THE PILLARS OF CREATIONA novel by Terry Goodkind
The Sword of Truth, book 7
A young woman, hunted for being an ungifted Rahl, seeks to destroy Richard with the help of an Imperial Order strategist.
-- First reading (paperback)
Excellent characterization, and a great tale... until the contrived and very rushed ending.Spoiler review:
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 a while.
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 suspicious.
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, as well.
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 Faith of 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 hoped.
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.
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