Tuesday, February 28, 2012

#33 Friend Recommended: Wizard's First Rule

Like Twilight, I've read Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind before, but I decided to read it through again more critically than I've done in the past. The Sword of Truth series is one of Chef Hubby's favorites and he's the one who originally introduced me to it. We used to debate about whether Terry Goodkind stole ideas from Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series or the other way around, until I finally checked out the copyright dates and saw that Robert Jordan started his series years before Terry Goodkind wrote Wizard's First Rule.

This is not to say that The Sword of Truth series is a replica of Robert Jordan's books, it's absolutely not. There are a few similar societies. A few similar ideas. But Terry Goodkind has created a world all his own, using these ideas and societies and adding in quite a few that I've never seen the like before.

Wizard's First Rule is a great start to a fun series. It pulled me in, got the action moving quickly and there's always a little bit of mystery - what will happen next? There's something new in every book, some new spell or danger, some new twist on the action, and not every main character is safe from harm. There's also plenty of humor. In fact, the first rule of wizardly made me chuckle quite a bit: people are stupid. That's the wizard's first rule. Fantastic. And so easily provable! People will believe the craziest things if you tell it to them with a straight face!

I wish that the series stayed as fantastic, but to be honest by the last book I was skimming large pages of political preaching. Terry Goodkind gets very preachy, although the actual story is interesting enough that I kept reading it, even though I had to skim entire pages of a lecture of the glories of capitalism. Don't get me wrong, it's a great series. Fantastic writing. Good points. Even the political stuff is interesting (to a point). But every time I re-read these books the more I find myself preferring Robert Jordan or George R.R. Martin.

Richard, the main character of the Sword of Truth series,  is a good guy. So good that he always does the right thing. So good that all the good characters are eventually convinced to see things his way. Lucky for him, none of them are ever deceptive. The bad guys always show their hand before they do any real harm, none of them are able to weasel into his counsel and betray him from within, because they are just too bad through and through to be able to do that. The good guys always come around to thinking the same as Richard, and are willing to fight for it and for honor.

While I enjoy reading the books, I find them less complex and less realistic than the worlds created by Jordan or Martin where the majority of the characters have more than one side to them and just when you think someone's a bad guy they do something that makes you empathize with them or just when you think someone's a good guy they betray someone (for good reasons) that you're also cheering for. Opposing viewpoints don't make way for one over-riding viewpoint expressed by the hero. Richard's journey is fascinating, adventurous, occasionally frustrating in the single-mindedness of some of his opposition, funny and fun. But the range of human motivations, personality and myriad of viewpoints is never expressed in the Sword of Truth. All viewpoints must eventually align with either Richard or his opponent, completely and totally, so that the world can be aligned as the "good guys" and the "bad guys."

It makes for a good story. I read and re-read these books. But my preferences put Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series and George R.R. Martin's Swong of Ice and Fire series ahead of The Sword of Truth.

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