I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
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’ve read quite a number of “high fantasy” epics as part of my SFF reading project and the Sword of Truth series is yet another one. Maybe I’ve read a few too many of these series over the past couple of years, as I was quite weary by the end of the first 100 pages. Goodkind believes in getting right to it—by 100 pages we are introduced to Richard Cypher (our chosen one for this series), Kahlan Amnell (his love interest & travel companion), and Zedd (the obligatory wizard). Not only that, Richard’s brother is set up as the corrupt politician who is going to cause trouble later. I guess it’s a toss-up between those who don’t want too much exposition or description and those who would like a gentler introduction to this new fantasy world. I cut my high fantasy teeth on Tolkien, so I tend to favour more introductory material before plunging into the adventure.
Warnings to those who are sensitive souls: both torture and pedophilia are aspects of this story. If you choose your TBR based on avoiding these issues, strike this book from your reading agenda. The torture section, where Richard is in the power of a Mord-Sith, Denna, is rather long and dwells lingeringly on her brutal treatment of Richard. We learn about what Mord-Sith are right along with Richard. Needless to say, they are on the Evil side of the equation in this story.
Richard’s talents appear to be a questioning nature, insisting on getting to the truth of things, and an ability to see things from another’s perspective and appreciate them despite their behaviour. This is how he manages to find an affection for Mistress Denna and sweet talk a dragon, among other diplomatic coups. The fact that he is portrayed as a highly unusual man because of these capabilities (to empathize with others) I leave to your judgement.
Richard and Kahlan have a whole Romeo-and-Juliet plot line going through most of the book, probably one of the oldest plot devices going. If you’ve read The Lord of the Rings you will also see echoes of Wormtongue when you consider Richard’s brother Michael and hints of Gollum when you read about the former Seeker who has been distorted by magic. Not to mention Zedd’s tendencies to give incomplete advice and to disappear when he is most needed, rather like Gandalf.
I think that perhaps my adoration of modern urban fantasy is a reaction to the plethora of rather medieval settings and simplistic good-vs-evil plots of much of high fantasy. There’s a place for both and I enjoy them both—they use many of the same tropes, after all—but we all need variety in both our physical and reading diets.
Book number 289 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.