Sunday, November 25, 2007
Confessor, by Terry Goodkind
With Confessor Terry Goodkind finally brings his long running Sword of Truth series to a close. At this point Richard Rahl is being held captive by Jagang's Empire and is using the sport of the Empire, some odd mix of rugby and quidditch, to be his opportunity to get a chance to strike at Jagang and to save his wife, Kahlan. Meanwhile Richard's grandfather Zedd and other friends (namely the Mord-Sith Cara, and the former Sister of Dark Nicci) are seeking a way to find Richard, stop the besieging army, rescue Kahlan, and all together save the day.
Your typical fantasy quest, though it has taken a long time to get into a position where there is a true end in sight.
This is the conclusion of the three book story arc of the Chainfire trilogy as well as wrapping up the entire Sword of Truth series. Kahlan still does not remember who she was due to the Chainfire spell, and Jagang's Sisters of Dark have put the Boxes of Orden in play (remember those boxes from Wizard's First Rule?)
If you have read this far in the series you know how everything has been set up and how Richard and Kahlan have gotten to this point. If you haven't, then go back and start from the first book (and stop when you lose interest).
How good is Confessor? That's the question.
Honestly, Confessor is a mixed bag of delights and frustration. Terry Goodkind writes some excellent and exciting action sequences. His descriptions of the action of quidditch, er... rugby, er... Ja' La - are superb. The danger and excitement of this bloodthirsty sport come alive and the final match and aftermath...stunning and breathtaking. Goodkind does action very well. He is creative in coming up with things I haven't seen before.
And then the characters open their mouths and start to speak and oh, dear lord, make them stop! Goodkind's characters do not converse, they do not dialog, they dictate and they lecture. Once a character gets a thought into his or her pretty little head - well, whatever point of philosophy that the character is making will cover paragraph after paragraph, page after page, until the reader is bludgeoned into submission. As is the character the speaker is communicating with. It's rough and Confessor is at its philosophical worst since Naked Empire.
So is Confessor any good? Mostly, partly, yeah, it is. Kind of. If you cut the two hundred pages or so of lecture, Confessor isn't half bad. Of course, this means it isn't half good, either, but Confessor provides a solid, if somewhat deus ex machina, ending to the series, wrapping up nearly every little storyline that has been introduced over the course of the series.
Another complaint is something that other readers will enjoy. Goodkind found a way to cram in nearly every minor and major character, both living and dead, that has appeared thus far in the series. Even those that hadn't been mentioned in 5+ books. I thought it was pointless and forced. Others will love this aspect of the story. I didn't.
The earliest work of Terry Goodkind was exciting fantasy, raw and gritty (if a bit gratuitous) and felt fresh and a pleasure to read. He seemed a worth successor to Robert Jordan (though Jordan had not gone anywhere at the time). As the series progressed Goodkind (through the vehicle of Richard Rahl) became more and more preachy and Richard's philosophy seemed to mirror Goodkind's philosophy, at least that which came out through interviews. It is in your face and demanding and off-putting. That Goodkind has a personal philosophy is one thing and separate from the novels. That he incorporates his philosophy into his fiction is fine. That the philosophy overshadows and overwhelms an actual story and plot and character...this is inexcusable.
Confessor is a mixed bag and only half as successful as it could have been. Chainfire (the novel) set up a great opportunity for a conclusion to the series, and while Goodkind did cross the finish line in, I imagine, a manner in which he is proud, but I feel that Confessor stumbled across the line with flashes of excellence.
At last, it is finished. Not with a bang, but with a fist thrust belligerently in the air. We would expect no less.