maandag 2 september 2013

Serial Reading: Sword of Truth #2

The Fantastical landscape is filled with series, trilogies and other-ologies. As a committed Fantasy-reader myself, I am deeply immersed in several series. Serial Reading is my way of keeping track of all those series in a lighthearted way. Some of these series will have complete reviews on here, others not so much - mainly because I'm already too far in to busy myself with retroactive reviewposting. If you want to read my views on those books, feel free to consult my GoodReads. Enjoy your breakfast!
 
Note: Spoilery bits might be included.
 
Credits: http://blogs.bu.edu
 
Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth is one of those series that have a little place in my heart. Nothing beats Harry Potter when it comes to childhood nostalgia (*), but Sword of Truth comes close. Reading them now, I do wonder why I read them as a young boy, cause they're explicitly violent and whatnot. Anyway, I seemed to have enjoyed them a-lot when I was about 15 so they became one of my favourite series ever. This is also expressed by the amount of re-reads those books got. The first and second book got the privilege of being read five times. As fas as insane goes...
However, the last few books have only been read once, with some seriously big gaps between them, so I figured that this year (**), I was going to go through them all once more and then shelve this series for quite some time. Upon writing this entry, I've read up till book four, so what follows is my impression of Blood Of The Fold and Temple Of The Winds.
 
- Book 3: Blood Of The Fold. With the re-read of the second novel in the series, Stone Of Tears, we witnessed the brutal attack of the most vicious, merciless creature ever, the Suck Fairy(***). Luckily for us, avid re-readers, the suckiness they spread isn't contagious. In fact, whereas my appreciation for the second instalment dropped, Blood Of The Fold, always a bit of a black sheep, managed to rise in my appreciation. Just a little bit, mind.
My main issue with this book is the fact that it figures as one long set-up for the remainder of the series. Where the previous books - Wizard's First Rule for sure - were pretty much self contained, the overarching plot that makes this series a series, really kicks in here. Perhaps kicking implies perhaps too much action, cause it's mainly a lot of talk and some unfinished business wrapping up. That has always been my complaint no.1 here. Nothing really happens. Richard and Kahlan did a very good job of missing out on each other while running cross country, so in order to continue their sappy romance, they have to find each other again. Hence a 600+ pages of travelling towards one another. Throw in a random evil dragonesque creature to explain the Mriswith and some other minor evildoers and there is your book.
It wasn't all bad, mind you. The main storyline is just a bit meh here, but the other plotlines - Nathan, Verna, Ann & Zedd - really provide some great moments. Also, the Sisters of the Dark are becoming an actual threat now that Jagang owns them. Before, they were supposed to be a big evil that everybody was afraid of mentioning, but some bodycount aside, they felt to me like schoolgirls gone rogue with black lipstick and too short skirts. Now, however, their true potential glimmers. The fact that they need Jagang for that, is unfortunate. See, Jagang does the job as main adversary, but he is so evil that it's just not compelling to read. When I was younger, I never really paid attention to this, but being a bit older and having read more, it's become clear that pure evil doesn't work. At least, not with some backstory. Voldemort is also bad to the bone, but at least there is something behind it. Jagang simply relies on the fact that he's born this way and it's harder to buy into that now. In doing so, the reader is also left with no choice but to side with Richard, wether he is a prick or not.
 
- Book 4: Temple Of The Winds. Contrary to Blood Of The Fold, the fourth book, Temple Of The Winds, has always been one of my favourites. From what I've heard of others who have read this series, this is not a popular opinion, but even after reading it five times now, I stand by the fact that this is one of the better books in the series. It's not as glorious as Wizard's First Rule nor as mesmerizing as Faith Of The Fallen, but it does a lot of things right.
First of all, the scope of the storyline is being reduced. Whereas the previous book had a lot of politicking and Richard preaching about freedom(****), Temple Of The Winds leaves the grand scheme of things for what it is - not completely though - and focuses on the happenings in Aydindril, where Jagang has unleashed a plague epidemic amongst the children. Because of this, the big war takes the backseat and Richard becomes more human and approachable, less Master Rahl. Which is good, cause for most of the book, he isn't a pompous ass. He shows his true colours towards the end again, though, but then again, he's probably born this way(*****). I've previously referred to Richard and Kahlan as starcrossed lovers, and while finally being reunited in Temple Of The Winds, faith messes things up again when Nadine and Drefan come into play, breaking up the dynamic between the two. While I don't particularly like Nadine nor Drefan, it's really nice to see how the four of them interact. Things don't get any easier when Cara starts putting her nose in there. Which is probably for the best, cause Cara might be the best character ever to have walked Goodkind's pages. She was great in Blood Of The Fold, but here, she takes matters into her own hands and throws herself out there as a leader.
The reason why I like this book so much, is because the plot gives way for some beautifully human but heartbreaking moments to arise. The fist time I read the scene with Raina and the squirrel, I cried. Even though the crying is behind me, that scene strikes home every time and there are a couple of those. Little things, but beautiful.
Leaving the mess that is roaming in Aydindril, there is the emancipation of Nathan. That man knows what he's doing, instead of Richard who's diving headfirst in stuff he doesn't know let alone understand. While Nathan has a great storyline, the stars of the show have to be Zedd and Ann. I've always liked Zedd, for he provides some much needed comic relief, but paired with Ann they make a great duo. Their adventures here were just hilarious. All the while Ann kept in touch with Verna, but I found that Verna was done injustice. She goes on suicide missions in order to save her friends, but it doesn't really translate to the reader. Her chapters felt rushed and jammed between the bigger storylines just to break things up. Pity, cause it could have been more, especially with a great character like Verna.
 
Both of these books had something that annoyed the hell out of me, and that was the insanely large amount of repetition. I was able to skim/skip at times a whole page because it was just copy/paste from a previous book. I could go on about this, but instead, I'll just devote a little post to this topic later on.
 
In summery:
- Richard becomes more and more pompous as the books go on - so far for being a humble guide - but luckily for him did Temple Of The Winds allow his ass to be reduced. If not, he would have had his pants resized...
- It's still a long way to the finish, but things are starting to heat up.
- The side characters and their stories are really entertaining.
- CARA CARA CARA CARA CARA!!
 
Because graphs are fun:
You don't have to be eagle-eyed to notice the steep fall in rating that's to come, so I'm actually curious to see how that will turn out. Soul Of The Fire and Faith Of The Fallen will be the last books I'll be reading this year as far as this series goes, so you can expect the next Serial Read for this somewhere in December, I think.
 
(*) Technically speaking I was a teen, but the lines between child - teen - adult tend to blur most of the times. Fun times living in my head.
(**) From January 1st up till now, all my illusions of actually succeeding have been mercilessly destroyed. Perhaps I'll manage to finish somewhere near the end of 2014.
(***) Yeah, if Goodkind thought he got us scared with Jagang, he definitely hasn't met a Suck Fairy...
(****) Recurring theme alert!
(*****) Challenge: How many gay anthems can you wriggle into one sentence?

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