Critical Reading – Impressions on Terry Goodkind

I just finished Stone of Tears, the second book in the Sword of Truth series.

What Goodkind did right:

Goodkind accomplished the first and most important thing any author MUST accomplish in order to sell their books; he made me care. Kahlan, just as she was in book 1, is an incredible character, and is still my favorite by far after reading the second. I wonder at Goodkind’s genius in simplicity when it comes to her. In Kahlan, Goodkind added color to his world and his magic system, with the Confessor’s magic. Through her magic and station, he gave us a powerful heroin, and also someone we deeply sympathize with since she is unable to truly love and marry.

Which brings me to a Spoiler Warning. If you haven’t read the first book and you might, continue NO LONGER.

The conflicts in this book have more to do with the fact that Kahlan had finally found joy in Richard’s love, but that they are separated again. I found myself aching for her to live through these awful scenarios not just from normal care for a character, but because I did not want to have to grasp the idea of this wonderful heroin never being able to enjoy time married to Richard.

What bad could anyone possibly say about Richard? His fool-hardiness adds to the adventure, and his stubborn desire to sustain the right at whatever cost makes us cast our lot in with his. He is the perfect archetype for the Hero’s Journey, and we love him for it.

Warren, Sister Verna, Chase, Zedd, Saldean, all of them wonderful characters in simplicity. Each of them fulfills an archetype, but then becomes a much deeper character as well. Even Gratch can get your heart fluttering, in moments.

What I didn’t like so much:

As a reader, I was quite disturbed by Goodkind’s frequent use of sexual tension and conflict. At every turn, our males seemed to be conflicted with seduction, our females with rape. As an adult fantasy novel many have the right to argue that it added to the story’s depth, and gave our characters more realistic conflicts – but seriously now, Kahlan was almost raped and killed 5 or so times throughout this single book. Dark magic rituals were performed using graphic sexual descriptions. Richard dealt with several instances of casual offers while being seperated from Kahlan. While yes, these instances added to conflict, made dark magic seem quite dark and disturbing indeed, and made Richard out to be quite noble in the end – it did not fit my taste.

I have read adult fantasy where adult situations (such as a couple’s first night together after marriage) are carried out tastefully in that they still respect the privacy of the characters. For a great example of this, see Brandon Sanderson’s novels. A perfect mix of adult fiction that does not ignore these facts of life, but does not abuse them either.

As an author, I can look at this and simply say – he was doing it his way, and I’ll do it mine. He’s still an incredible author. He’s adept at storytelling, making me care about his characters, and what I think I respect him for most is his story-rich magic systems, which are tied to real emotions and values in life.

The only other complaint I have is another example of a preference of taste. 979 pages are about 5-6 hundred too many. Now, there are a lot of Robert Jordan and Terry Goodkind fans out there that might have my head for that one. To that I simply shrug and point; “preference”, “taste”. I like shorter books.

A good example of why, is last night I reached the three-quarter point of the book which ALWAYS makes me want to forget everything else in life and not put down the book until I’ve reached it’s finish. Reading well into the morning, I told myself “No, you cannot fall asleep just yet, there’s only 150 pages to go! … wait… did you hear yourself Sam? 150 pages! Get some sleep, man!”


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