The Sword of Truth series is written by Terry Goodkind. It features a number of interesting characters, but the focus is on two characters, Richard and Kahlan. Richard’s grandfather, Zedd, also plays a major role in the book series, but not in the way Richard does. Richard is the Seeker of Truth, which would be an auspicious goal for any hero. The other characters come and go as needed to fill out the various scenes. It’s not that the book series lacks depth due to too few characters—quite the contrary, the book series is actually quite detailed and rich. The series consists of these books (in the order that you should probably read them):
- Wizard’s First Rule
- Stone of Tears
- Blood of the Fold
- Temple of the Winds
- Soul of the Fire
- Faith of the Fallen
- The Pillars of Creation
- Naked Empire
Anyone familiar with the series will see that I left Debt of Bones out of the list. Yes, this book is also part of the series, but take my advice, save it for later. The eleven books that contribute to the main part of the series will take quite a while to read and reading Debt of Bones does present a few spoilers that I would rather not have known. It’s a good book to read after the fact, much like watching Legend of the Seeker (the ill fated television series based on the book) adds to the experience. It’s possible that there are other additions to the Sword of Truth series, but this review doesn’t discuss any of them.
I’m going to try hard not to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t already read the series by providing a detailed overview of the plot. If you really want to spoil your reading experience, read the reviews on Amazon. However, the series does contain everything needed for a good fantasy. There are the usual heroes and villains. The hero has a pretty girl to protect. As in any good fantasy, magic is a must and you’ll eventually encounter mystical creatures such as dragons.
Terry is a great writer in many ways. His writing style reminds me quite a bit of Tom Clancy, another favorite author of mine. Rather than gloss over the details, Terry writes about them with vigor. It almost feels as if you’re seeing the fantasy world through a camera—the vivid details are nothing short of fantastic. However, reading the details isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so you’ll see lots of complaints that Terry doesn’t move the plot along quickly enough. It’s true, the plot does seem to drag at times because you’re reading about details that may not matter much to the story. From my personal perspective, I greatly enjoyed the detail because it helped me envision the world of Richard and Kahlan in ways that would have been impossible otherwise.
A problem with the series is that it runs across so many books. Terry must repeat details for readers who could read the books out of order and not know about details in other books. I tried reading one book out of order and the repetition wasn’t a problem at all. However, reading the books in order did leave me feeling at times like I was getting buried in repetition. The series would have been far better if Terry had limited it to four or possibly five books. Leaving out a little of the non-essential detail and all of the repetition would have accomplished the task in a far more elegant manner. However, this is a minor nit that plagues an otherwise well-written series.
Some people have complained that Pillars of Creation should never have been included in the series. I disagree. Part of the reason that this series has kept me interested is that Terry takes side quests. You wander about the four main lands of the series: Westland, The Midlands, D’hara, and The Old World and really examine things. If Terry had never used the material from Pillars of Creation in other parts of the series and used that material effectively, I probably would have said that the book didn’t belong in the series either, but the fact is that Terry does use that material to good effect. It’s one of those situations where you must read with the idea that the author requires time to develop part of the plot for you.
A few people were appalled by some of the graphic detail in the books. I must admit that I could have probably done without a little of that detail myself. There is only so much that I want to know about the blood, gore, broken bones, and other horrors that the protagonist has faced. In this case, the exquisite detail of Terry’s writing didn’t serve to make the series more enjoyable, not unless you’re of the Marquis de Sade persuasion. There were a few small sections that I scanned briefly because I didn’t relish the graphic details in them.
Richard represents many good elements that I have found in few books. His emphasis on loving life and living it to the fullest because you want to do so is presented in unique fashion. Terry does seem to get on the stump at times and I found the long diatribes distracting, but I did approve highly of the way in which Richard presented the facts to others and encouraged them to live their lives. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that these passages often motivated me to grasp life a bit more strongly and robustly.
The sign of a great author is the ability to do the unexpected—to entertain in a way that surprises the reader. I feel that Terry has succeeded to a high degree in this regard. His solutions to the problems created for the hero and his associates to overcome in the book series are interesting and incomparable. The fact that readers got so worked up about some of the solutions that many of them chose to write reviews about them tells me that the author has achieved that rarest of goals—a strong emotional response. The readers are obviously engaged and fully appreciate the characters that Terry has provided.
Now that I have finished the series, one of the biggest questions I must answer is whether I’d read the series again. A book series of this sort is best when it attracts a second or third reading. I must admit that I’m going to put Richard and Kahlan away for a while, but I definitely plan to take them for another stroll in a few years after I have forgotten enough book details to make the reading enjoyable once again. This is the kind of series where the surprises that the author has included are a distinct part of the series as a whole. You want to read because you don’t know what the author will do with the characters next.
Is this a good book series? It’s not Tolkien, in that the styles are different and the sort of fantasy differs as well. Terry produces a great book that’s an easy read and something that will most definitely entertain, but I don’t really feel it’s a classic. Of course, time could easily prove me wrong. Given what I know now, I’d still buy the books and I’d still enjoy them. I hope that Terry sees fit to produce another series—perhaps one that omits a few of the fit and finish problems with this one.