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Wizard's First Rule (2003)

Wizard's First Rule (2003)

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3.87 of 5 Votes: 5
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0765346524 (ISBN13: 9780765346520)
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About book Wizard's First Rule (2003)

An Opinionated Look At:Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First RuleBy Eric AllenI've given Terry Goodkind some very, very harsh reviews of late, and I've had a LOT of comments on those reviews from angry fans. I claim to be a fan of The Sword of Truth, and yet I mercilessly thrash his newer work? So, I've decided to go back and reread the entire Sword of Truth series and review them. (Except for Faith of the Fallen, which I already reviewed last summer.) Is it as good as I remember it being, or am I just looking back through nostalgia goggles? Is it as well written as I remember, or was Goodkind always the repetitive, lazy, talentless, unimaginative hack he's become in recent years? Did these books really have the fire and passion I remember, or were they all boring, dull, and emotionless like his recent works? Well, let's find out. As I'm no longer being paid to do this, I may take a bit longer between reviews as I have on previous retrospective series I've done. There are spoilers, but since the book has been out for over twenty years I feel the statute of limitations on adding in spoiler tags has expired. Which is my way of saying F it, I'm too lazy to bother today.Back in the day there were two fantasy series that I followed religiously. The Wheel of Time, by far the better of the two, and The Sword of Truth. I'm not amongst those people who enjoy one to the exclusion of the other, as I see a lot of out there on the internet. That never made sense to me. It's like the Star Wars vs. Star Trek argument. I enjoy both of them. Is that so wrong? They're both good series, and entertaining, in their own ways. I'd see people writing huge dissertations on why one is superior and how anyone who likes it could not possibly enjoy the other because of it, and I'd shake my head at the stupidity of it. What can I say, I liked them both. Though I did like one more than the other, they were both good series that I had a great time with, and I never saw any reason to limit myself to just one because a bunch of assholes on the internet said I had to. I think that was the first time I actually rolled my eyes at how stupid people can be, back in the days when the internet was new, not everyone had it, and, for the most part, people hadn't turned into the raging assholes they would become a few years later when they realized what internet anonymity was.Anyway, I picked up Wizard's First Rule on recommendation from a friend while suffering through another long wait between Wheel of Time releases, and my High School self loved it. Probably because of the gore, more than anything, but eh, who isn't at least a little retarded in High School? I know I was haha. While out looking for clues to his father's murder, Richard Cipher comes across a beautiful woman being chased by four men intent on doing her harm. Naturally, he intervenes, saving her life. Kahlan has come from the Midlands, a realm of magic blocked off from Richard's Westland by a magical barrier called the Boundary. The Midlands are at war. Darken Rahl of D'Hara has invaded and has set a special magic into play that could, if he is not stopped, give him power and dominion over all life come the first day of winter. Kahlan has come seeking the great old Wizard in order to force him, if need be, to do his duty and name a Seeker to bring down Rahl and free the Midlands of his evil. Luckily, Richard's oldest and closest friend, Zedd, just happens to be said Wizard, and names Richard Seeker, sending him on a quest into the Midlands to save the world from Darken Rahl.The Good? I really like the world in which this series takes place. It's imaginative, well put together, and has a deep and rich history. I enjoy how Goodkind manages to give just enough of the back story to let us know what's going on, while also keeping the feel of the mysterious unknown about most of the book as well. The characters are all relatively well written and distinct from one another in the way they speak, act and think. And the dialog is often well crafted and sometimes witty.Goodkind claims that this is his first attempt ever to write anything novel length. If that is true, then this book is extraordinarily well written for it being an authors first attempt at writing a novel. Many authors have at least one failed project in their closet before writing the book that gets them published, some have many. Brandon Sanderson, for example, wrote seven books before Elantris caught the eye of an editor at a writer's convention. As the old adage goes, you have to write a million bad words before you can write your first good one. The story flows along very well. There are no really dead spots where nothing seems to be happening. Everything is always moving toward and building up to the climax. Everything comes together flawlessly in the end, and in a very rare showing for Terry Goodkind, things are resolved through Richard outsmarting the villain using lessons he's learned along his journey, rather than through Deus ex Machina.The bad? When I was younger I thought the love story in this book was cute and endearing. Now that I've grown a bit older, I find it somewhat heavy handed and oppressive. And I can see the beginnings of Goodkind's trademark repetition in it. He really doesn't know when to quit beating us over the head with how this love can never be, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. The romantic drama feels a little too artificially forced. And drama that feels forced, doesn't feel dramatic.Goodkind follows the "pull-it-outta-ur-ass" school of thought when it comes to magic. Now, there's really nothing wrong with this sort of thing, so long as it remains consistent, and never strays too far into Deus ex Machina territory. If you want your magic to be mysterious and vague, go for it. Tolkien did a really good job with it in Middle Earth, and it can be done well. For the most part, it's done pretty well in Wizard's First Rule, except near the end when both Richard and Kahlan just sort of start pulling new powers coming from the Sword of Truth, or "powers they always had, but never learned how to use" right out of their asses. In Kahlan's case it's infinitely worse, because her magic was actually given rules and limitations that Goodkind casually shattered as if they meant nothing. There's being vague and mysterious, and then there's blatant Deus ex Machina. It sort of works here, because Richard knows absolutely nothing about magic, and so everything new is a new discovery to him as a character. But when it happens later on in the series, with much more frequency, and a lot more lazy explanation from the author, it does tend to get a little tiresome. Personally, I prefer magic systems that have set rules and limitations that the author gives me ahead of time, and then follows to the letter throughout the entirety of the story. That way I know what a character is capable of, what they're not capable of, and they do a lot less pulling things out of their ass at plot convenient moments. Goodkind also begins to ruin the vague mysteriousness of it in later books by trying to technobabble for page after page on the workings of magic, which makes the pulling things out of your ass seem even worse and even more Deus ex Machina-y.The Ugly? One of my pet peeves in writing is when an author will either a.) have someone deliberately misinterpret something to create drama, b.) have someone believe the words of someone they just met as gospel in order to create drama, c.) have someone believe the words of an enemy whose words they have absolutely no reason to trust and every reason to mistrust to create drama or d.) some combination of the above. They all boil down to the same thing in the end: the author trying to artificially create drama by making his characters freaking idiots. It feels so fake and forced, and it makes characters who have previously shown themselves to be intelligent and resourceful to be utter morons instead. And like I said, drama that feels forced, doesn't feel dramatic. There are other FAR better ways to create drama than to momentarily lobotomize your characters to the point where they will deliberately misunderstand, or take the words of someone they really have no reason to trust as the god's honest truth. It always pisses me off to see an author doing something like this. But, as this book is Goodkind's very first attempt at writing a novel, I suppose I can forgive it... this time... unfortunately HE KEEPS DOING IT THROUGHOUT THE SERIES!!!I've read The Omen Machine. Having read The Omen Machine utterly ruins the climax of this book. Why, you ask? Well, let me explain. The book builds flawlessly to the confrontation between Richard and Darken Rahl. Richard outsmarts the villain, and wins the day using things he's learned along his journey. And all of this takes place within the Garden of Life in the People's Palace in D'Hara. Yeah... guess what's burried right beneath their feet as they're having this epic showdown? That's right. The Omen Machine. The Effing Omen Machine is hidden away beneath them as all of this awesomeness is going on. The ridiculously stupid friggen Omen Machine is just a few feet below them. I can never, ever, ever, ever take any scene that takes place in the Garden of Life seriously ever again. All I can think is, "they're standing on top of the Omen Machine." And then my brain starts quoting HAL lines from 2001. Way to ruin something awesome there, Goodkind. Thanks for that.All in all, this was a great book. It's reasonably well written, with good characters that are visibly distinct from one another in the ways they speak, act, and think, and builds to an excellent climax. It sets up for a great series to come in a wonderfully crafted and imaginative world with a deep and mysterious history. There are a few flaws in the book that can easily be chalked up to the author's inexperience, but they don't really take much away from the rest of the book in my opinion. I definitely recommend this one to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy series. Although, I will give warning that there is quite a bit of graphic violence, violence against women, rape, threat of rape, rape of children both male and female, an extended scene of torture, implied sexual torture, sexual violence such as a child molester being forced to eat his own testicles, and some of the good old fashioned normal sexual themes as well. If any of these things offend you, you may want to skip this one. This book has a very hard R rating.This book reads like it is written by a completely different author than anything Goodkind has published since Law of Nines. I simply cannot understand what happened to him. He used to be a decent, sometimes excellent, writer. Now he just isn't trying anymore. Wizard's First Rule is so far above his recent work in terms of imagination, writing quality, characters, character development, story, excitement, tension and drama, and so on that it seriously feels like a completely different author wrote it. One of my biggest complaints about Severed Souls was that Goodkind doesn't seem to know how horror and fear in writing work. But in this book, he proves that he does. There are some really creepy and frightening scenes in this book, and never once does a character have to tell me that they're creepy or frightening like they did all throughout Severed Souls. I just don't get it. What happened to the real Terry Goodkind? The one who wrote THIS book? Check out my other reviews.

The text wants rhetorical discipline, its worst problem, and likewise evidences, at best, an amateur aesthetics.The text moreover adopts a number of trite narrative elements, including the hero's journey, the numinous object, the freudian psychodrama, the derivative Teutonic creatures, the 'system' of magickes--the last of which is a routine mechanic of pseudo-rationalized fantasy, wherein the author appreciates the Mystical sufficiently to write about ghosts and goblins, but doesn't trust the narrative to represent mystical occurrences in mystical terms, and accordingly reverts to a more familiar rhetoric of science or business or whatever else is bricolage for a writer who can't be bothered to think about the text as it's being written. (This author's purported 'system' appears to be more simplistic than double-entry bookkeeping, and is based on the same principles.)People complain about the author's politics (Ayn Rand libertarianism), but I didn't find them intrusive in this text. (Later installments, however, are simply John Galt speaking.) In this regard, the politics championed by this text are not out of step with normal post-tolkienian fare: heroic individualism, based upon freedom of the will, acknowledging the doctrine of moral culpability for actions because of same, with world-historical consequences to follow thereupon. We might designate it a 'thematic cliche.'The author is generally following a subgeneric path in fantasy fiction that is well traveled. It's accordingly difficult to call him out on the carpet for writing in a marketable subgenre when so many others are doing the same--though we might chuckle a bit when the author claims, exterior to this text, that he isn't writing fantasy fiction at all. Post-tolkienianism does not transcend fantasy fiction, however, no matter how loudly writers or readers protest their inclusion within the subgenre.Negatives aside, the novel does possess a decent moment, when, halfway through, the numinous object is apparently recovered, a plot coupon that the seven samurai protagonists might therefore remit to the author and thereby purchase their eucatastrophe--but, more or less ex nihilo, a coven of dominatrices abduct the naive rural virgin hero (another cliche, that) and subject him to sadistic corporeal interrogation. (I do not designate it as 'torture' because I suspect that the author approves of such things when the CIA performs them on kidnapped moslems.) This decent moment is not present in the tolkienian tradition, even off-screen (where corporeal sadism is surely committed, and one might assume sexual abuse of prisoners, but an express bondage fetish is external thereto). We therefore might thank this novel for presenting the sexual violence that was always already present under the surface of the subgenre, but repressed for whatever reasons, a subgenre which historically has displayed a fairly cavalier attitude toward war and oft dismissive attitude toward progressive gender politics. The decent moment is nevertheless wasted, and transformed into its opposite, an indecent durance: the main weirdness here is the inversion, at least in this installment, where the victim of sexual violence is primarily the male protagonist, whose abusers become eventually his fondly retained employees--which suggests that the sexual violence wasn't really abuse at all, unless the implication is that sexual violence is no big deal, and therefore "all'y'all rape victims need to get over it and offer your rapists a job."It must furthermore be noted that the worst cliche in the entire text is the eponymous 'rule,' which is a colloquial axiom of small value, likely stated with confidence by pre-school children throughout the world, but adequately described by the Gramscian notion of "common sense," rendering it therefore ideologically deplorable. The only writerly virtue of the titular rule is that it constitutes the supreme example of bathos in fantasy fiction, juxtaposing as it does the completely philistine substance of the rule with the high expectations a reader might otherwise have, especially a reader familiar with the esoteric content from which the rule allegedly arises.One must admire, ultimately, this attempt to fuse Tolkien with Krafft-Ebing, even if unsuccessful, and even if unintentional. That said, the text's other deficiencies are not canceled by the solitary decency of the introduction of sadomasochistic fetishism into the narrative.This text should nonetheless be required reading for persons who have more than a casual interest in fantasy fiction.

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I am adding this author to the list of people that I wouldn't want to have lunch with. After this review, I suspect he won't want to have lunch with me either.This book reads like a game of Dungeons and Dragons. It's a quest, a bit formulaic, and at times I could practically hear the narrator telling me to roll the ten-sided die to see what happens when we go down the left fork. In this book, we have the hapless regular guy who through a great series of coincidences finds himself traveling to save the world with the beautiful, mysterious woman (formerly, the damsel in distress), the great and powerful wizard (who is utterly disappointing and mostly serves as comic relief), and the hardened, streetwise soldier. It almost feels like the author drew a map of his new fantastical world, decided to put the main character at one end, and the solution at the other, and then gave him a veritable obstacle course of classic problems on the way. He runs into underworld beasts, monsters, dragons, deluded armies, and betrayal (which, consequently, the rest of us saw coming 500 pages before he did). To say this book is plot-driven would be an understatement. Sadly, though, even the pacing of that plot isn't good.But none of that has anything to do with why I wouldn't want to hang out with the author. I found the creations of his imagination really disturbing. I could almost feel his delight in divining new and more horrible atrocities to detail as the story went on. Yes, the bad guy is very, very bad. But there was a definite sick, sadistic side to the story. I just have to wonder what kind of person decides to spend something like eight chapters on very descriptive and imaginative torture of one character, when the great love that supposedly drives the story took a comparative flash to develop. He's great at devising innovative ways to cause pain and anguish, but terrible at imagining realistic human interaction. The dialogue, sadly, reflects that. When the author isn't describing pain or evil, a sitcom-like feeling prevails. A paraphrased typical scene: a genuinely disturbing challenge with an emotional resolution that should leave everyone drained and perhaps scarred, until big old wizard asks, "When do we eat?" To which everyone chuckles, "Oh, that wizard, his stomach's always in charge." and they all saunter off into the sunset arm in arm.If you love Dungeons and Dragons, or if you're someone who enjoys causing or experiencing pain, this book is for you. For me, not so much. I wonder if his other books get any better?

It is always curious to see fantasy authors who don't consider themselves to be fantasy authors. Case-in-point: Terry Goodkind. The former landscape painter has told us how he isn't a fantasy author in every interview he's ever given:"The books I write are first of all novels, not fantasy, and that is deliberate; I'm really writing books about human beings."(1)"To define me as a fantasy writer is to misunderstand the context of my books by misidentifying their fundamentals."(2)"The stories I'm telling are not fantasy-driven, they're character-driven, and the characters I want to write about could be set in any world. I'd like to address a broader audience."(3)""What I have done with my work has irrevocably changed the face of fantasy. In so doing I've raised the standards. I have not only injected thought into a tired empty genre, but, more importantly, I've transcended it showing what more it can be . . ."Then the interview usually devolves into a discussion of Ayn Rand and 'the meaning of art', just in case you missed the pretension of declaring fantasy books 'not fantasy!'The guy certainly has a chip on his shoulder, but it makes me wonder whether he has actually read any fantasy. He doesn't seem to realize that the things he claims separate him from fantasy are fundamental parts of how modern fantasy works. A novel that's fundamentally about character interactions with a magical setting? How droll. Goodkind doesn't reinventing the novel; he doesn't even reinvent the fantasy novel, he just twists the knobs to get a little more steam out of it.Michael Moorcock critiqued Tolkien as a false romantic, which is rather apt considering that his love story takes place almost entirely in absentia (prompting Peter Jackson to infuse some extra loving with a hot, elven, psychic dream sequence). Most fantasy authors rectify this by having the girl come along for the journey. Goodkind likes to keep the separation for much of the story as our hero tries to seek her out across a continent (though she is often just in the next room! Oh! What a tragic coincidence!) Actually, after the first time it's just an annoying and painfully artificial way to try to hold off the conclusion for another hundred pages. It's a good thing Terry doesn't have to rely on magical or artificial means to keep his stories fresh!The rest of the time, the hero finds the girl and lovingly transfixes her on his mighty sword. No, really. I'm not sure why these authors always end up feeling as if they have to dump their sex fetish issues at this particular juncture: "Huh, I dig BDSM. Maybe I should confide my fantasies in a book for mass publication".I cannot think of a single female character in the entire series who isn't either raped or threatened with rape. If you want to give me an example of one, remember: I'm counting magical psychic blowjob rape as rape. I wish I never had the opportunity to qualify a statement with 'don't forget the psychic blowjob rape'.I don't mind actual BDSM literature, but I'd rather have my own reaction to it than be told "isn't it totally dirty and wrong!? (but still super sexy, right?)" Porn for porn's sake is fine, but remember, Goodkind isn't some escapist fantasy author, these are 'real stories about real people' so he has to act like his magic porn is somehow a reflection of real life.Goodkind's books are cookie-cutter genre fantasy, but the first few aren't that badly done, and if you like people narrowly missing one another, bondage, masochism, rape, and dragons, it might work for you, but the series dies on arrival part-way through, so prepare for disappointment.If you are enjoying the series, you should probably avoid reading any of his interviews, as he rarely misses an opportunity to claim that he is superior to all other fantasy authors, and never compare him to Robert Jordan, because"If you notice a similarity, then you probably aren't old enough to read my books."(4)Goodkind truly lives in his own fantasy world if he thinks his mediocre genre re-hash is 'original' or 'deep'.Then again, I've never met an adherent of Ayn Rand who didn't consider themselves a brilliant and unique snowflake trapped in a world of people who 'just don't understand'. The Randian philosophies are also laid on pretty thickly in his books, but at least he found a substitute grandmother figure to help him justify his Gorean sex-romp as 'high art'.All in all, he's just another guy who likes to hear himself talk. Despite what he says, nothing separates his work from the average modern fantasy author, and like them, his greatest failing is the complete lack of self-awareness that overwhelms his themes, plots, and characters.My Fantasy Book Suggestions
—J.G. Keely

Terry Goodkind likes rape. A lot. I wouldn't be surprised to find out he's a Neo Nazi. Let's have a character who kills everyone who's brown colored and celebrate him! And villains that rape a lot! Rape! Rapedy rape rape rape, rape rape! There are entire webpages devoted to people talking about the worst passages of these horrible books. I suggest you do something better with your time, like scraping mildew. It'll be more enjoyable.Fuck you, Terry Goodkind, and fuck your Nazi Randian viewpoints. Just die.

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