Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Wizard's First Rule" by Terry Goodkind

Summary: The boundary between the non-magical Westland and the magical Midlands and D'Hara is falling.  Richard, a simple woodsman, is called upon to wield the Sword of Truth and become the Seeker in order to defeat D'Hara's Darken Rahl, who is bent on ruling the world.  At Richard's side is Kahlan, a Confessor, and Zedd, a Wizard of the First Order.  They must race to keep Rahl from collecting the three boxes of Orden, which will give him unlimited power.

Musings: My husband and I became big fans of a shortly lived TV show called Legend of the Seeker, which is based off Goodkind's series.  The show was classic epic fantasy, but it was also a bit campy (along the lines of Xena and Hercules) and lots of fun.  There were many great things about the show, but the greatest of all was the main character Richard, played by Craig Horner (see photo to the right). Sigh.  Let me regain composure.

So, I spent most of my time watching the show swooning over Richard, but I also enjoyed the story in its own right.  Although I consider myself a fantasy fan, I tend to stay away from "epic fantasy," so I'd never looked into the books.  But, one of my students is a fan of the novels and convinced me to try Wizard's First Rule, the first book in the series and the book on which the first season of Legend of the Seeker is based.

I was a bit nervous at first, primarily because the novel is over 800 pages, but I really enjoyed it.  The story is one big adventure: mysteries, romance, monsters, fighting.  Because of that, the story goes quickly and doesn't seem to drag.

The TV show changed many of the details of the book, but the basic story and characterization is the same, so I enjoyed "returning" to my beloved Richard (and Kahlan and Zedd).  Richard's a pure, noble man, which can occasionally be annoying (he's constantly apologizing), but it works well given his role as the Seeker.  His relationship with Kahlan is also somewhat agonizing (they can't be together for reasons I won't get in to), but, again, it works in the setting.  Zedd is fun and impish, which can be a relief from Richard and Kahlan's seriousness.

The part I most dreaded in the novel was Richard's "training" with the evil Mord-Sith Denna. I really dislike torture scenes of any kind, and this one goes on for quite awhile.  It is important to the story as a whole, but I tried to skim that section as quickly as possible.  For the more squeamish, it could definitely be a turn-off for an otherwise engaging book.

Furthermore, there's an undercurrent of sadism and masochism throughout the entire book.  The Mord-Sith are based on the concept of pleasure through pain, and even for the noble like Richard, power is equated primarily with the ability to withstand pain. Again, it's easier to not think too much about it than to consider the implications.

The book plays with the nature of right and wrong more than the TV show, which raises interesting ethical questions.  In the show, Richard makes sure to help and save every minor person he meets, but in the book he recognizes that doing good for most does not always create easy choices.

I wouldn't mind reading one or two more books in the series, though I'll certainly take a break for now.  There's eleven books total, but I've read that they get progressively weaker.  However, reading the book does make me want to re-watch Legend of the Seeker.  I highly recommend it if you get Netflix.

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