Author: Terry Goodkind
603 pages • £20
Regular readers of the Sword of Truth series are going to find pretty much what they've come to expect in this eleventh and final novel: brutality, intense suffering and utter evil side-by-side with noble aims, reams of philosophy and freedom.
The Chainfire spell (which was cast two volumes ago) is devouring everyone's memories and destroying magic in the process. As the army of the depraved Imperial Order lays siege to the last stronghold of freedom, Richard Rahl is the only person who can stop the powers of darkness, but he's a captive of the Imperial Order itself, forced to play in their vicious, often fatal Game of Life (no, not the board game – although it can sometimes turn violent…)
That Terry Goodkind is an excellent storyteller has never been in question with this series. The fact that he believes passionately in putting meaning into his stories gives them much more depth than you’ll find in an average fantasy. He may use traditional medieval settings as a backdrop, but he's pushing the envelope with the messages he's trying to get across. And you have to admire him for taking people out of their comfort zone: making them consider the true nature of abuse, and how we can be lead into destructive ways of behaving without realising how negative we have become.
What the series lacks is a touch of subtlety. These deeper messages may be delivered carefully through the dialogue and actions of Richard and his wife, Kahlan, but unfortunately they are delivered again and again and again. The repetitiveness in one volume is just about tolerable but the cumulative effect over the series is ultimately counter-productive to Goodkind’s desire to get his ideas out there, because you stop listening. Which is a shame, because the nobility of mankind and a love of life are pretty good concepts to spread around, and a lighter touch would have proved so much more influential.