bookrev: Confessor by Terry Goodkind (final novel in the Sword of Truth series)

Sword of Truth: Book 11

Terry Goodkind concludes his philosophical fantasy series, the eleventh book in his SwordConfessor by Terry Goodkind of Truth series. I call it a philosophical fantasy because there are equal parts Ayn Rand Objectivism and magical effect throughout the series.

All of the major plotlines are tied up, and the ending, while something of a twist, is rather satisfying. The middle of the book, including the Ja’La tournament games, equals some of the best writing in the series with lots of action, excitement and emotion. On the flip side, there are times when some of the characters sound more like the author than the character (i.e., Rachel, who is a young female child, giving a speech several paragraphs long about evil). This is part of the philosophical teachings bit, which does get somewhat repetitive and preachy after eleven books. The style is quite similar to The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, where the main characters (Howard Roark and John Galt respectively) lapse into multi-page speeches about their philosophy; people don’t speak this way in real life (and least not the folks I hang with) but it is certainly a method to get teachings and points across (tell ’em what you’re gonna tell em’, then tell ’em, then tell ’em what you told ’em). There is, thankfully, no 50+ page speech laying out Goodkind’s philosophy similar to John Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged…though the last line in Galt’s speech could be attributed to Goodkind’s Richard:

I swear – by my life and by my love of it – that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask for another man to live for mine.

Writing a book takes a lot of work; writing eleven books in a single series is a life’s achievement. Called long-winded by some, the Sword of Truth series had many of the key elements that make a fantasy enjoyable, and some familiar philosophical elements as well:

  • Richard, a hero you can identify with, who always stays his own course, no matter the pressures, no matter who tells him he is wrong; similar to Howard Roark is Ayn Rand’s vision of the perfect man who does his own thing regardless of other’s opinions;
  • Kahlan, the heroine, who wields a sword almost as good as Richard while still looking pretty; she gets lost, gets rescued, does the rescuing, etc..
  • Nicci, bad girl turned good; face it guys, we all really wanted her to turn her spells on us;
  • Jagang, the evil dreamwalker, nasty in person and worse in your nightmares;
  • the Wizard’s Rules, uncovered slowly but surely in each of the books;
  • War Wizards, Witches, Sisters of Light and Dark, Wizards, all with their own unique rules and boundaries;
  • long winded speeches about the power of free will;
  • the Order, looking a lot like “The Church”, where this life is meant for suffering but the next life will be your reward;
  • the violent game of Ja’La dh Jin (or Rugby with squares and more violence!);

If you remove all of the philosophical speeches and teachings, this 600 page book would weigh in near 400 pages; but then it would not be a Terry Goodkind tome. Since Wizard’s First Rule, he has preached the “it’s your life, live it” philosophy from every different perspective that he can. As a fantasy series, I would take George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire hands down; but as a fantasy+philosophy set of writings, Mr. Goodkind does an admirable job and I congratulate him on finishing the series.

You can find an interesting Q&A on his website with some interesting quotes about democracy (“Gang rape is, after all, democracy in action”; ok?) and the philosophical message he tries to put into each novel.

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