Book Review: Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind

Fatally Flawed (this review is for the entire series).

I read this primarily to see why so many people like it. My reading was, to be honest, to assess from a writing perspective what works in this series. From a writing perspective there are some lessons to be learned here (both positive and negative). Also, from a series, I save the positive for last: so as to end on a positive note.

I read all 11 books, so I cannot be accused of not giving this a chance! Fortunately, these are not complex reads.

I will concentrate on only SOME of the fatal flaws, not all. I don’t want this to resemble the books themselves, which could take the 11 x 400 pages and shorten the entire thing to 500 pages total.

Flaw Number One:
There are no real “laws” to the magic. Yeah, yeah, there is the whole “balance” thing, but other than that, it is make up as you go along and no rhyme or reason to it.

Flaw Number Two:
WAY too preachy. The “Order” seems like some bad cliché from the anti-communist era against the red hordes. PLEASE stop the preaching.

Flaw Number Three:
Unnecessarily long. Goodkind must have read somewhere that each book is supposed to “stand on its own.” That does NOT mean you need to throw in synopsis types of dialogue and pages that go on, and on, and on, and on and… you get the idea. You can spot these quickly and speed read past them. I think by ignoring the ad nauseam repeat sections you cut the total pages down by 40%.

Flaw Number Four:
Given the temporal proximity to Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, this looks awfully imitative in many, many ways (too numerous to mention, but a Google search on this will turn up similar critique.

Flaw Number Five:
This is a subtle flaw and look at the positive section later. The female protagonist (Kahlan) gets captured ad nauseam (alternating between her and Richard). Each time one of the major “tension” points (the word tension is used loosely…there is no tension on this point) is that she may get raped, similarly to other female characters in the series and indeed similar to Richard himself. However, the bending over backwards, with contortions, to somehow avoid this in the end feels very, very, contrived.

Flaw Number Six, related to One:
The “magic” that Richard has ALWAYS just comes to the rescue and is up to the task of saving someone, without any real explanation. When a contrived solution is insufficient, then fall back on this.

Flaw Number Seven:
Endings. The books all have a fast conclusion all in the last 40 pages and all rushed and contrived.

Flaw Number Eight:
Evil characters are all the same. Clones of each other.

Flaw Number Nine:
Given the number of pages used, the world building is weak. It is a large world. You have 11 books to fill. Use it for that instead of preaching and synopsis of all that went on before.

Flaw Number Ten:
The final ending. I won’t give it away, but “Really? Really? That is it? Total massive power, make Richard into a god? (Ok, sort of a giveaway, but not much).

The “Good” or why this is interesting and why I suspect people read it and why there are still good lessons for a writer in this series.

Character: The book has some fairly three dimensional characters who learn along the way. This is important to any good novel. True, only the good characters are three dimensional, but several of the “good” characters are flawed and stay partially flawed throughout. This is good.

Predictability: This is a very strange positive on the surface. Much of this is classic “Hero’s Journey 101” writing. The reader senses this and guesses at a number of things, but likes to read on to see if the prediction was correct. Additionally, although some of the “twists” are plain silly, the reader guesses at some of the twists and wants to see if they are right. This propels the reader onward out of curiosity. Readers like to be smarter than the main character and guess right. This is like at a horror movie where the audience yells at the character on the screen “don’t go in there.” The reader knows.

Bad things happen to the good characters (with the line being drawn differently for Kahlan than for everyone else, which feels really wrong…see flaws above). I and many others like this. There is pain and suffering and forgiveness (although given how many “bad” people are turned to the right side, it is unbelievable that none don’t turn back. Richard smiles at them. Preaches his “love of life” and all is good.) Still, the pain and torture and bad things are real, but not over the top and not overdone. This is one of the best things in the series. However, Game of Thrones (Song of Fire and Ice) does this better. This is a pale imitation of that sort of character development. George RR Martin is much better at that (but a slower writer <grin> and getting a bit bogged down with detail we don’t care about, but that is a different review.

Bottom line, this is a fatally flawed series and each book has many of the fatal flaws. It has sold well, but so does some schlocky TV. Goodkind has the potential to do better, but for this series I think he trapped himself into a cycle of flaws. I recommend other series and books, but if you are fast reader and know how to skip repetition quickly (I read all eleven books in 20 late evenings) you can get a fair single book out of the deal.

Leave a Reply