Thursday, November 29, 2007

Confessor: Book Review

I can hardly envision a more disappointing conclusion to an 11-book fantasy epic than Confessor.

I thought the previous installment in the series was too preachy, but Goodkind apparently didn't share my judgement. He stumbles anxiously and awkwardly along this downhill path, encouraging the reader to swallow the same canned lines he's been feeding you for the last seven books or so. At first, the philosophy was a complement to the was a really good story on its own, and the philosophical ramblings of certain characters worked into the background. It wasn't seamless, but it was at least a palatable mix. By this last book, however, the action itself has now become obviously contrived to match the philosophy. The story itself has been usurped and relegated to a barely mentionable supporting position.

While I certainly hold this against him, I can to a certain measure forgive and even accept this decision. The work of trying to reach the masses with objectivist philosophy disguised as a fantasy epic cannot be easy. In fact, I'm sure that's quite an understatement. The fact that he'd even attempt such a formidable task earns him a measure of respect in my eyes.

But one thing I will not forgive is the terrible ending.

Once again, the author falls well short of the bar he set for himself, with an ending so disappointing that it ruins the entire series, and ruins any chance that I'll read another Terry Goodkind book.

The world is relentlessly being destroyed by the armies of the Imperial Order. They number in the millions, roughly ten times the size of the army defending against them, they are utterly ruthless, and they possess a fanatical belief in self-sacrifice. Every pocket of resistence in their way is mercilessly crushed.

At the head of this army is the utterly depraved Emperor Jagang. The author has gone to tremendous lengths for about eight books to describe in vicious detail the depths of Jagang's cruelty. As a reader, we are treated to every vile act that Terry Goodkind can imagine, including the torture of small children in front of their parents, repeated rapes, senseless mutilations, and savage murders. Even a graduate of bloodthirsty videogames and the Faces of Death series of movies, like myself, can find this disturbing. But I read on, knowing that in the end, Jagang the Just was going to get what he deserved. I was making a contract with the author...I'll wade through your graphic and endless descriptions of suffering, because I know that you're setting me up for a great finish. When Jagang finally gets the justice coming to him, the steaming pyramids of evil I climbed over will make this final payoff even sweeter.

Jagang is not just a savage brute, however. He's a solid military mind who has turned the tables on several gambits that might have undone lesser generals. He's clever enough to form alliances and value the power of knowledge. He has survived multiple assassination attemptes and magical assaults. He is no mean enemy.

In the final stronghold against the Imperial Order is arrayed the last hope of mankind, a fearsomely powerful cadre of heroes. Richard Rahl, a War Wizard, wielder of the Sword of Truth. Kahlan, the last of the Confessors, women who command terrible and unique magical powers. Nicci, once known as Death's Mistress, the most powerful sorceress of several generations. Zedd, the ancient First Wizard.

Eleven books of build-up, of carefully crafted suspense, leading to this moment. This final confrontation (notice a theme?) that will shake the stones of the earth itself. A battle to be sung for ages, to live in the collective consciousness of a civilization for thousands of years, like Thermopylae and Troy.

So what happens instead?

Jagang, uncharacteristically, falls for a simple and desperate ruse. He is killed quickly and unceremoniously. Richard casts a spell that no one has ever heard of before, which somehow transports the entire army to another world. They all live happily ever after.

Think I'm full of shit? Imagine how I felt after eleven books of investment. I started reading this series before I got married, ten years ago. No final battle, no massive confrontation between good and evil, no emphatic justice for those who so richly deserved it. Just a convenient deus ex machina and a whole lot of philosophical rationalization against violence.

Awful, unbelievably awful.


At 5:34 PM, Blogger millhousethecat said...

You've had an unfulfilling couple of days, eh?

Come to mama. She'll give you a little of the dry humping.

At 11:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You really didn't have a clue of what the book's about or what kind of person Richard is.
If you want to have a ending with magic and massive armies collapsing into each other you should read other fantasy books.
Terry Goodkind serie wasn't about that all. It was about the battle between being free to live or living under a dictatorsip, doing what your being told. If you compare it with real life you might say it's Liberalism vs Communism.
Terry Goodkind wrote about his believings, not to write some fantasy story with big armies. He wrote it in the form of a fantasy story but just to show his believes. If you didn't notice that in those 10 years... well than you haven't understood what it was all about.


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