Thursday, February 5, 2009

Confessor by Terry Goodkind

My recommendation is avoiding this series entirely, even though it starts out well with a lot of excitement. Confessor wraps up an 11-book series pretty successfully, considering all of the elements that became tangled up in it, but in no way succeeds in making up for all the technical writing on the way magic worked, the author's ad nauseum philosophy which makes up 1/3 of the book easy, the black & white characters, or the incredibly unlikely, annoyingly perfect Richard Rahl who instinctively makes every right decision, always, and is just - too much - kind of like every time I write his name I need to use a special font or something. In book one, he is a nice, backwoods guide in the middle of nowhere; by the end he is still bumbling around, only now he manages to accidentally figure out what nobody has for 3000 years, once again just in time, and wields his cosmic, god-like powers to affect the fates of every living person, sorting out the good and the bad, based on whether they believe the same philosophy as he does. So Messianic. Except in the end, he gets to live happily ever after instead of dying for everyone.
There are recurring themes that become old. One is the theme of ignorance becoming insight at the last possible moment in order to avert disaster. Another is rape. The bad guys (all large, brutish men, usually stupid) all rape women, that's what they do. Another is capture or bondage. Richard is captured by Darken Rahl, by the Mord Sith, by the Sisters of Light, by Jagang, by Nicci, and possibly others I don't recall. Kahlan, Nicci, Rachel, they get captured as well, although Kahlan, since she is Richard's wife, only suffers emotional abuse because she's special. One other recurring device is complex magic that effects pretty much everything, is almost completely not understood, and when things need an explanation, they also carry unintentional, previously unknown side-effects that make sense of what's going on now.
But it's Richard Rahl that will make you grit your teeth the most. Every time he makes a decision we get an explanation why it works the way it does, how he figured it out, and the philosophy behind choosing to act that way. Every choice is a loving, life-affirming, freedomy perfection, unlike the soul-crushing order and their hatred of beauty and individuality (and constant pillaging and raping). It's a good thing we have the iconic Richard Rahl. This dude does it all: marries the most powerful, beautiful, and perfect woman: Kahlan. Becomes the rightful bearer of the sword of truth, shoots arrows with perfect accuracy (subconsciously enhanced by his magic), is the first person in forever with both additive and subtractive magic. Ruler of nations, and the only person who can oppose Jagang's Dreamwalker ability. He's big, gentle, and a flawless athlete. He can't be hurt in a sword fight no matter if a thousand armored people are mobbing him. He does not fatigue. He's a super-genius with a righteous philosophy and handsome to boot, probably with perfect white teeth. And best of all, he's humble, too, and cares about everyone and loves babies. You start loving it when he suffers at the hands of the enemies (after all, he can be captured by magical means or when evil-doers threaten those dear to him), except that he takes it out on the reader by thinking another sermon and we have to go under yet again.
I read it for the action, to find out how it would all end. In that regard, it is pretty tidy. And no more far-fetched than much of the other unbelievably powerful stuff that goes on. Richard pretty much solves all the problems in the end, getting his greatest advice of all, the penultimate Wizard's Tenth Rule, from a blank book of all things. The rule was implied somehow in the blank page, and the solution to his problems and how to do everything right.
I read the book because I had to know, and because it had started out so well. Now I'm done, and I feel some relief. And I have this irreverent wish that I could see what the series would have been like if Richard had failed in the end of book 1, and Darken Rahl had become ruler of all the lands they knew up to that point. Then he would have been facing Jagang and all the other random magical troubles that cropped up time and again to assail our hero. What would have happened with those two super-villains opposed to each other, instead?
Now that that series is finished, I wonder what Terry Goodkind will write like next. Will it be preachy and technical, or will it come out fresh and original, like he was at first? Only time will tell, since my curiosity will eventually get the best of me. My advice is this: carry on. If you haven't started the series, carry on as you were. If you have started it, finish so that you have your answers. You can do it. A lot of us have managed, and it has made us stronger.


Amanda said...

I'm particularly amused at the "avoid" tag, Byron. I need to start using that one.

Christina said...

I was thinking the same thing. I could've used that on some of my reviews.

Byron said...

Erm, I'll have to redo one of my tags. I noticed it trying to change my tag "fantasy" to "Celtic Fantasy", which I thought I had prevented it from doing. Guess not.

Celtic. LOL