zondag 26 mei 2013

Review: Terry Goodkind, Wizard's First Rule

Funny how, when you're reviewing a book that was an absolute trainwreck, the whole of the internet is insufficient to vent. However, when you just want to gush and rave about something, words come short. This gets even more difficult when it's a book - or series in this case - that's pretty close to your heart. Thanks for that, mind! Harry Potter aside, the Sword of Truth series must have been the series that introduced me to Fantasy and all its brightness and glory. That was ten years ago. Today, I am writing this review on Wizard’s First Rule after a fifth read and it still manages to capture me completely. The fact that it is already the fifth time that I read said book, doesn’t make it easier to review it, but here we go nonetheless.

In the aftermath of the brutal murder of his father, a mysterious woman, Kahlan Amnell, appears in Richard Cypher's forest sanctuary seeking help . . . and more. His world, his very beliefs, are shattered when ancient debts come due with thundering violence.

In a dark age it takes courage to live, and more than mere courage to challenge those who hold dominion, Richard and Kahlan must take up that challenge or become the next victims. Beyond awaits a bewitching land where even the best of their hearts could betray them. Yet, Richard fears nothing so much as what secrets his sword might reveal about his own soul. Falling in love would destroy them--for reasons Richard can't imagine and Kahlan dare not say.
In their darkest hour, hunted relentlessly, tormented by treachery and loss, Kahlan calls upon Richard to reach beyond his sword--to invoke within himself something more noble. Neither knows that the rules of battle have just changed . . . or that their time has run out

I’ll be the first to admit, this is your standard-cliché-cookie-cutter Fantasy plot. There is the orphaned farmer’s son turned hero, the beautiful girl, the crazy wizard, the evil overlord and a nigh impossible quest. Terry Goodkind takes all these, but manages to spin a captivating and exhilarating tale out of those worn-out elements. It’s a big book, so the plot takes a slow and easy start, but things start heating up pretty fast. The trip through the border/underworld is the first of many difficult situations Richard and Kahlan find themselves in and introduces us to the first of many moments in the series where Richard and Kahlan find themselves separated from one another (*). It’s crystal-clear from the very first meeting that Richard and Kahlan are bound to become (star-crossed) lovers with the nearly-insta-love dripping from the pages. That’s perhaps one of the things I don’t really dig about this series, the romance part is overly cheesy. I’m more a fan of the action-packed lightning-throwing spellcasting plotlines. One in particular here is the Denna-story. The first time I read it, it was gut-wrenching, heart-clenching and whatnot. It still gives me shivers, but the BDSM-aspect of it is less disturbing now, compared to when I was 15 (**). Other scenes - one in particular near the ending stands out - are still as disturbing... Yes, the faint of heart should consider themselves warned. I wish I was at the time. All that stuff aside, Wizard’s First Rule offers a well-constructed story that knows how to captivate its audience and delivers a well-rounded not too cliffhangery ending.

The main detractor of the plot is, alas, the main character. Perhaps not as much in this book, but there are little hints of Richard’s annoying personality that glimmer through. I don’t know what it is, but he just rubs me the wrong way for some reason . Since it was the fifth time reading it, my perceptions of the Richard-to-be clouded my vision a little bit, but still, he was pretty self-righteous and sometimes a downright ass (***). I like Kahlan a whole lot more, even though she can get lost in her self-pity at times and her infatuation for Richard is cheesy. On the other hand, she is quite powerful and knows how to handle things on her own. Kahlan aside, I do think that this is a series that really benefits from the side characters and their interactions with the main cast. Not so much in this book – even though Denna is a little star – with the exception of Zedd, but later on in the series they are the ones to keep you entertained while are star-crossed lovers are apart for the umpteenth time. The bad guys are of the kind you can't but hate. Darken Rahl is just such a sick, twisted and evil human being that it creeps me out. The things he does the way he does is just disgusting. At times, his evilish ways were on the border of 'believable' in a way that he was almost too evil to be. I think Shota does a better job as an antagonist, for she's abiguously good/bad.
Credit where credit’s due, though. I have to give it to Terry Goodkind for creating a fascinating world filled with magic and little – or less little – creatures. The description is thorough to say the least, but it’s never long-winded and dragging (****). When it comes to the writing, Wizard’s First Rule is one of the best of the series, hands down. Fluent, action packed, well-balanced and captivating. As it should be.

You know when a book is good, when it doesn’t lose it’s polish upon reading it a second, third of even fifth time. Wizard’s First Rule is a novel that comes with a lot of nostalgia for me, so I am, for one, really happy that this is a tremendously good book that just stays good. Even though it’s falling apart from reading it a little too often.
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* While there is some anxiety – for she is his guide in a foreign country and all – do treasure this unique moment of separation without the, at times insufferable, accompanying angst.
** No scars for life though, rest assured.
*** Also, he should stop cutting his arm with his own sword, for it is (a) not arousing/impressive/alpha-malish in the least and (b) it’s going to get infected at some point sure. Also, I bet Kahlan doesn’t like all that scar tissue building up. His big arms sure ain't all muscle!
**** Perhaps with the exception of Kahlan's hair. Yes, Richard, I get it. It's, like, suuuperlong and beautiful and you never ever want to see it cut. I got that the first time you mentioned it, let alone the twentieth - which was only two chapters further. #ExaggeratingButYouGetMyPoint.

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