Truth and Seek

Following my article about the Harry Potter series I have decided to write another summary, this time of Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. Before I begin, a few words about books and me. I love books, though I am not obsessed with them. On an average I read around 12-15 novels a year. That translates to approximately 1 a month. Of course, it doesn’t mean that I read one every month – it is entirely likely that all the novels are finished in the span of 2 months. I have a pretty decent collection of books, running close to a thousand.

My foray into fantasy was fueled by a K-Circle quiz in 2003, Harry Potter and LOTR notwithstanding. I decided to try out the books that happened to be the answers of the quiz and took recommendations from my good friend Vishy. Vishy suggested that I try the book Wizard’s First Rule from the Sword of Truth series. And I was hooked. If I might add, Vishy stopped following the series through the middle of the third book (Blood of the Fold), but I went on to read the entire series of 11, plus the prequel Debt of Bones. The series has been adapted to a TV series called Legend of the Seeker. The challenge of adapting a book for the idiot box is that you have to make things formulaic, whack some events out of sequence, introduce your own elements and drop a few others. Keeping these in mind the Legend of the Seeker comes off as an attempt that is not very satisfactory. More of it later. But I must add that they have a rather pretty leading lady in Bridget Regan.

Kahlan Amnell and Richard Cypher / Lord Rahl
Kahlan Amnell and Richard Cypher / Lord Rahl

The Character Universe

  • Richard Cypher / Lord Rahl – The protagonist of the tales. He goes by several titles, the first of which is “The Seeker of Truth”. He wields the Sword of Truth, a magical sword (seen in the picture above). The series focuses on Richard’s growth as a character as well as in magic. He is shown to be free-thinking, compassionate, intelligent, strong and with an intuitive understanding of his power.
  • Kahlan Amnell – The Mother Confessor and Richard’s love interest. As a Confessor she can “confess” any person by touching him / her. This makes the “confessed” persons lose themselves completely and becomes slaves, obsessed with obeying and protecting the Mother Confessor and losing their free will. Of course, she controls her power most of the time so as to prevent people from becoming unwitting slaves. However Confessors cannot control their power throes of passion, which results in people never falling in love with them. Kahlan is an extremely powerful Confessor, who is very beautiful, just, intelligent and dedicated to her cause.
  • Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander / Zedd – The First Wizard and mentor of Richard. Zedd is an extremely powerful wizard, who was responsible for killing Panis Rahl – father of Darken Rahl. Zedd is portrayed as a perennially hungry old man who is friends with Richard from before the series begins.
  • Darken Rahl – The villain for the first 2 books and the ruler of D’Hara. He makes an appearance in the fourth book as well. Richard becomes Lord Rahl after killing Darken Rahl.
  • Jagang – Also known as the Emperor of the Imperial Order or Jagang the Just or the Dream Walker or the ruler of the Old World. Jagang’s role grows as the series progresses. He is only mentioned as the Emperor of the Old World in the second book (without being named), starts driving things in the third book, he shows what he can do with his powers in the fourth book and becomes the chief villain from that point on.
  • Mord-Sith – Mord-Sith are the personal guards of Lord Rahl. They have the unique ability to turn a person’s magic back on him/her. Mord-Sith are created by torturing girls from a very young age and they develop into women who can administer unbelievable amounts of pain using a tool called an Agiel. Two Mord-Sith feature prominently in the series – Cara and Denna
  • Sisters of the Light and Sisters of the Dark – These sorceresses are good and evil respectively. By birth people with the “gift” of magic possess the additive side of the gift. However, the Sisters of the Dark have pledged their souls to the Keeper of the Underworld and have gained use of the subtractive side of the gift. The Sisters getting repeated mention through the series are Prelate Annalina Aldurren (Ann), Verna Sauventreen, Ulicia, Nicci and Merissa.

Each book mentions one Wizard’s rule

  1. Wizard’s First Rule: People will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they’re afraid it might be true.
  2. Wizard’s Second Rule: The greatest harm can result from the best intentions.
  3. Wizard’s Third Rule: Passion rules reason.
  4. Wizard’s Fourth Rule: There is magic in sincere forgiveness; in the forgiveness you give, but more so in the forgiveness you receive.
  5. Wizard’s Fifth Rule: Mind what people do, not only what they say, for deeds will betray a lie.
  6. Wizard’s Sixth Rule: The only sovereign you can allow to rule you is reason.
  7. Wizard’s Seventh Rule: Life is the future, not the past.
  8. Wizard’s Eighth Rule: Talga Vassternich. (Deserve Victory)
  9. Wizard’s Ninth Rule: A contradiction can not exist in reality. Not in part, nor in whole.
  10. Wizard’s Tenth Rule: Willfully turning aside from the truth is treason to one’s self.
  11. Wizard’s Eleventh Rule: The “Rule Unspoken”, the “Rule Unwritten”, “The rule from the beginning of time.”

Each rule is explained in the context of the story. The last rule is particularly interesting and is not explicitly quoted. However Richard figures it out and that is instrumental in his victory at the end.

The books are quite captivatingly written. I recall starting the first book and turning the pages in excited anticipation of what was going to happen next. I didn’t rest till I had finished the book at around 4:30 a.m. That being said, there is a lot of gore and violence at several places, along with talk of rape and abuse in every novel. However, if you are not squeamish about such things then you will enjoy the ride. You have to be careful, though, about giving the books to younger kids. Another aspect of the book is the angst. The lead characters never spend much time happily with each other – they are almost always separated by some machination.

And now for the books themselves. I am keeping my reviews as spoiler-free as I can. As a result I am leaving out key plot details and character traits at several points.

  1. Wizard’s First Rule
    The first book of the series, which sets the tone by introducing the main characters. The story starts with Richard meeting a very beautiful but mysterious lady in white (Kahlan), being chased by a group of four assassins. He takes her to meet Zedd, learns a few very important things about himself and Zedd and becomes the owner of the Sword of Truth, an ancient object of power. He then gets involved in the journey to save the world from the rule of Darken Rahl. On the way he meets a witch woman (not to be confused with a sorceress), gets captured by a Mord-Sith called Denna who tortures him to within an inch of his death, befriends a dragon and eventually manages to prevent Darken Rahl from gaining control of the world by making him open the wrong Box of Orden. And yes, he gets Confessed by Kahlan.

    The structure of the story is like most other works of fantasy – the young hero finds out that he is blessed and has to save the world, the odds are insurmountably stacked against him, he has a kindly mentor to help him in his quest and the villain is a nasty piece of work. However, what makes the difference is Goodkind’s deftness with words. The details about violence are graphic enough and scenes of angst are drawn out to just the right limit, so as to not only prevent the reader from getting bored, but also to paint the correct picture in the reader’s head. What works very well is the way the characters are fleshed out. If anything is wrong, it is the fact that the names are somewhat corny. Darken Rahl? More laughably, Panis Rahl?

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