I finally pre-ordered, recieved and read (from start to finish) Confessor by Terry Goodkind earlier this month. It’s the last book in the Chainfire Trilogy which finished off the series of 11 books known as The Sword of Truth, the series which has occupied the last 3 and a half years of my life.
I had finished the previous book just last year only to realize that I’d finally caught up with the series and I was quite disappointed as I awaited early 2008 – the projected date of the final release. Fortunately enough, I did not have to wait that long.
The closing of this book is also the closing of a personal era for myself and I’d like to leave my thoughts with you here.
I was gifted the first book of the series, Wizard’s First Rule, by a friend for my 18th birthday. (We shared not only the same birthday but a love of fantasy.) I read it quickly and grew to love the characters who were strong but not infallible, wise but human, pivotal to the existance of all mankind yet quirky and flighty. Characters who had strong morals and were fiercely loyal.
I also grew to hate the enemy. These were vile people, if they could even be called that, who had no morals, who were only strong when putting others down. These people had no value of life so felt nothing at taking it away from others or squandering theirs away.
And the entire series is really hinged on this concept, the moral really that life is something to value and no one has the right to decide how you live your own life but yourself. The choice is yours to make even if you make a poor choice. Thus, anyone who would try to force a way of living upon another or take life from others becomes the enemy.
Besides free will, the series emphasizes using reason and taking responsibility for one’s own actions rather than using weak philosophies or belief systems as a crutch. The right to make a choice comes with the responsibility to use said right and to use wisely to affect change.
The morals within the series are parallel to Goodkind’s own beliefs as believe in Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand and is described by here as such:
My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”
(Read more on this here)
While I did a rather poor job of summing up the philosophy, Terry tells it well. And often. And he continues it in Confessor, perhaps even more so than the other books though, I believe, not without reason. It is because of his philosophy that Richard, the protagonist is able to survive and, to ultimately defeat those who would stand in his way, really the way of all those who value life.
Those simply looking for fantasy may have to look elsewhere because everywhere in the Sword of Truth, the reader will be assaulted with Goodkind’s philosophy – also the philosophy of Richard. Still, the rants and asides from Richard concerning his philosophy are many and repetitive and could certainly be skimmed down.
The philosophy, alone, is something I can see being a deal breaker for many and, indeed, it is one of the bones non-fans have to pick with Goodkind. However, those who agree will want Richard to win the war against evil (played by Emporer Jagang and the Order) and see how this philosophy has extremely realistic implications and roots.
However, for those who have been a fan of the series (or simply the trilogy) thus far or those who cannot start a series without following it through, Confessor is definitely a must read!
As the book opens with Richard, a slave to the Order and in the midst of its army which is camped out just beyond the People’s Palace of D’Hara, soon realizes that Kalahn, his wife and the Confessor who has been wiped from the memory of nearly the entire world and has no sense of her own identity because of magic, is also held captive by the evil Jagang and his men.
As a captive of the army, Richard is forced to play Ja La, the game of life in which winning is literally a matter of life or death. In doing so, Richard earns the respect of his teammates, captives and soldiers alike and has an opportunity to finally turn the tides of war, as well as escape for himself and his loved ones by showing the Imperial Order in its true light.
As one can imagine, a book which begins in the middle of a war and the middle of an army, no less, begins quickly. It took no time at all for Confessor to get off the ground because it started at such an elevated state and only rose to achieve more than my highest expectations by the end of the book.
As one would expect, Richard does eventually escape the camp of the Imperial Order and find his way back to the People’s Palace. And even the loss of his magic cannot stop him with the little help of a friend. However, along the way it’s not just the foes who go down and some characters who have been with Richard and his party for much of the series are lost.
As Richard continues to fight the war and foes known and unknown – Jagang and his Sisters of the dark; The evil sorceress Six and even the Underworld (and its Beast) – he sticks to his philosophy in an attempt to save mankind and the woman he loves. Unfortunately, due to the unknown and misunderstood nature of the spell which is tainting magic and has erased Kalahn from the memory of all but a few, figuring out just how to win this war is difficult, especially to someone who has such limited knowledge of his wizardry skills.
Of course, he does and happy endings abound. So happy, in fact, that I found myself brought to tears by Goodkind’s writing. The book ends in such a way as to prove the value of Richard’s – and Goodkind’s – philosophy by showing the reader something which never could have happened had this philosophy not prevailed.
I really found Confessor to be an easy read despite the repetitive and almost preachy tone it sometimes took on and could have finished it in well under a day, had I the time, even though it weighs in at just under 600 pages (the perfect size of a fantasy novel, in my opinion).
The novel also tied up some wonderfully loose ends bringing back characters whose roles I didn’t find to be quite finished. All in all, it closes the series smoothly and the happy ending is only the icing on the cake.
Now for the criticism, which is few and far between on my part. There wasn’t a vast amount of traveling done in the novel as the Order was camped on the front porch of the People’s Palace but much of the traveling which was done by the characters was done in a very rapid matter with the mode of transportation being invented or written in solely for that purpose which was a bit lackluster. Perhaps Goodkind would have done better to spend less time talking about Objectivism and have his characters use more traditional, if slower, forms of mobility. However, this may have put a damper on the fast pace of the novel.
Some also find fault with the similarity between The Sword of Truth and the Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan but, as I’ve only finished the first novel in that series, only time will tell how I feel on that subject.
I definitely recommend Confessor to Goodkind and SoT fans. If you’ve an interest in fantasy and especially if you agree with his philosophy, I urge you to pick up this series. If the 11 titles are a bit daunting, I feel that it would be sufficient to read only the Chainfire trilogy as Goodkind does an adequate job of bringing new readers up to date with the happenings in his world as well as refreshing the memories of current readers (which I did need!).