Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind
|Book Name:||Wizard’s First Rule|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audio Book / eBook|
|Release Date:||July 15, 1995|
A couple of years ago, whilst my best friend and I were browsing through my local Borders (which also happens to be one of the many affected by the liquidation of the company) for new writers to sink our reading-hungry fangs into, our eyes fell upon a novel called Wizard’s First Rule. My best friend promptly told me that one of his other friends had sung the praises of the novel, so we picked up the two copies, along with a couple of other books.
My best friend is no longer friends with that other guy.
…Okay, maybe that’s not the reason for the end of their friendship. But it may have been a contributing factor! Now, I know what you’re all thinking: the book can’t be that bad, right? After all, it launched the career of a fantasy author who has written nine books in the same series and two tie-in novels. On top of that, the novels were the inspiration for the television series Legend of the Seeker! Surely, anything that can last that long and have a show on television can’t be all that bad, right?
The story revolves around Richard Cypher, who spends his days walking through the wooded mountains near his home. During one such trip, he encounters a young, beautiful woman named Kahlan Amnell, who just happens to be chased by an armed band of killers. After a ‘daring’ rescue, the two slowly become close and embark on a quest to save their respective lands from the threat of a sadistic king who controls the hearts and minds of his people through fanaticism. Not to mention the powers of the Underworld. And did I mention he’s also looking for three boxes which either contain the power to destroy all who oppose him, himself, or all life completely? Seems like an important thing, doesn’t it?
I went into this book with every intention of coming here to sing its praises. Or to at least say there were some things I found to be redeemable and worth the read. Unfortunately, as I sit here typing this, with the book next to me, I am having trouble thinking of any highlights or points that were particularly worthy of remembrance. The back-story for the world is pretty intriguing, and I do like the very Pandora’s Box-esque plot device that is the boxes, and some of the monsters encountered throughout are interesting. But, even those aspects do little to raise my enjoyment of the story. If anything, I wish this book was about the war Kahlan describes, since it was by far more interesting than the story presented here.
Perhaps my biggest issue, and the thing that really sucks any level of enjoyment out of the story, are the characters. Richard starts off as a promising protagonist: he’s clever, resourceful, has practical knowledge on survival skills and a sense of duty that makes him initially likeable. Kahlan starts off as mysterious, and exudes an almost other-worldly presence. However, once these two meet up with Zed; an old man with a voracious appetite and has a habit of reading clouds, the two heroes are siphoned of all likeability. Richard obtains a Sword of Truth (I could swear Terry Brooks called, asking for his Magoffin back), and instantly becomes a hot-headed fool whose preferred method of diplomacy makes my Renegade Femshep look like a kindergarten teacher. Kahlan cannot seem to make up her mind about her role: sometimes she acts as intelligent and capable as before, and others she devolves into a whimpering, introverted sack. This is especially jarring once we find out what she is.
And speaking of that, Richard, Zed, and Kahlan all seem to share the burden of keeping secrets from the others. This is all well and good, since it would help increase tension amongst the group and give us a sense that the party could fall apart at any moment. That is, however, if they were not all open about the fact they’re keeping secrets, and the majority of their discussions are on the nature of keeping secrets for their own protection. So in other words, we have a party of heroes who are totally open with the fact they’re keeping secrets from one another. What’s even more jarring is that we as the audience are privy to all of their secrets right from the very beginning, which is perhaps the biggest mistake that could be made. If we were kept in the dark about these secrets, then their reveals would have been more interesting and we would have had some emotional investment. But as it is played out here, it’s just frustrating.
Out of all of the heroes, there were only three who I found genuinely likeable: a border warden named Chase, who vanishes for a huge chunk of the novel, a wizard who we’re supposed to dislike – he doesn’t appear until halfway through the book, and Rachel, the slave and playmate to a wicked and cruel princess who reminds me of the prince in a Game of Thrones who still gets breastfed even when he’s ruling. Rachel is by far a more interesting, engaging, and proactive hero in the story, and the tale of her courage almost saves the novel for me. Almost. Honestly, I wish the story was all about her.
Now, you’re probably wondering where the villains are, yes? Well, I was wondering the same thing to, as we don’t get to meet them formally until nineteen chapters in. Yes, nineteen chapters. And when we do meet them, they could not be more blatantly evil if they had mustaches specifically groomed for twirling, black capes, and elongated top hats. The evil king, Darken Rahl, is probably one of the weirdest and most emotionally and mentally scarred characters I’ve read about in a while. His back-story, mannerisms, and reasons should have given us cause to sympathize with him, but as a reader I felt utterly repulsed. And not in a good way, either. It does not help that his right-hand man is a pedophile. If only Chris Hansen was around.
Much of the story takes place out in the wilderness, with few scenes taking place in actual cities or established settlements. This wouldn’t be so bad if not for the fact that the few towns we visit are rather generic and unmemorable. Perhaps the most interesting place the heroes travel to is the village of the Mud People, where we get to explore a complicated and ritualistic society.
As one could imagine, I had a hard time trying to enjoy this novel. I really wanted to give it a shot, but I just couldn’t find it in me to enjoy it. I respect Terry Goodkind for his work and for the fact he found the strength to finish a novel. I also found some of the monsters to be interesting and legitimately frightening. However, in the end, a story should be about the characters, and here the characters just weren’t enough to make me care. Perhaps what makes it even worse is that all of the characters share some form of stupidity. The most glaring case is when we meet Michael, Richard’s brother, who was just elected to his town’s council and makes a promise to ban fire. Yes. Fire.
I part by saying that this is all my opinion. If you find the characters to be interesting or refreshing, or if you can get some sense of thrill and enjoyment from this novel, then I’m really happy for you. Honestly, I wish I could have found something to praise outside of the history and monsters.
And in case you were wondering…yes, I have seen the show.
And it sucks.
Narrative: Fluid enough for the story that it tells. Descriptions are good, and the action works well. – 3/5
Heroes: The weakest aspect of the story. – 1/5
Villains: There was potential to make a three-dimensional villain, but it feels like it was wasted. – 2/5
World: Some aspects seem interesting, but not enough to make this world one that stands out. – 3/5
Magic System: Despite all the rules associated with the magic system, it was hard to get a grasp on it. – 3/5
Plot: Never did I feel any sense of tension or drama throughout the piece. – 2/5