…And I’m back! This will be short, so let’s dive right in.
Okay, here’s the author review of Terry Goodkind (TG) as promised. Clarification: I will try to keep this centered on the books of the Sword of Truth (SOT) series, and not the man himself. I’ve seen lots of stuff written about him and interviews, and I’m just not going down that alley. That should tell you enough. Also, I’ll try to keep my swearing to a minimum, but it’s hard when dealing with TG or talking about something I’m passionate about.
While everyone’s view is subjective, my number one reason for not liking his writing will probably fall flat with a lot of people. Being a writer myself, I have certain pet peeves, and I try to eliminate them from my own writing. When I see it in other people’s work, it really irks me. So, again, my number one reason may make your eyes roll. And no, I’m not trying to prop myself up on a pedestal and say I’m better.
Lastly, I’ve read this series twice now. The first time, I was new to fantasy, and he was the third author I read. Since then, I’ve branched out and read a lot of fantasy authors—the sphere of work is small compared to how much other people have read. I generally find an author I like and stick with them. When I don’t like an author, I just stop reading them and typically never go back.
In my early fantasy days, I enjoyed the SOT series. I didn’t know much about the fantasy genre, tropes, etc. I was just exploring a new genre. So, my initial impression was that I liked it, but I didn’t love it. Some books were about a seven out of ten, while others were a five. To be fair, I thought Stone of Tears was his best work then. Now, I’m not so sure any of it is his best.
And I don’t know why I must make this disclaimer, but after perusing people’s opinions of the book—and the man himself—I guess I’ve got to make this disclaimer: it’s a work of fiction, and people read for entertainment and escapism. I’m okay with some things being a little over the top, but not everything.
Here we go …
I saw a quote on Reddit, and I think it aptly applies: “My god, he’s (TG) like the Kanye West of fantasy authors.” That should tell you what kind of author you’re about to engage with should you read his works.
Goodkind has one type of writing voice, 100% loud and larger than life. It’s disgusting. Everything is over the top. The overbearing tendency to dial every villain and hero to eleven or beyond is irksome to say the least. There’s little nuance in his prose or characters. While it’s good from time to time to up the stakes and maybe introduce a zealot or two, when you oversaturate a series and everyone is a zealot in their own way, it becomes mind numbing.
Recycled plots: Let me be the first to say that it’s okay to echo previous plots or show the aftermath of such plots by having a variation of it come again, but to habitually use it for every single book is moronic at the least. It’s always that the hero, Richard, loses his love interest, Kahlan, or the other way around. There’s always some variation of contrived plot to pull them apart, and we spend the rest of the book getting back together.
Politics: It’s hard for a writer not to let some of their own personal beliefs into their works. It happens. However, the books are flooded with the author’s personal beliefs, and there’s no counter to it other than the villain(s). To me, this makes for boring writing. Why not have a sidekick have a different opinion? They don’t have to be exact opposites of each other, but it’d be nice to have a little bit of a grade.
Brutality: while this isn’t an issue for me, I know for some it might be. There’s brutality, and various degrees of it. I like grimdark fantasy. To me, grimdark is bloodier, sexier, and everything is heightened. It doesn’t bother me, but I’ll tuck it away on this list for some debating on whether to read or not.
Ripoffs: I see a lot of people saying TG copied, lifted wholesale, or was heavily influenced by A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), The Wheel of Time, and Lord of the Rings. As stated earlier, I’m not as widely read as a lot of people. Some books I’ve only read once, and some less than a handful, so I’ll not likely pick up on a lot of things that die-hard fans will, but I can definitely see parallels between the works, and the most blatant to me is Samuel, a stand in for Gollum in LOTR. Unfortunately, nothing is original anymore. Everything has been explored. That said, how you present the retreaded material matters greatly. But when you can spot a copy and paste after two sentences, you need to go back to the drawing board.
Rape: This is a touchy subject, no matter if it’s done once or a thousand times in a book. That said, my God, there’s a lot. I would like to draw a distinction though, and some of you will be up in arms about it, but here it goes. The indiscriminate and repetitive raping or threat of raping supporting characters, just because the author can, is where I do take issue. I do tend to give authors a grace period on hot topics, but they can quickly wear that out, and TG stomped a mudhole on this topic. Moreover, when you have a villain like Jagang, the emperor of the old world, raping a new chick every night, it loses not only the integrity of a plot device—if it was used that way—but also the seriousness of such a vile and reprehensible act. Then, to salt the wound, when you have a character like Jagang, who professes to love the woman he brutalizes the most, give her out to turn tricks for his soldiers, you really can’t say, “He’s just demented beyond any mental condition.” If I loved a woman the way Jagang professes, I wouldn’t be sharing her with hundreds of other men, not to mention treat her the way he does.
Rape cont’: The second side, or the distinction I’d like to point out, is rape during war. No, I’m not advocating this is okay either. I can’t believe I need to put that quantifier in there, but there will be someone who will come along and take things out of context. In fantasy, as it was in real life long ago, this happened, just like the saying goes, “Rape, pillage, and plunder.” The brutality of what happened to civilizations in ancient history is echoed in fantasy, especially when your books revolve around a war that drags out for years. And that’s all I’m really going to say about it. That said, surprisingly, there’s very little sex—in terms of loving relationships—written in detail. Please, authors out there, I’d much rather read a tasty four-page romp—to include their kinks if they have any—between two characters in love than a book full of hints and innuendo of non-consensual sex, gang rapes, and brutalization and degradation of women. Or men, should it come to that.
Mord-Sith: You’re reading fantasy aka fiction. I know a lot of people have a problem with women dressed up in tight leather torturing people. Many folks theorize this is TG’s personal fantasy. I won’t get into that. What I can say, in terms of rip-offs, is the moment I saw it, I immediately thought Star Wars. What a lot of people are just arbitrarily forgetting to mention is that Mord-Sith are taken as children and tortured. Then, to graduate, after being tortured for months or years and any semblance of humanity is destroyed, they must kill their father and mother. Take out the leather for just a moment and try to envision a scenario where something like this happened. No wonder these women are deranged and broken. The leather, to me, helped them stand out in a book with a sea of bland characters. The Mord-Sith are some of my favorite characters because they have distinct personalities, unlike the majority of TG’s characters. Everything these women do, whether torture or sex, or both at the same time, I regulate to mentally unstable people who are regurgitating what they’ve been conditioned to do or have been subjugated to. Again, it’s just fiction.
Book Titles: All of them can be renamed to Richard defeats (villain, problem, world-ending event) by (being right, being stubborn, dues ex machina, or some other contrived reason). Richard Defeats Darken Rahl Because He’s Already In Love. Richard Defeats The Imperial Order Because He’s Right. Richard Wins Because He Doesn’t Believe In Prophecy.
Prophecy: Holy shit! There’s so much prophecy in the book, and none of them really have any bearing on the overall plot. It’s a way for the author to tell you what will happen if you fail. Readers can surmise this without the plot device. Further, the main character doesn’t believe in prophecy, so therefore, naturally, he voids and nulls them all. Case closed.
The Evil Chicken: That chicken is not a chicken. When I first read this almost two decades ago—maybe not that long—I thought it was funny. Now, I hate it! It’s so … dumb. Moreover, it’s repetitive. More on that later. Bottom line: when you’ve got to do this tongue and cheek humor or parody yourself, you’ve lost me.
Romance: I hate writing romance. Everyone is a critic. I’ve rarely read romance done well. The thing about falling in love is that it’s different for everyone, and that’s okay. I don’t want cookie-cutter anything. If I wanted that, I’d watch a Marvel film. That said, the “romance” between Kahlan and Richard is projectile vomitable. For two people who barely have a hundred pages together in most books, how in the hell did this romance evolve?
Everyone loves Richard: Kahlan loves Richard. Cara loves him. Even Nicci loves him and kidnap him away for a year just to prove it. Everyone that Richard runs across ends up loving him or being reverent at the very least. He wins over men who have never known anything but hate for him. Everyone becomes fast friends with him. Richard can do no wrong, he’s just a swell guy. I hope you are reading this with sarcasm. Richard reminds me of Bella Swan in Twilight. Everyone is just falling over themselves to be picked by her/him. Everyone is a part of their fan club. To have every woman swoon for Richard reeks of author insert/ wish fulfilment.
Beautiful and Ugly: Everyone who is good, or will be good, is beautiful. Everyone who is evil is ugly. Can you get any more cliché than that? It’s okay to have beautiful people in your book, but for crying out loud, not every woman orbiting Richard needs to be drop dead gorgeous. We get it, hot women. Can you have some more nuance?
Time Stops for Richard: Okay, so now to a big problem I have. Pages upon pages of grand speeches about how he is right and the moral authority in the world. During these soapbox rants, nothing happens. Everyone around him stops to listen, and nobody, no villain, no hopeful renegade, knocks an arrow and takes a shot. No one slips up from behind and tries to stab him in the back. Everyone is just so awe-inspired by his preaching that everything stops. Barf. We don’t need to know Richard is right, we got that in the last book, and the one before, and the one before that, and guess what? The one before that. You’re just recycling and repeating what’s come before.
Richard is an idiot: He’s stubborn, refuses to listen to people who’ve literally had a thousand years to live to gain insight and wisdom, but twenty-year-old boy from the farm, I mean, woods (Luke Skywalker anyone?) knows better! Plots of the books can be summed up to this. Richard: “If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy, and you hate life and all that’s good. Now, I’m going to go do this thing over here.” Everyone else: “No, don’t! You can’t. You’ll destroy everything. There are magical rules.” Richard: “You’re forgetting, I don’t believe in prophecy, so, I’m right, and I’m going to do things my way because reasons.” Richard ends up doing his thing. Turns out he was right, everything is well, and everyone loves him because he came through. And most importantly, Richard can’t fail! EVER! No mistakes, no lessons to be learned, just good ole fashion stubbornness!
Dues Ex Machina: Every problem is solved this way. It usually comes in the form of “And then, Richard suddenly knew what to do. It was so simple. Why didn’t he see it before?” I’m still scratching my head thinking, WTF did he figure out cause I’m still lost in the sauce. Richard breaks Wizard Rules to accomplish his means, or he’s had the key all along and didn’t know it, or his undying love for Kahlan wins the day. Or he happens to find some new power that makes you go, “How in the hell did that happen?” I guess you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do when you write yourself into a corner.
Resolution: The end of the book is usually wrapped up in twenty pages or less, the final thing happening right before you close the book—for good. There’s no breath of relief, no genuine resolution, no aftereffects of everything that just transpired. It’s done, get over it, let’s go to the next book—which, ironically, starts minutes after the last one ended.
No time to breathe: Speaking of the next books starting where the last one ended. There’s no time lapse at all between books, and one thing just happens right after another. There’s no germinating to make things progress at a natural pace. Nope, can’t have that. One crisis ended? Here’s another just minutes later. Unrealistic.
No Character Connection: I didn’t feel anything for Richard, and by extension, poor Kahlan. Kahlan was a much better character than Richard. That’s not even a contest, but I still didn’t connect with her. I felt more pity and connection to the Mord-Sith than any of the main characters. Zedd was cool though.
Filler: At least 40% of each book can be cut because it’s filler, repeating previous books, repeating conversations, repeating events, or just info dumps. The editor didn’t do their job to reign in a mediocre author at all. I guess, at the time of his publication, desperation was high to have the next big thing, and that inflated his ego. In this case: less would’ve been more. Case in point, a confessor’s power. We get it, it’s cool, but you don’t have to spend eight paragraphs or two pages each time it’s unleashed to talk about how time stood still; in that moment, he was hers; she had all the time in the world; the thunder without sound, etc. We got it the first two dozen times.
Merry-go-round: Okay, this one is tapping into my number one problem, repetition of conversation. They spend twenty pages talking around the issue than talking directly of the issue. They just go in circles and circles. What you thought was resolved at the beginning of the convo circles back and is an issue again. Holy crap! That’s not how conversation works, especially in books. Get to the point, say what you’re going to say, and move on.
My number one pet peeve: For those of you who know me or read my works or my ranting blogs, you know that repetition is the killer of all things. There is so much repetition that at times while listening to the audiobook, I screamed at the speaker, “We fucking get it, Goodkind!” Case in point was one of the last books, and Rachel is running from imaginary beast. “Rachel had to hurry. She couldn’t stop, and she was so tired. But she couldn’t. She had to hurry, or the monsters would get her. She needed to make camp before nightfall. She had to hurry, otherwise they’d find her. In the morning, she could start running again. Rachel didn’t know what was chasing her or where she was going, but she had to hurry.” My God, how many times can you say ‘hurry’ in a page? I swear, it was fifteen times within the first three minutes of the chapter.
This type of repetitive writing is either fluff and padding, the author thinking his audience is dumb, or the author not realizing it’s terrible prose. I’m going with all three. This example above is just a small snippet of the repetition in the books. Every book or chapter is replete with circular conversations, highly-trafficked introspection, recapping previous books, rehashing ‘cool’ ideas and magic, or restating the obvious. For the love of God, you should’ve learned subtlty.
Okay, that’s it. I’ve read it again, and my opinion has changed from somewhat favorable to if-I’m-a-glutton-for-punishment-I’ll-read-it-again. I hate his writing style because there is no style. There isn’t any prose of note. It’s just an ever-repeating word vomit. That said, there are few and far between pearls among the swine. Not everything he did was terrible, but the good long-buried deep within the unwieldy series isn’t worth it.
Have you read Goodkind or the SOT series? What’s your opinion? Leave a comment below.
That’s it for this round, short and sweet. I shall return…
If you enjoyed this content, check out my books, The Bearer of Secrets, Mark of the Profane, The Demon’s Fate, The Dark Portal, For Heathens of Heaven, and Flawed to the Core: Building Memorable Characters and Writing on Amazon. All works are available on Kindle Unlimited, eBook, and print. Reviews can be found on Goodreads and Amazon.