shota was also a worthy villain, and I liked that she was willing to talk with Richard to discuss her point of view. She got more and more hostile, which made me come to Kahlan’s conclusion way before she did. But there were so many contrived reasons why Richard and the others couldn’t kill her, especially before she formed the coven. I quite liked how Richard was buried alive, because it was a realistic consequence of his actions against Shota. The descriptions of Bindamoon were great, as usual with this author, but the entire city and Shota’s relationship with it don’t make sense. It’s on the D’haran side of the old Boundary, evidenced by Shale’s claim that she’s heard of trade with them. So how did Shota get to her winter palace from her home in the midlands? Unless she’s only been wintering there since the boundaries came down, it makes no sense. This plot, however, gets the most satisfying conclusion, as Kahlan breaks the coven naturally, by physical strength, and then uses her power against one of the witches. Unfortunately, it amounts to nothing as Shota kills the witch easily. But with the coven broken, Shale helps by providing Kahlan with a snake with which to stab Shota, and the witch dies by its venom. Well done.

The Glee were disappointing in the way they attacked Richard all the time, but even more so when we saw that they were actually castrated horror aliens. Most of them are touchy-feely water-loving people, peaceful to the extreme. It was the Golden Goddess who corrupted them and gave them a taste for flesh. I have my doubts, though, as the device has been around for a long time, and the Goddess has not. When did they actually start traveling the stars with the device? The Glee are barely alien, either, as they have human attributes and culture, to the point where they nod for yes, and hang their heads in shame. Richard kills the queen after proposing an innovative strategy to sneak up on the village of the Queen.

The book was not only frustrating in the writing, but in the typical way of the Sword of Truth novels, in the inconsistencies with the existing literature. My main question here is what happens to Richard’s bond with his people when he goes into the underworld to save Vika, and worse, when he decides to go to the world of the Glee to destroy the machine, with no way back? Does he have any Rahl relatives left who can assume the bond against any dark sorcerers even when he’s gone to another world? Nathan took it once, and I think others at some time, also. How can he know the bond will still exist on another world? It seems irresponsible to leave this way, even if it’s the only chance to stop the Glee.

Within the same book, there’s the question of Kahlan’s dedication to the public audiences in the first chapters, which she then abandons after her interview with the messenger. The people waiting for an all-important audience are never mentioned again, making her insistence in the first part of the book meaningless. As the large group ran around the palace, I was reminded of the Scooby Doo cartoon when the gang is being chased by evil people.

In another instance, Richard is forced to leave his sword behind in his abandoned attempt to use the sylph, but later he says, for the same reason, that the sword can travel through the sylph. Which is it? Then there’s the mystery of the dark energy that is feeding off Richard’s magic when Kahlan is attacked early in the book. Who was responsible for that? It couldn’t be the Glee. Was it somehow Michec?

And there are several logic choices that I questioned, as they made no sense, except to move the story forward. One of the biggest is what could have been Richard’s greatest mistake, of not destroying the gateway device as soon as he arrived on the Glee homeworld. How could he know that the Goddess wasn’t leading her army to the gateway as he was taking a roundabout way to her city? He could have easily arrived at an empty city, because the Goddess sent her army to his world. Sang urged Richard to hurry because the Goddess could arrive at any time, yet they took two days to get to the city. I’d also like to know how the Godess could see through the eyes of Richard’s soldiers and common people. Was she sitting all day at the device, watching for him? –except when Richard came through, when she was days away.

Kahlan also makes a questionable choice in telling the witch touched by her power to kill Shota, instead of “protect me”, which was her usual command in this kind of situation.

It seems that I’m complaining more and more about this book, and there’s plenty to complain about. Most of the book is a mess, but there are some good points. Richard rescuing Kahlan and Shale from the water in the basement levels of the People's Palace was engaging, and I really liked the character of Shale, except when she was constantly asking Richard questions. She lost patience with him and Kahlan easily, and hesitated just enough because she was a visitor into their lives. I also really liked Vika, especially at the end, on the Glee world. Unfortunately, while they seem to behave like The Avengers, the Mord-Sith were wasted as magic stealers. I was really looking forward to seeing them in their element. Unfortunately, it never happened.

The aforementioned death of Shota was also satisfying, but not quite as much as when Kahlan finally decides to fight for her unborn children. It provides closure to one of the leftover plot points from the previous series. Richard arrives back at his own world soon after the twins are born, one named after Zedd, the other after Cara, one of my favorite characters of the later novels.

I was saddened to see that the author had died soon after writing this book (the timing brings to mind a possible covid-19 death, but nothing is mentioned). I wonder if it’s the reason this book seems unfinished, but doubt it –it has many of the same inconsistencies as the rest of the Sword of Truth books. I enjoyed the series, for the most part, especially the characters it featured. I’m very behind in reading the rest of the novels, but plan to get to them in the future.


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