CONFESSORA novel by Terry Goodkind
(2007, TOR Fantasy)
The Sword of Truth, book 11
Richard tries to find a way to escape the tournament as a slave in the Imperial Order camp, as the Emperor comes closer to opening the boxes of Orden.
-- First reading (hardcover)
And so the Sword of Truth series comes to an end. The ending is interesting and different from what we would have expected, I think, but I'm of two minds about whether it actually fits Richard's character or not.Spoiler review:
The clue to the entire mystery of the Boxes of Orden is that whoever wants to use that magic has to think for himself, not be told how to do things. The fact that everybody wanted to find the correct Book of Counted Shadows so it could tell them which box to open was another example of what Richard strives against, and the message the author is constantly hammering into our minds. Richard's logic, though, was wrong or confusing. He said that the book couldn't be the key because it used the word "confessor", and the confessors were created after the boxes. But then he said the sword was the key, even though it, too, was created later. He can't use the same argument for one thing and against the other. Thinking about what he said, though, reveals that the sword was the key because it contained the same magic, both in how it was created, and in its dance of death, which spells out the symbols used in the special spell, so I can forgive him.
The solution sort of renders Richard's actions at the end of both Wizard's First Rule and Stone of Tears unnecessary, as it is revealed that anybody trying to open the boxes with hate will fail, no matter which one they open.
As to Richard's solution when he does open the box? He creates our world! A world without magic, for the Imperial Order to fight over. There he sends all the people who believe the war on the New World was a just cause, and who don't want to do anything worthwhile, hoping to faith instead to do something for them. That sounds just like Richard, condemning people for being ignorant, many willfully so. However, he doesn't even think about giving them the chance that he gave Nicci back in Faith of the Fallen. At that time, she believed the cause of the Order to be just. But through his work, he convinced her otherwise. The people he banished don't get that opportunity, and that doesn't sound like Richard at all.
But having a huge army on his doorstep, ready to rape and pillage, can make a person more extreme, I guess.
As usual, the novel begins at the moment when the previous book, Phantom, ends. In the Keep, Zedd and Cara find out that Nicci has set the Boxes of Orden in motion with Richard named as the player. Zedd is horrified, but she eventually convinced him that is was necessary. But then Six, the which who even scares Shota, comes by and steals Nicci's box. Nobody can touch her, with magic or otherwise, which I think is unfortunate. Even at the end of the book, when Six threatens Richard, nobody can do anything. I think that is just wrong. Somehow the most powerful wizards in the world can do nothing to stop a witch woman. Since Richard and Nicci have subtractive magic and Six doesn't, they should have been able to do something, however small. But the biggest waste in this trilogy, I think, has to be Cara. She is standing with her Agiel, and never really gets to use it. We've only seen two Mord-Sith capture magic users, Denna capturing Richard back in Wizard's First Rule, and Cara in Temple of the Winds. Surely a Mord-Sith could capture even Kahlan, if she tried to user her magic on them? I think it's a waste that Cara couldn't catch Six.
Nicci convinces everyone she meets that in order for Richard to restore Kahlan's memories of herself, Kahlan has to have no idea that she and Richard were in love beforehand. It's difficult for Richard when he finally finds her, but she finds the unknown solution, just as Richard did for surviving a Confessor's power back in Wizard's First Rule: she falls in love with him again before her memories return, even though she knew he loved her.
Back in Phantom, we saw how evil Jajang was through Kahlan's eyes. We only get a few perspectives from her, because in this book, Nicci is the main point of view, as she is captured and brought to Jajang, who treats her the most terribly, raping and beating her until the Sisters of the Dark have to bring her back nearly from the dead. She is captured because while the Order is digging holes to build the giant ramp to get inside the People's Palace, they uncover hidden catacombs deep in the Azrith Plains surrounding it. They break their way in, and it takes three Sisters to capture Nicci, killing Anne in the process.
I liked the way Cara was convinced something was wrong in the tombs, but didn't know what. The Order built a new marble wall to hide the fact that they were gathering within the palace. She gets Verna, Nathan and others to pace up and down the crypts trying to figure it out, but it takes the mute crypt staff to tell them that a wall exists where it shouldn't. So when Nathan searches magically behind the wall, he is horrified to find an army.
The best part of the book, the real climax in my mind, was Richard's time within the Imperial Order camp. He was captured in the last book and his running and evading got him cast as the point man on a Ja'la team. He was brought to the Order's camp near the People's Palace so he would compete in a tournament ending with somebody playing against the Emperor's team. Here, he does just that. When the Emperor comes to inspect the teams, he falls face-first in the mud to hide. Then he convinces his Lieutenant to get them red paint, so he can paint his team in fearsome symbols, based on his knowledge of the Dance of Death. It's part strategy to send fear into the other teams, part a way to hide from Jajang.
The games are described in terrific detail, as is Richard's strategy. As in his battle with the Imperial Order as a soldier, he plays the game to win, with no rules except those enforced during the game. When his wingman was killed, he killed the other team's point man. While the other teams played haphazardly, he commanded his team in a series of ordered plays. So when he finally does play against the Emperor's team, he actually beats them. Unfortunately, the Emperor enforces Ja'la the way he enforces his army. While the Order teaches that everyone is equal, the Emperor gets servants and people he can command. When his team is losing the game, the Emperor adjusts the score so his team wins. With Nicci and Kahlan watching (and Kahlan understanding way too much about Richard's strategy, thinking he was doing exactly what he was doing) Richard ignites a war among the spectators and surrounding throng of soldiers, getting Jajang to adjust the score again and again, so the spectators take their anger out on the opposing spectators. Nicci adds fuel by shouting out "so says Jajang the Just", as she always had when she served his cause. Now, with a collar around his neck, she is playing on Richard's side.
Richard rescues Nicci and Jillian (the girl from Caska whom Kahlan saved in Chainfire, but who was recaptured), but Samuel (who got Richard's sword in exchange for Shota's information on Kahlan in that book) shows up and rescues her, instead. While the Sword of Truth cuts off Kahlan's collar, Nicci nearly dies from hers, because it is held on with subtractive magic. Coincidentally, Adie has left the safety of the People's Palace at that moment and finds Richard, saving his life. Even when they get back in the palace, as coincidentally Nathan has just destroyed the wall in the crypts, and Nicci guides Richard through the catacombs and Adie helps them with the army, nobody can get Nicci's collar off. But coincidentally at that same moment, little Rachel finds herself in the cave where Violet drew pictures of Richard (having been chased there by Violet's own drawing), and she alters the drawing, restoring Richard's power to him. He uses his gift to remove the collar.
A lot of coincidences? Yeah, a few too many for my liking.
I liked the way Shota played as everyone's mother. She appeared to give Rachel chalk for the cave, then as Chase's long-dead mother to tell him to bring horses to the mud people, and as Six's mother to eventually sneak up on her. The mud people? I was wondering if they would figure into the story again at some point. As Richard is preparing the ceremony to open the boxes of Orden (which he doesn't have), he has to travel to the underworld. Beautifully, he summons Denna to guide him. When he uses additive magic to destroy the beast that's been chasing his gift since Chainfire, he suddenly leaves the underworld and appears in the summons of the mud people. Pretty cool, since Darken Rahl did the same thing back in Stone of Tears.
I also thought Richard allowing Jajang to take Nicci as he surrendered was out of character, but should have realized that it was a trick. Richard has to get the Boxes into the Garden of Life, and Jajang wants to do the same thing, so he surrenders. But when he gets there, he is impatient while the Sisters make the necessary preparations. So Jajang goes to get Nicci, and she snaps a collar around his neck! Wonderful.
As mentioned, the Ja'la matches were the best parts of the book, and the most rousing. Although I like Nicci, her part in the story only became interesting again when she was captured and also became part of the Imperial Order's camp. When Richard gets back to his people, the story becomes a little less interesting, and it even felt like parts were missing. It started with the journey through the catacombs, which was discussed in detail before it happened, like strategy. After spending pages and pages on the most minute detail early in the book, this part felt like it was skipped over because it was taking too long. Similarly with the journey to the Underworld. While he obviously didn't want to spoil the fact that Richard had visited the Temple of the Winds, there are no details given at all, until the beast attacks. It feels glossed over, considering the detail in the rest of this series.
So the book was really good, but could have been better. I did like Richard's solution, which actually created the world we live in, where magic has disappeared, and nobody has any memory of the "real" history, because of the Chainfire spell, the chimes, and the Pillars of Creation spread among the people. Jennsen and her people decide to start their lives over in this new world, though I doubt they can destroy all magic in just a few generations. I wonder what will happen when Kahlan and Richard have a baby (will Shota let them, now?), as it could also be bereft of magic. So in the new world, people will live a millennium of darkness, and then (hopefully) start to emerge more enlightened.
There is a hint of the future in Nathan's prophecy that their world will need to be saved from one "not of this world". A future disaster, perhaps, or maybe the arrival of Jesus. Somehow, given the blasting that faith gets in this book, I doubt it. And just as I finished this book, I looked up the author's website, which shows that there is another Richard and Kahlan book coming out soon. Just in time!
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