This is a very interesting novel. Until a few months after finishing it I did not know that it was written as a homage to Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead (I haven’t read Ayn Rand). It begins with the Sister of the Dark Nicci capturing Richard in a bid to explain to him how the Imperial Order’s objectives are not at odds with Richard’s own objectives. Since Kahlan’s life is held at stake by Nicci, Richard obliges. Nicci takes him to Altur’Rang, the capital of the Old World and tries to demonstrate the good in a communist society. Richard, on the other hand repeatedly proves the pointlessness of sacrificing for those who do not deserve it. He teaches willing people different skills of trades. This helps them lead better lives and makes him very well-liked and respected. Of course, none knows that he is the Lord Rahl whom Jagang is intent on destroying.
Richard also operates within the stipulations placed on him by the state and yet manages to sow the seeds of capitalism in a small group of people. All of them, including himself manage to realize legitimate profits in their business – something that wouldn’t have been possible in a purely communist setting. The climax involves Richard’s sculpting of a statue, which epitomizes the value of one’s life and ridicules the ideals of the Imperial Order. This statue is seen by all people in Altur’Rang and sparks a revolution. While Richard is with Nicci in the Old World, Kahlan, Zedd and other allies of Richard are intent on thwarting the advances of Jagang’s army.
I really enjoyed this book, because it showed a complete transformation of Nicci and introduced the fight between capitalism and communism into a world of magic. It further accentuated the degree of abuse and rape inflicted by Jagang on his captives.
This book is very different from the others of the series, in the sense that the protagonists are relegated to the B plot. The first appearance that Richard and Kahlan make in this book is in the 54th chapter out of 61. The predominant character introduced in this story is Jennsen, who is a “pristinely ungifted” half sister of Richard. The pristinely ungited cannot be detected by magic and are not affected by additive magic, as opposed to the ungifted, who are both detectable and susceptible. Such people are assets in a war against magic, since they are more or less immune to it. They are called Pillars of Creation as they are the counter-force to magic.
Jagang capitalizes on this and misleads Jennsen, turning her against Richard. In addition there is another half brother of Richard called Oba, who is pristinely ungifted as well. He is intent on becoming a king, replacing Richard. Richard’s allies lay waste to several parts of Jagang’s empire, while Richard himself battles Oba, Jennsen and the Sisters of the Dark.
I found this book a bit of a let-down, since I was expecting to see more of a revolution happening after the prior novel. It introduced characters that didn’t seem to have much of a bearing on the rest of the series.
While Pillars of Creation introduced the pristinely ungifted, Naked Empire talks about a whole empire called Bandakar filled with them. Jagang creates a human weapon called Nicholas the Slide, whose soul can get into other creatures’ bodies. The theme that is repeated in this novel is how Richard leads the people of Bandakar to revolution.
In terms of my favourites among the series this novel ranks lowest, since it seems to add very little of value. I feel it could have been combined with Pillars of Creation and made into a single book.
Chainfire kickstarts a mini-series within the Sword of Truth series, called the Chainfire Trilogy. Richard wakes up and sees that Kahlan is missing. More surprisingly, most people haven’t heard her name and those who have don’t remember her as being Richard’s wife. In fact, people even don’t recollect events connected with Kahlan. In such a world, where none believes Richard, he gradually loses faith in himself and starts questioning his own sanity. In the meanwhile several books on prophecy start missing large sections of text, which people are sure used to be present.
Using a single clue from the witch woman Shota, “Chainfire”, Richard starts putting together the pieces. His hunch and intuition are validated by Nicci who confronts Tovi, a Sister of the Dark. Four Sisters had carried out the Chainfire spell on Kahlan, rendering her invisible for all practical purposes and without any memory of her past. They then used her to steal the Boxes of Orden from right under Richard’s nose.
I like this book except for the fact that it resets the story quite far behind. After all a journey to rediscover Kahlan would only serve to extend the story. Moreover the story is extremely gloomy till the climax is reached.
The Chainfire spell, fortunately for Richard, has not worked perfectly. There are some people who can see Kahlan and consciously register the fact, thereby not being a complete Phantom. Richard loses his powers thanks to another witch woman, Six, but learns that a War Wizard from three thousand years before has left a book for him titled “Secrets of a War Wizard’s Power”. Unfortunately, since his powers are gone, he cannot read the book.
Kahlan is captured by Jagang and she starts piecing information together about herself. In the meanwhile Richard is captured by a commander in Jagang’s army to play in a team of Ja’La dh Jin. This unexpectedly puts Richard very close to Kahlan. Realizing that there isn’t any way to beat Jagang’s hordes, Nicci puts the Boxes of Orden in play, naming Richard as the player. Orden was designed to be a counter to Chainfire and if harnessed properly, it can reverse the damage caused by Chainfire.
This was one book I liked quite a lot. It gave a good sense of direction and built up a lot of anticipation for the last book of the series. It also showed Richard and his allies being proactive by putting the Boxes of Orden in play to gain the upper hand against Jagang.
A series well ended is a series well written. Confessor is exactly the kind of book you would hope for at the end of a series. Goodkind uses what seems to be his favourite plot device – kicking up a revolution. This time Richard does it in front of Jagang. He also attempts to kill Jagang, but narrowly misses. Additionally he figures out how to stop the effects of Chainfire in an individual.
What takes the icing in this novel is how it mirrors the first of the series. Elements like the Boxes of Orden, a Confessor and a critical “gotcha” from the first novel are all reused. You also get to know that the Sword of Truth is indeed significant, not just as a weapon for the Seeker.
Overall I found the series very engaging. I am avidly following the Legend of the Seeker series on TV. If you are a fantasy lover you shouldn’t miss these books.
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