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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Confessor" by Terry Goodkind

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"Confessor" by Terry Goodkind
Reviewed By: David Craddock

The beautiful marble corridors of the People's Palace. The labyrinthine passages of the Wizard's Keep, each full of tricks, traps, and endless knowledge. The trails winding through Hartland Woods, where a simple woods guide fell in love with the Mother Confessor. The sprawling camp of the Imperial Order, comprised of the unwashed, the mindless, the sadistic.

Some fantastic, some dangerous beyond comprehension, each of these locations and more have been crafted by renowned author Terry Goodkind. Literally an artist, Goodkind took brush to canvas long before he felt himself a storyteller worthy of telling a story that had brewed within his mind for decades. The Sword of Truth, his venerable fiction series, represents an artistic masterpiece, but one not created with a brush. Instead, Goodkind wielded the pen—or, perhaps more appropriately, the keyboard—in order to convey his story.

If one were to compare The Sword of Truth to a picture, one would see a circle consisting of names seamlessly woven together. Richard, Kahlan, Shota, Zedd, Adie, Victor, Nicci, Cara, Jennsen, Gratch, Denna, Jagang, Ann, Nathan, Chase, Rachel, Ulicia, Violet, Ben, Tom, Six.... The names twist around, with more and more added to the list until finally, the circle curves one last time, linking to its top, its point of origination.

With “Confessor”, the concluding installment of The Sword of Truth, Goodkind's character-driven adventure literally comes full circle. In Laymen's terms, the gang's all here, and “Confessor” is one wild, wild ride.

Like a Venn diagram, each Sword of Truth novel contains its own set of elements, but also links together to form a much larger picture. Goodkind's books have the refreshing quality of not only standing as part of a whole, but representing a whole in and of themselves. Each has its own storyline that is sufficiently concluded on the last page, giving readers enough to feel satisfied with their purchase, yet teasingly reminded that more is still to come.

Confessor” manages to keep the pressure of being the end, the last, the final book, at bay. Picking up immediately following the whiplash ending of "Phantom", Richard Rahl finds himself in the belly of the beast as a prisoner of the Imperial Order—and very close to his wife, his soul mate, Kahlan Amnell. How will Richard attempt to free his beloved from the clutches of Emperor Jagang? How will Richard attempt to escape in time to properly formulate a plan to stop the Order, who are literally camped outside the People's Palace, the last bastion of life and free will?

By playing sports. For the first time, Ja'La dh Jin, the game of life, is given center stage as Richard and his team work toward the ultimate goal of playing the emperor's undefeated squad. If victorious, any woman of each team member's choosing is granted to them as a reward.

The Ja'La games are breathless and brutal in their descriptions, rewarding readers with bloody and strategic battles that will have hearts thumping even harder than in many of Goodkind's battle scenes (which are as exhilarating as ever).

Arguably the most intriguing journey is Kahlan's, who discovers clues leading toward the rediscovery of her past. Each step, each encounter with a familiar face, leaves the reader waiting for that ultimate discovery, that most anticipated of reunions—falling into the arms of her husband, and knowing who he is to her, and who she is to him.

Of course, because Richard doesn't have things hard enough already, Goodkind has thrown an interesting variable into the Chainfire equation: should Kahlan learn of her emotional connection to and with Richard before a certain event transpires, her past will be lost to her forever.

Given that “Confessor” is the circle's last curve, it stands to reason that “Confessor” will wrap up everything that has come before it. Goodkind's attention to detail sees to it that all stories, large and small, receive closure. From Ann and Nicci's animosity, to the beast pouncing on Richard every time he uses his Gift, to Kahlan's past being destroyed by Chainfire, finality is dispersed liberally, giving the readers almost everything they could possibly want.

Yes, almost. Though masterfully done, no work is without a few flaws, and I'm happy to say that while some do exist in “Confessor”, they are all relatively minor. During the last 100 pages, as the book is hurtling toward its conclusion, things feel a bit too rushed. Some happenings seem extremely coincidental, and while some are explained before the story's end, some are not, leaving readers with their collective brow raised in a bit of skepticism. Certain characters seem to come together at just the right time, and while Goodkind lends feasibility to everything, a bit of Deus ex machina does pop up once or twice.

Again, though, most happenstance in “Confessor” is perfectly viable. While there will be a couple of things readers will question, the book's conclusion is still supremely satisfying.

Confessor” is doubtless the book that Goodkind has been waiting to write since The Sword of Truth first took root in his mind. Almost effortlessly, Goodkind has constructed a fast-paced, character-driven narrative that not only stands as a thrilling story, but relays the most important lesson of all, the final wizard's rule that has hitherto been unwritten.

And will remain that way, at least in this writer's review. Goodkind's fans will be all too eager to read “Confessor” and learn the rule—and hopefully apply it—themselves. Each word has been painstakingly, lovingly crafted into sentences, sentences have been honed into paragraphs, and paragraphs have been molded into a story, the final curve of the circle that delivers in every way imaginable. Savor it...


Larry Nolen said...

That sounds utterly alien from the fecal goulash that I believed Goodkind served up in his first seven novels that I did read (not to mention the majority of the comments I've read on other sites). Interesting viewpoint, to say the least. Just don't know if I agree with it.

Anonymous said...

goodkind went from enjoyable to heavy-handed after a few books.

his meditations against religion and socialism seem wooden and kinda dull. also the fact that enemies tend to go from being uber-competent/ultra successful and after meeting richard and/or a representative...they fall to pieces within days.

i can tell you enjoyed it greatly, but the author has simply rubbed me the wrong way after the faith of the fallen(though i was already leary after Temple of the Winds).

Robert said...

I have a soft spot for Goodkind. I mean after Tolkien, and then Jordan, the next epic fantasy series I got into was Goodkind's and to this day, "Wizard's First Rule" and "Stone of Tears" remain a couple of my favorite fantasy novels ever :) Granted, it's been a while since I read them, and maybe if I went back and re-read them my opinions might differ, but what I can say...I really enjoyed them :)

That said, the books have declined in quality since then, and even though I'm a stickler when it comes to finishing a series, a few of the books have been tough to get through. Still, I think he's kind of redeemed himself with Phantom/Chainfire, and if nothing else, I'm interested to see how he concludes the series :)

Anyways, it's interesting to see what other people think. It's all opinion after all ;) Personally, I can't wait until we post the interview that David did with Mr. Goodkind... That should be an intriguing read :)

Unknown said...

Finished it last night and it was great. FotF is still my favorite, but the series ended great! Ignore the negative comments. Sword of Truth is a worthy series for any reader.

Anonymous said...

It's always interesting to hear/read the comments folks have about Terry Goodkind. Some tend to find the books too preachy, but as for me, I've always found them interesting.

What most attracts me to his work is that the books are very character-driven and convincingly written. There's really no one character I don't like--hard to say with any book, movie, TV show, video game, etc--in Sword of Truth. Of course, I prefer some over others, but that's the case with any walk of life.

Though I haven't liked every book in SoT, I thoroughly enjoyed the Chainfire trilogy, and reviewed the conclusion as such. Given that it's the last book, I hope the naysayers will finish the series just so their opinion, whether a "yay" or a "nay", can be whole.

SQT said...

I've never been able to go back and read Goodkind after I realized how many ideas he seemed to have stolen from Jordan.

I liked the first couple of books, but like a lot of people I felt the story just got too repetitive. I can't even begin to guess where the story is now but it still sounds kind of the same as before.

Dave said...

I know I had something profound to say, but "fecal goulash" has me laughing so hard I can't think. I stopped reading after Pillars of Creation. Just totally lost interest. Prior to that one, every book seemed to be: Richard loves Kahlan- Richard and Kahlan are separated- Richard and Kahlan will never be together- Richard does something noble- Richard and Kahlan are together again. BTW- did you really have to mention Venn diagrams? I teach 7th grade and get enough of that at school. Good review!

Jordan said...

In my opinion the Sword of Truth series was amazing untill Pillars of Creation.... It didn't look up again untill Confessor. I dont know about every one else but if I wanted a sermon I'd go to church, not the fantasy isle of Barns and Noble.

Anonymous said...

I dont understand what people who dislike the author, and especially people who stopped reading the series and admittedly wont read this book, are doing commenting.

David, excellent excellent review. I also especially enjoyed your interview with Mr. Goodkind. Thank you. I agree with your responses here, as well.

Plenty of people didn't like PoC. It is certainly my least favorite book in the series - though it still ranks higher than a great deal of other fantasy works. Understandable - in some ways, PoC would have worked much better as a more stand-alone work. Taken as an independent work, apart from the series, it is an excellent book (something that it was hard for me to admit to myself on my recent re-read of it, but true nonetheless as far as Im concerned). As a part of the series... it just does not fit properly. Without it there would be gaps in the reader's knowledge of the Sword of Truth world, and, in that sense, it is vital to the overarching storyline - but in other ways it just doesnt belong.

To those who find him "heavy-handed" and "preachy"... whatever. I dont, but if you do, no skin off my back - noone says you have to like him. As far as _technical_ aspects are concerned, the books have not declined in quality, but improved. If you have been turned off by the introduction of depth through greater philosophical influence, your loss - but the quality of Goodkind's writing has followed a clear and steady increase.

My favorite book is Naked Empire. For second favorite, I would have to name the Chainfire trilogy as a whole.

To the commenter who "would go to church" if he wanted a "sermon", you have clearly missed some important things here, but clearly you dont even realize it and thus theres nothing to say to you.

Well, Ive been rather long-winded here. All in all, "luke marrott" said it best here, so I will just quote his comment.

"Ignore the negative comments. Sword of Truth is a worthy series for any reader."

Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the first two or three books in the SoT series, but the quality definitely declined as time went on. It seems a common pitfall for authors of sucessful series to tred literary water and extend the life of their work well beyond what is wanted or deserved. The last five or six books have been a complete mess, where Goodkind substituted basic writing tenants with rambling sililoquies, endless repetition and a crass lack of subtlety in both character and plot that sucked all the pleasure from the story. The author clearly lost his enthusiam for the work a long time ago and it is one of the clearest examples of writing for profit I've seen.

Anonymous said...

I think David Craddock REALLY like Terry Goodkind. Sounded like admitting there were flaws in the writing was painful :)

Goodkind is at the top of my shelf along with Grampa Tolkien as my favorites. I just finished 'Confessor' late last night.

I think the Chainfire trilogy was a strong conclusion to what started off as a great series and lost its way after a time.

From the standpoint of one who loved the characters, the Confessor was a satisfying conclusion. I have to agree with David that there were some mighty coincidences and parts of the final conclusion felt rushed and brief. At times I'm okay with that as being pulled through events faster than they were ready for is what often happened and appealed to me about the first few books. And if you are feeling that way, it can be said the author did a good job of immersing you in the story.

I do think there were times, starting with Faith of the Fallen, and increasing with these last 3 novels, that Goodkind got too preachy. Not in the messages he was sending or ideas he was exploring, but in the manner in which the characters spoke of them. Some overly long soapbox speeches that at times seemed out of place or begging for an interruption or reaction by others. Nicci was allowed to carry on for a long time to Jagang in this last book when the Jagang we were introduced to prior to this would have stopped her with violence. Many of Richard's speeches at times were overly long. At times I was aware of the author's ethical voice more than I should have been.

Those things being said, I've thoroughly enjoyed the Sword of Truth series. The final Chainfire trilogy was a great work with the introduction of a scenario that blew my mind away...Richard's perseverance was never so sorely tested as in the face of the entire world forgetting about Kahlan. I was enthralled with him and his struggle.

Anonymous said...

While I love the whole series. I continue to be disappointed at the lack of raw power that the first war wizard in 3ooo years should show. The end of Confessor was a bit of a fizzle for me, leaving me wanting at least one scene like the one in PoC. Man in black and gold stepping off a dying horse, shards of raw power blasting 1000 soldiers out of existance. That's what I felt was missing from this book. Though as others have said a fitting ending to the series and not quite as preachy as some earlier volumes.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the whole series, with PoC as my least favorite. I understand why some people wouldn't like it, because it challenges the way you think. It isn't escapist and does involve a certain philosophical agenda. And I am OK with that...actually it's the reason I like the books so much.

FlareHeart said...

You guys (who say it's too "preachy") are taking his stories WAY too personally...Goodkind does not want you to blindly follow what he believes (that would be against his beliefs actualy lol). His beliefs simply overflow into his art, which is inevitable for any artist (read his interview and you'll understand).

Read the books for the underlying story and the metaphors contained within them, and try to accept the "preachy" as the character's own voice, and you will enjoy them a lot more. I promise.

Sure, if I paid attention to all of the preaching I'd get sick of it too, but I read them for the stories contained within. I adore how well he has managed to craft an entire world and set of characters, purely from his own imagination.

Oh and to the guy who said that Goodkind stole ideas from Jordan...I challenge you to read the interview and discover that Goodkind almost NEVER reads any books, least of all a convoluted and unnecessarily complicated series like Wheel of Time.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind preachy if the writing is sharp and the story line is captivating. But damn, Goodkind is awful on every level! If I had to describe his style I would call it cloying, repetitive, unimaginative and painfully tedious to suffer through. His accumulated words read like a noxious, boilerplate romance novel heavily seasoned with uninspired magicality. Blech!


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