SOUL OF THE FIREA novel by Terry Goodkind
(1999, TOR Fantasy)
The Sword of Truth, book 5
A region of the midlands courts the Imperial Order, as Richard attempts to banish the magic-stealing chimes.
-- First reading (hardcover)
Quite intense, with only a little of the contrivance-filled landscape that permeated the last book.Spoiler review:
I enjoyed this book a lot more than I did Temple of the Winds. That book was so full of contrivances, that I am surprised the author was able to get the characters down properly. But he did, and even though I was not enamored with the book, I still enjoyed listening to the characters, in their thoughts and in what they had to say.
In this book, the contrived sequences still exist, but they are much smaller, and have much less to do with the main plot. Two spring immediately to mind, and I think one served no real purpose. I suppose the character of Fitch needed a heroic end to him, and the author devised the sequence where he enters Wizard's Keep, steals the Sword of Truth, evades Cara and returns to Anderith all to this end. But the sequence required Cara to be so out of character that it was rather ruined. This was not the Cara that we saw in action in Blood of the Fold, or Temple of the Winds.
The second area that felt false was the reset button that was pressed at the end with regards to magic. If all magic failed, why did it only fail in people? And then, why did it suddenly return when Richard banished the chimes? I suppose it means that the chimes were soaking up magic, so that other receptacles, like people, were unable to do so. But that should mean that the stronger magic-users, who normally soak up more magic, should still have had a little use of the Gift. So it seemed that Zedd lied when he spoke about the little things losing their magic first -otherwise that moth he kept speaking about would have died before Zedd lost his own power. So I was quite disappointed that everyone just gets their magic back at the end of the book. They have been without it for so long -the weaker magic-users should be forever without magic now.
Ah, well, both of those complaints were rather minor, compared with the great stuff we got for the most part through this book.
Richard's quest to banish the chimes, magic-stealing creatures from the underworld, which were unleashed at the end of the last book to save Richard's life, takes up only part of this story.
The explanations of how the chimes were loosed, in fact, how all magic works and has safeguards, was interesting. They reasoned out that Kahlan was Richard's second wife, according to the convoluted way magic could interpret things. I wondered how the spirits could not interpret Denna's relationship as a spousal one, because of their close bond. But since that was more master-slave, as Richard puts it, I suppose we can let it pass. But I had completely forgotten about Du Chaillu, from Stone of Tears! As Richard did, I thought of his encounter with her as being inconsequential to the big picture -I have to learn not to underestimate the seeds that this author sows in his early books!
This book picks up moments after the last one ended, with Richard and Kahlan making love after their wedding in the village of the Mud People. In the morning, they discover that the chimes are loose, although Zedd and Ann do all they can to make Richard and Kahlan think this is not the case. They succeed to a certain extent, driving the couple and Cara away from the Mud People's village back with an errand to Wizard's Keep in Aydindril. But when they meet up with Du Chaillu, who has a warning for Richard, they discover that they have been deceived.
Richard knows enough about the chimes that he has to agonize about what to do. The discussion about whether or not to go to Aydindril was passionate and interesting, but all the second-guessing and rationalizing stuff was frustrating and infuriating, too! Richard is Seeker of Truth, and has an instinct about the right course of action. It would help, though, if he was better informed!
Kahlan, for her part, gets whiny and insulted, not to mention jealous, way too quickly. She really should listen to what Richard says -truly listen to him- before making a judgment or accusation. She is, after all, Mother Confessor; she should be above those emotions. She should also know that Richard's mind works so much faster than everybody else's.
In the end, Richard sends Cara to do the job that Zedd sent Richard to do at the Wizard's Keep. But she arrives too late, after Fitch has already stolen the sword. I wondered at the end of the last book why Richard left the sword there. Every other time he used the sliph, he thrust the sword into the ground, so that only he could take it out again. Now we know. Contrived? Sure. Cara ends up chasing Fitch all the way back to Anderith, and helps Beatta escape once the Imperial Order takes over.
And who are Beatta and Fitch, and where is Anderith? These people, as well as the upper hierarchy consisting mostly of Dalton Campbell, take up most of the rest of the story. It was mostly interesting, with many parts that seemed to go on far too long.
Fitch is a kitchen boy, who gets in over his head too far. Beatta is a helper to the butcher, who gets raped by the Minister of Culture of Anderith (the second highest ranking person in the land) and an envoy of the Imperial Order. Both are Haken, considered to be a lesser race than the high-bred Anders. School teaches that the Hakens are terrible people, and they have no real rights.
Dalton Campbell is the aide to the Minister of Culture, and is in charge of cleaning up all the messes that other people create, including his boss. But he tends spider webs of his own, keeping his position secure. I liked Dalton Campbell right away, even though he is a vile creature, the worst of politicians in a corrupt system of government. He pressures people, murders others, and blackmails still others. When it suits his purposes, he can easily turn the best of friends into bitter enemies. Because he controls all information and education. I liked the way he was so cunning, and knows how to hold onto power, to cover for those who also have power, but are stupid enough to openly abuse it, like the Minister of Culture.
Campbell was easily able to get Fitch to like him, to create devotion, even when Fitch knew that what he was doing was wrong. Eventually, Dalton uses Fitch as a scapegoat, after Claudine Winthrop was killed by a group of Haken boys, because she was about to accuse the Minister of raping her. Fitch is the scapegoat, because the boys just happened to be led by him, even though they were sent to do the job by Campbell himself. He sends the boys packing, away from Anderith. That, of course, leads to Fitch stealing the Sword of Truth in Aydindril, because he thinks it will help vindicate him. Campbell told him that everybody thinks he raped Beatta, as well, not the Minister.
Of course, Campbell and the Minister have been negotiating with the Imperial Order, and are ready to be invaded. When Richard arrives, with a thousand of his troops, Campbell starts to panic. But they agree to let the people vote on whether to join with Richard or the Imperial Order. It makes sense to Richard -the first seeds of democracy! But that's because he doesn't know how to cheat. I wonder how blind he and Kahlan were to the treachery of the Minister. Did nobody tell them that people were following them from village to village, reversing all the good that they did?
Apparently so, because Richard was so distraught when the results of the vote came in, and he had lost. And then Kahlan is attacked, so badly that when Richard rescues her and sends her off to safety, he doesn't even know it is her. Du Chaillu helps bring her away from the brink of death, and beckons Richard to go banish the chimes.
And in an instant, between books that he read while in Anderith, the original place where the chimes were banished, information that he received from Zedd and Kahlan, and discussions with others, Richard knows what he must do.
The magic isn't important. Richard passes onto another plane of magic, one that none except Joseph Ander had passed to before, and he banishes the chimes by giving them the soul of the person who had enslaved them thousands of years ago. Ander had not banished the chimes, but had imprisoned them in a wall of defenses, the Dominie Dirtch, which protected all of Anderith until Richard came. When Richard banished the chimes, the Dominie Dirtch disintegrated. As he banishes the chimes, he releases the poisoned waters of a lake into the rivers that run through Anderith. Hopefully, this will destroy a large portion of the Imperial Order army, as they take up residence.
The most powerful moment in the book comes when Richard orders the withdrawal of his people. He knows that the Imperial Order has arrived, or will do so soon, and the people of Anderith have denied him. So he orders his army not to help any of the Anderith people, even if they are in great need. It is a cold order, but one that needed to be given. For after the Order arrives, they treat all people the same way. The men are killed. The women are killed, too, but only after they are gang raped. Of course, his action is not really fair to the people, because they were grossly misinformed. But it would take a lot of work to counter that misinformation, and they don't have the time, with the Order upon them.
I don't like the way the women of this world are so susceptible to the men. Even Du Chaillu, a powerful woman in her clan, is protected by men -and those men are dedicated to her only because of ancient tradition. That's why I like Kahlan and Cara. They have a certain power over the nasty men that they encounter. For a world where men can be so evil, most of the women were not given any defense against them.
Dalton Campbell falls to his own tricks by the end. The Minister of Culture, whose job he coveted so much, finally becomes Sovereign of the people. Being a womanizer, the Minister now has untold numbers of women wanting to keep his bed warm. Dalton, who helped the former Minister into that position, loses his wife to the new Sovereign. Since they had always been faithful, he thought he had no reason to lose her. But he did not see the look in her eyes for what it was. He was blind to the person closest to him. She was drawn to power and became addicted. Of course she would go to the bed of the most powerful man in the land. Adding to this, Dalton saw a trusted sorceress burned at the stake. She was powerless without magic, of course, and couldn't get away.
So as usual, Dalton takes matters into his own hands. He kills the Order's representative, who participated in the burning. He goes to a prostitute in town, intent on catching a terrible sexually transmitted disease. And then he makes love to his wife all night long. She then gives the disease to the Sovereign. Dalton takes it one step farther and goes to bed with the Sovereign's wife, completing the downfall of the Anderith government! It was all so nasty that it was fun to read about!
There were two small sub-plots in this book, and I wish we has seen one more. Zedd goes to Anderith to banish the chimes, hoping to offer his soul to them in place of Richard's, which is what they want. He fails, though he manages to project himself into a raven, which helps Richard get a hold of the book that reveals the secret of the chimes. After Richard succeeds, Zedd is transferred back to his old body. I wish for once that we could have Zedd stay with Richard, and teach him some things!
In the second plot, Ann goes to rescue her Sisters of the Light from Jajang, because the Dream Walker's magic has failed, too. But they have been so conditioned by the Emperor of the Old World that they don't believe her. They lie to her and get her captured. A Sister of the Dark helps her to escape once magic is returned, after hearing about Richard's bond. But Anne doesn't know if she can trust the woman -who claims to have returned to the light. I think now Anne plans to have all the Sisters in Jajang's company killed, because they could do so much evil.
I would have liked to learn something about what is happening in Aydindril while Richard is away for two months. I wondered how the other Mord-Sith, like Berdine, felt about their agiels and their bond being broken. What happened to them then? It seemed like a big deal that a group of Mord-Sith arrived in Aydindril at the end of the last book. Did they take over!?! Did other lands, ready to surrender, get impatient and leave, tired of waiting for Lord Rahl?
It never occurred to me that Shota's charm would not work because of the chimes! So Kahlan got pregnant, and decided to abort, and that almost got her killed -or actually, it did, but Richard managed to do some primitive artificial respiration, precursor to CPR, to revive her! I loved that, especially since Cara had to teach it to him earlier in the book while saving Du Chaillu. It was woven into the story so naturally! Fortunately or unfortunately, Kahlan loses her child in the attack on her life.
Kahlan said that the Haken were a people displaced two to three thousand years ago. I wonder if they are related to Du Chaillu's people. Beatta seemed to think they looked somewhat Haken. But nobody else made a big deal about it. Maybe it will be taken up in a future book. After all, Beatta did manage to escape.
As usual, this book was very intense, and well written. As usual, it was the strength of the characters that make it such a good book. And as usual, the author needs to be edited! So much space is taken up with small details, like Richard's discussion about whether to go to Aydindril or Anderith. The author also spends too much time telling us what happened in previous books, leaving the action for chunks at a time. He does better later in the book, but so much of the early book seems like an aside to the readers.
I hope Richard comes to his senses about abandoning the midlands to Jajang. The people of Anderith rejected him, but the midlands did not. I understand, though, because he is in despair about Kahlan, recovering, but not nearly recovered. He has the sword back, retrieved from Dalton, who took it from Stein of the Imperial Order, who took it from his men, who took it from Fitch! I understand that all he wants to do is rest, take care of Kahlan, and not be a leader. I understand why he quits. I wonder how much it will take to bring him back.
Even though I think the author went on for too long at times, I love long books. And this one was really good. Definitely not the best in the series, but still really good. Especially after having invested my time in the previous installments, this one is worth the time, also.
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