WIZARD'S FIRST RULEA novel by Terry Goodkind
(1994, TOR Fantasy)
The Sword of Truth, book 1
A simple woods guide accompanies the beautiful Mother Confessor in her attempt to defeat a magical tyrant, but their danger increases as the fall in love.
-- First reading (paperback)
I wanted a fantasy book. Never mind all the unread books sitting on my shelves. I wanted something different. So I went out and bought this book, and read it as if it was the only book on my shelf. And I enjoyed it.
Just about every fantasy book I’ve read has a different kind of magic, but the roots are all the same. They all have different types of creatures that are either made of magic, use it, or both. Wizard’s First Rule is no different.
In this case, the world is divided into three parts, kept separate by “boundaries”, part of the Underworld brought into the real world to make sure nobody can cross. In Westland, there is no magic, and people fear magic. In the Midlands, magic is everywhere, and very few things are as they seem. In D’Hara, it appears that strange and powerful creatures were born.
The world is complex, and it requires almost every page of this book to introduce us to much of it. And there’s a whole lot of this world that is hinted at, which we don’t get to see in this book.
The book starts off a little slow, where the author describes things down to the smallest detail. It’s annoying while reading it, but it helped make the characters and the world more real later on.
Richard is a forest trail guide, who rescues a beautiful woman (Kahlan) from an assassination. She tells him that she came through the boundary from the midlands, something that he thought was impossible. Richard immediately takes her to his best friend Zedd, who we are not surprised to learn is the wizard Kahlan is looking for. In yet another moment that is not a surprise, except to the characters, Richard is named Seeker, a dangerous and powerful position.
It seems that the son of a man Zedd killed a generation ago is destroying the boundaries and wants to control the world. It is prophesized that a Seeker can defeat him. But the magic Sword of Truth that a Seeker carries leaves its bearer in pain, and so he is quite vulnerable. This isn’t the first book that shows how magic bears a terrible price on the soul, but it is the most blatant about it.
From there, Richard must take Kahlan and Zedd across the boundary, to the Midlands, where they must find a way to defeat their enemy, Darken Rahl. Through that journey, we meet the Mud People, a witch, a sorceress, a pompous Queen and her bratty daughter, the Princess’s playmate, Rachel, who gets beaten all the time, and several magical creatures, most evil, some good, including a red dragon, who is both.
If anything, the journey goes too easy. The length of time it takes to tell the story gets us into the characters heads through their experiences, but their path never deviates significantly from their desired route. Sure, they have setbacks, but once an obstacle is overcome, they continue on as before.
Most of the setbacks are not all that suspenseful. I wouldn’t have been surprised if one main character had died, and I fully expected her to, but I really had no doubt that they would find what they were seeking first.
The suspense, and my doubts, came at the very end. I honestly didn’t know what the characters were doing –if they had gone crazy. I thought it plausible that Darken Rahl would gain mastery of the world, and that Richard would spend the next couple of books undoing it. But, in the end, it was as easy as his journey through the midlands, but with a very nice twist right at the last moment.
One thing that came off very well was Kahlan’s weakness for Richard. She knows she can’t fall for him, because her magic would destroy him, but at every turn, she falls more and more in love with him. This culminates in a very erotic passage in the Mud People Spirit House, where they almost give in, which would ruin their chances of defeating Rahl. I felt the resolution of their love was a bit of a cheat, but it is a plausible one, and one that I can live with.
At one point in the book, it seemed as if the end was so near, and I wondered what was going to happen in the two hundred pages that followed. Suddenly, a whole new plot emerges, where Richard is tortured and his spirit broken –sort of. Although I liked the character of Denna, the whole thing really comes out of nowhere, and its purpose is barely justified by the events that follow it. The torture scenes were a little slow, but I did enjoy the part where the Princess gets a beating. But it makes my blood boil to see the dialog she was given. Even in fantasy, I hate to hear children talk that way.
All in all, this was a very enjoyable book. The writing style was simple, and made me think it was written by a slightly immature writer at times, but the intense moments outweighed that. The final few pages set up for the sequel, but I’ll wait for a while before starting the next one. The length of the book ensures that the few characters that existed will stay with me. Despite the slow moments throughout, and the simplicity of completing the journey, Richard’s exploration of himself and Kahlan were very well written, and completely enjoyed.
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