Terry Goodkind, Soul of the Fire (Tor, 1999)
[originally posted 28Mar2002]
I’ve heard a number of opinions, mostly on alt.books.terry-goodkind, that Soul of the Fire is the beginning of the end of the Sword of Truth series. I think I understand the mentality behind the attacks, but I couldn’t agree with it less.
As we left Richard and Kahlan last time, the two were girding the lions of the D’Haran Empire against the Emperor Jagang and his Imperial Order, getting ready for the all-out war sure to come. In book five, Jagang’s army makes their first move, attempting to annex the Midlands province of Anderith, a minor strategic gem. Richard and Kahlan happen to be in a good position to stop them, but there’s a slight complication in the mix; creatures of magic called the Chimes are loose in the world, thanks to the events at the end of book four (not mentioned here for plot-spoiler reasons). Richard’s job is twofold; get rid of the Chimes while stopping Jagang from taking Anderith, which would give his army a solid base in the Midlands.
It would take a half-blind five-year-old not to figure out by page 100 of this eight-hundred-page novel not to make the right connections to figure out the bulk of what’s going to happen by the end. There are still a few twists and turns to be had, but by this time the reader who’s gone through the last few thousand pages with Richard and co. is probably less concerned with plot twists than he is with seeing what’s going to happen next in the grand scale of things. And Goodkind gives us the grand scale here. He keeps the narrative just as readable while turning his attention to various contemporary political issues more than he has previously. The book does have a more nakedly political bent to it than the series has previously shown, and I think that’s where a lot of the denigration comes from. Admittedly, it’s a judgment call. I don’t think it detracts from the book at all (and I’m one who usually sees alarm bells going off the second politics-as-message rears its ugly head in fiction); others feel otherwise.
The writing, the characterization, and the readability haven’t gone downhill a bit. If you’ve read the first four, it’s definitely worth going at least this far to see if things will turn sour for you. ****