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As frustrating as ever
on September 21, 2007
If you have gotten all the way to this book, then you are either a masochist (like me) or you consider Ayn Rand to be your personal saviour. Either way, no restatement of the main thrust of the series is needed here. Suffice it to say that this book continues the same frustrating themes. Here are a few: 1) Richard desperately missing Kahlan and randomly experiencing searing mental anguish over her absence. 2) Nicci being incredibly hot with very blue eyes and thinking she would just die if Richard ever looked at her with anything less than euphoria. 3) Lots of descriptions of violence and rape. 4) Richard and Shota routinely pulling solutions to complex problems out of thin air. 5) Richard being unable to use his magic 6) More rape 7) Tedious descriptions of things which do not need to be described. 8) Really feeble humour.
The main problem with this series is that Goodkind does not consider it to be fantasy but rather some sort of inspirational tract meant to enlighten us drudges about freedom and the colossal beacon of blinding light that is the thought of Ayn Rand. This invariably creates problems. Goodkind is far more interested in proselytizing than in writing a good yarn. Thus, much of the dialogue is stilted and embarassingly awkward. At one point the seer Jebra shows up to tell Richard all about her experience as a captive of the Imperial Order (as he if he didn't know what they were like already). Despite having lived through grotesque horrors, her narrative (which goes on for pages) is absurdly dry and sounds like she's reading from a textbook or maybe from the diary of someone who had only polite interest in what was going on. The same goes for the bad guys. The Imperial Order soldiers, described as the most brutish and nasty people alive, don't even swear. Even when threatening rape and murder, their lines are dry as dust. They sound more like disaffected college students regurgitating what they learned at communist youth group meetings. I guess Jagang banned cussing out of concern for his men's morals.
The other major problem is that since Richard is an Ayn Randian superhero, all the characters have to be dumbed down to make him look good. Ancient and powerful people like Zedd, Nathan and Ann are made out to be blithering idiots who never hesitate to fiercely oppose Richard the instant he ventures an opinion, despite the fact that he was always correct before. There are more egregious examples. In Phantom Richard FINALLY (duh) realizes what he has to do tactically to prevent his forces from being crushed by the vastly superior Imperial Order. He obligingly pops into army HQ to brief his officer corps only to find them distraught at the prospect of missing out on the chance to get annihilated in a set piece battle with the Order. He actually has to sit down and explain the logic of his plan to his supposedly battlehardened and professional commanders and even then some of them don't get it. Apparently D'Haran military training leaves a lot to be desired.
The good parts - there are some - are pretty much the same too. When he can get off his high horse, Goodkind does deliver some decent buildup, a few interesting plot twists and a couple of exciting fight scenes. Goodkind has never been a graceful writer but he does know how to create tension and use violence effectively. Also as usual, the systematics behind magic and prophecy are described in rich detail and this is always fascinating.
If you have gotten this far, you might as well slog through this, the penultimate book in the series. What with Goodkind's aforementioned talents, the conclusion in the next book promises to be worthwhile.