Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series used to be one of the best out there. It was a fascinating gnostic struggle between absolute good and absolute evil with some amusing bondage scenes thrown in for spice, not to mention Richard's serial rapist half-brother, his red leather-clad dominatrix Mord-Sith amazons (including a pair of lesbians), epic battles involving millions of soldiers and the magical Palace of the Prophets in which young wizards lived for centuries and were encouraged to sleep with as many beautiful women as possible in order to breed more gifted people. Then it all went down hill.
The 5th and 6th volumes were somewhat mediocre while 7 and 8 were terrible. Richard left off fighting evil in order to take on spineless socialist weenies. Supporting characters were turned into drooling morons whose main purpose was to ask leading questions so that Goodkind (through Richard's mouth) could rant for pages about the evils of moral relativism and the joys of Libertarianism. In response the villainous Jagang was remade to be sort of a quasi-educated Leninist, no doubt because he needed intellectual balance to make up for all his genocide, looting and raping. The low point was perhaps the end of Naked Empire in which Richard and his band of libertarian converts slaughtered a bunch of unarmed pinko meatbags and Richard arrived at the stunning philosophical realization that he himself was so absolutely right that he was perfectly entitled -nay, required- to dispose of anyone who disagreed with him. There was also that damned goat.
People who were dissatisfied should take heart. Goodkind redeems himself somewhat with Chainfire. There is very little preaching involved and Goodkind returns to the elements that made his earlier books so good, such as the metaphysical complexities of prophecy and the free people's struggle against the all-consuming evil of the Keeper. True, Goodkind's prose and dialogue are as awkward as ever but he deftly maintains the required urgency and fascination with violence that made his earlier works so readable. The storyline involves Richard and Kahlan being separated yet again and Richard racing against time to reverse a magic spell which has removed Kahlan from everyone's memories and is, also as usual, going to destroy the world. The main strength of these books is the inexorable triumph of good. It's always satisfying to see unmitigated evil get what's coming to it. Here once again Richard is less a philosopher and more an elemental force for good, making this book a deal better than the last few.
There's a fair bit of ludicrousness as usual, especially the scenes in which the blue-collar schmoes whom Richard liberated in Faith of the Fallen send Jagang's hardened professional soldiers fleeing in terror. There's also a slightly lame blood beast hunting Richard and the ridiculousness of how Jagang manages to maintain gazillion-strong armies for years at a time in hostile, denuded foreign territory. Why in the name of the Creator don't the D'Harans hit his hugely extended supply lines? Why are they waiting for him to come and pin them down in the People's Palace? I guess Libertarian strategists know something that I don't.
If you're a Sword of Truth fan, Chainfire is definitely worth picking up. It's a significant improvement over books 5-8 and bodes well for the concluding two volumes of this series.