I picked up Wizard's First Rule when it was first published and found it to be an enjoyable fantasy novel. I have stuck with the series far longer than I should have, but by now I have too much time invested in it to stop. The story as it was has now devolved into little more than a political manifesto, a propaganda piece extolling a vile philosophy. If Faith of the Fallen had been the worst offender for characters endlessly prattling on about their love of life and liberty that would have been fine, if boring. But it has altered course in a significant way. Where once the only absurdities in these books were (to name a few) a wise-cracking dragon, a heroic talking wolf, and a chuckling chicken that is evil manifest, Mr. Goodkind has sunk to new depths. His main characters - Richard and Kahlan - are held up as paragons of virtue, and great champions of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But one sees as the story progresses that they repeatedly betray such virtues and participate enthusiastically in the very atrocities that they so boldly (and endlessly) claim to be fighting against.
What Mr. Goodkind has done in his latest installment of the Sword of Truth series is a new low. Facing insurmountable odds, our hero Richard decides that the only path to victory lies in visiting the same atrocities upon the enemy citizenry, as have been committed upon Richard's own people. Whereas some might say the plotline (such as it is) in Phantom is particularly relevant to current world events, the fact is that what the heroes in this story are engaging in on behalf of all that is good, is exactly what would be universally condemned here in real life.
The prose in Phantom is long-winded enough to destroy the New Orleans levees all over again. Goodkind has one character spend twenty pages in a row describing what she saw in the camp of the Imperial Order, and another character follows immediately with a ten page explanation of how they got that way. If the characters in these books spoke like normal people do then it would be the size of a pamphlet one could read while waiting for a bus. The action that one could previously depend on is almost non-existent in Phantom, as the characters do very little other than talk each other (and the reader) to death. The twenty page description of life with the Order could have been done much easier, for example: "Jebra spoke of the horrors she had seen in the camp during the months she had labored there. The squalor, the endless rapes of screaming women, the torture and brutality. Richard's mind reeled at what he was hearing." I make no claim to be a great writer, but I don't need twenty pages to explain that the "bad guys" are evil. Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident. Mr. Goodkind has fallen into the bad habit of treating his audience like dimwitted children who must have an idea repeatedly pounded into their heads for them to grasp it. I found myself on several occasions wishing I had simply skipped an entire chapter, if only because the entire time I was reading it I kept muttering to myself "yes, I know life is good. Yes, I know the Order is evil. Get on with it." Mr. Goodkind's prose acts as a bulldozer, piling tons of rubble on top of you, distracting you from realizing that almost nothing is happening to move the plot along.
Soon this series will come to an end, and that is for the best since anything worthwhile in the story came to an end for me long ago. All I look forward to in the final installment is to see whether Richard finally realizes that he has become something no better than the evil he claims to fight against, and falls on his magic sword. Or if he will be found at the end of the story with his shiny Sword of Truth held high while standing upon a mountain of the corpses of his innocent victims.