(… yes, that is one star)
Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind | January 1994 | Tor | Mass Market Paperback $7.99
In the aftermath of the brutal murder of his father, a mysterious woman, Kahlan Amnell, appears in Richard Cypher’s forest sanctuary seeking help … and more. His world, his very beliefs, are shattered when ancient debts come due with thundering violence.
In their darkest hour, hunted relentlessly, tormented by treachery and loss, Kahlan calls upon Richard to reach beyond his sword — to invoke within himself something more noble. Neither knows that the rules of battle have just changed … or that their time has run out.
I was — at first — pleasantly surprised by Wizard’s First Rule. I put it on my Classics Club list because (a) it consistently ends up on lists of best fantasy books/series and (b) it’s frequently compared to the Wheel of Time series, which I love. This book is one of the most recently published titles on my CC list, too (my rule being only that the books have to be at least 20 years old).
I was kind of skeptical about this one going in because I’d read several critical reviews calling it “derivative” or poking fun at the author. (I should have listened to their warnings….) Plus, I had been expecting to like the last SF book I read for CC, Foundation by Asimov, but ended up being rather disappointed. So I didn’t want to let high hopes get the better of me this time.
But even though the book clearly wasn’t perfect, it was appealing to me. The overall plot and setting are not particularly unique. Nice village boy discovers he’s The One who can save humanity, with the help of a wise old wizard and a pretty, secretly powerful lady friend? It’s been done… but I’m also a huge sucker for that type of story. And Goodkind’s political philosophy (Objectivism à la Ayn Rand) shines through in some places. It wasn’t particularly subtle and it’s not my favorite flavor of philosophy, but this issue in particular wasn’t so terribly distracting that it ruined the story for me.
My feelings about the whole thing changed in the last 1/3 of the book, where things took an abrupt turn for the worse.
Spoilers from here down.
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I do not enjoy reading about rape. I understand that sometimes it is something that is going to happen in a brutal world like the one Wizard’s First Rule is set in. I understand that sometimes it can be an important part of the story, just like murder and war and other evils can be. But at some point (though I can’t really specify where), it can cross over a line between plot device and plain old gratuitous violence. It crossed that line in this book.
One of the main characters is repeatedly tortured and raped, although it is never actually called rape — he is his rapist’s “mate” (ew). Worse, his rapist explains that the reason she tortures and rapes him is because she was tortured and raped as a girl, and it’s somehow her job to do the same thing to him. He develops Stockholm syndrome and begins to feel sorry for her, as the reader is presumably meant to do as well. Was this meant to be some kind of BDSM fantasy fulfillment? If so, it missed the mark by a mile.
I felt sick while reading this. All the fun of the earlier chapters was gone. I almost quit reading at this point. The only reason I kept going is because I had enjoyed the first part of the book so much and thought there might be some redeeming qualities in the conclusion of it.
The last few chapters were boring at best, almost offensively so. The magic system that had seemed interesting and well-organized devolved into random new, just-in-time powers and spells. The derivative-yet-fun-anyway storyline sank into predictable “Power the Dark Lord knows not” and “Luke, I am your father” clichés.
I am so, so disappointed by this book. That’s why I’m rating it 1 star, a rating I have so far used only for books I flat-out hate or books that are just too stupid to exist (and a rating I have never yet used on this blog before now because why bother writing about stupid bullshit, but this is different because it’s for a reading challenge), because after finishing it I felt like the whole thing had been a tragic waste of time.
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I know this book has an average of 4+ stars on Goodreads. If you’re one of those who’s read it and liked it: What about it was appealing to you? What do you think I’m missing?
This book also counts for my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge. (Bought before the new year.)
Publication information: Goodkind, Terry. Wizard’s First Rule. New York: Tor, 1994. Print.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.