Once upon a time, I read Wizard’s First Rule and liked it. I wish I had left it at that, but noooo. I just had to get another Goodkind book, and it had to be this one. At some point in his career, it seems Goodkind stopped writing fantasies and started writing political and social commentary. But not in a good way. Oh no, not in a good way. If you want to know Goodkind’s views on such subjects as texting, abstract art, gun control, women’s fashion and more, and you like endless repetition and asshole main characters, you may get something out of this book. If you just want a tightly written urban fantasy thriller, look elsewhere.
SUPER SPOILERY notes (all seven pages of them) under the spoiler tag. Direct quotes in bold. Sorry for all the caps shouting. :P
After he’d gone out with her a second time she had started sending him text messages. They were painfully petty. So, is Terry Goodkind one of those jackasses who bitches about Millennials on Twitter?
He couldn’t imagine this woman ever sending him a text message. Petty-texting Bethany is the woman he’s gone out with twice. He can tell from a glance that Mystery Woman, who he met five minutes ago, is ever so much more sophisticated. Okay, so it’s not cool of Bethany to keep sending texts when she knows Alex hates texting (respect boundaries, Bethany!), BUT Alex is still an asshole and Bethany deserves better. (But also, Bethany. My girl. Learn to read signals.)
Why does he do mental gymnastics to rationalize Mystery Woman knowing his name instead of asking her, “Hey, how’d you know my name?”
He pressed his lips tightly together in agitation at Bethany and her mindless texts and phone calls. They were never important, but they had just interrupted something that was. Our “hero,” ladies and gentlemen. Cut him loose, B. He’s an asshole.
He only glanced at the featured pieces on his way past. He had trouble calling them “works.” Oh, so Alex is one of those “abstract art isn’t art” types. No wonder the gallery owner looks so “happy” to see him.
The gallery owner tries to give Alex a heads-up on what type of art is selling in the current market and Alex is all (paraphrasing) “Maybe MY work would be selling if you showed it more, Mr. Martin!” And Mr. Martin, who has clearly had it with tortured artists who’d rather starve than compromise their “artistic vision,” basically says “I do show your trite little landscapes, Alex. Nobody’s buying that tired crap.” Am I supposed to sympathize with Mr. Martin? Because I totally do.
Talking about his art: The woman, after all, had liked it. And she easily appeared more intelligent than any of Mr. Martin’s collectors. And: He knew that no matter how hungry he got he would never throw paint at a canvas and pretend it was art. 1) Hah! I knew it! 2) It’s page 18 and I loathe the “hero,” but there is plenty of time for character growth (please, Lord, let there be character growth). 3) I’m starting to wonder if Goodkind’s house is full of wall-to-wall Thomas Kinkade.
Yet when Alex looked at the way other people lived, the things they did, the things they believed, he thought that he was the sanest person he knew. He often wondered how people could be so deluded about things, like the way they would believe it was art if someone else simply said it was. OMG this guy is SO BITTER about abstract art outselling his landscapes. SO VERY BITTER.
Alex is still avoiding Bethany instead of, I don’t know, maybe telling her “Hey, you seem nice, but I’m not interested.” And then he says this: “No, I mean she’d rather be out going to clubs and drinking than doing anything with her life. In fact, she wants to get me drunk for my birthday. There’s more to life than just partying.” WHOA. ALEX IS SO DEEP. OMG, WHY IS THIS 27-YR-OLD TRUE ARTISTE WHO ISN’T DOING ANYTHING WITH HIS LIFE BESIDES PAINTING LANDSCAPES THAT DON’T SELL STILL SINGLE? WHY HASN’T SOMEONE ALREADY SNATCHED UP THIS PRIME SPECIMEN OF JUDGMENTAL ASS? I AM FLABBERGASTED!
So now he’s inherited 50k acres in Maine. Ridiculous restrictions on the inheritance are in play. Taking bets now on whether the imaginary landscape Alex painted is connected to this surprise inheritance. (Just kidding! We all know it is.)
Oh. His name is Alexander Rahl. So in other words, this book is an exercise in How to Try Something New Without Trying Anything New by Writing a Sword of Truth Book Thinly Disguised as Urban Fantasy. (Oh, haha! Goodreads lists it as Sword of Truth #15.5)
They said there was brain damage that couldn’t be reversed. While they weren’t exactly sure what had caused the damage to her brain, they said that, among other things, it caused her to sometimes become violent. They said that such damage was not reversible. There is SO MUCH REPETITION. I hope this pattern doesn’t continue.
Dear lord, the ableism. I almost wish I had the Kindle version so I could run a search to see how many times he uses words like crazy and insane. (It seems like A LOT even—especially—for a book with an institutionalized side character.)
About Bethany again: She was a living, breathing example of superficial, and willfully so. She seemed to have no interests other than that she had a kind of odd, narrow focus on him and the two of them having a good time—or, at least, what was a good time by her definition. Okay. I think I have the measure of this now. Bethany is a villain using her “superficial” feminine wiles to get close to Alex. There is literally no other explanation for a woman willingly spending time with this douche canoe.
“But I like you.”
“I don’t know.” She paused a moment. “You get me hot,” she finally said, falling back on her lusty voice, as if lust was magic that could banish any objections. He imagined that it very well might with most men, but he wasn’t most men. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! O. M. G. I. AM. DYING. “Not like other girlsguys™.”
So someone walked into the gallery, paid cash for all of Alex’s paintings, then scribbled obscenities all over them with a permanent marker (the only one specified being “F*CK YOU ASSHOLE) and told Mr. Martin to give them back to Alex. 1) The real hero has obviously arrived. Truly, this man is a champion of the people. 2) I really want him to be an abstract artist who bought the six paintings with the pocket change left over after he bought a Porsche with the proceeds from his last commission.
Jax the Mystery Woman says something to Alex that his mother recently said to him, so he flips out and slams her up against a wall, then demands an explanation and thinks about how he could crush her throat. 1) His reaction is completely unjustified. 2) Jax doesn’t knee him in the balls and take him down right then and there. I am disappointed, Jax. You’re fired.
“By the way, covens have to do with witches—thirteen of them—not sorcerers. I’d not even like to contemplate thirteen witch women all together in one place at once. They’re known for their rather rash temperament. Be glad they can’t get here; they’d simply gut you and be done with it.” I would like to see an Alex-gutting. If someone starts a Gofundme to help the witches get here, I WILL DONATE!
As Alex turned onto Atlantic Street, headed home, he saw a red glow in the sky. Within a few blocks it became clear that it was a fire. A house in the distance was burning. A red glow lit billowing black smoke. So we’ve decided to stick with the needless repetition, then? Cool, cool. These little repetitions within the same paragraph are almost more annoying than the repetitive dialogue infodumps and introspection. How much shorter would this book be without all of the repetition?
Ben is dead. Should have seen that coming, but I was thrown off by his being the grandfather instead of the uncle.
Chapter 14 is really short, but it still manages to be full of repetition, you know, in case we’d all forgotten how much Alex hates texting and thinks Bethany is pretty but shallow. And then he answers the door and Bethany shoots him and it all feels worth it somehow.
The first sentence of Ch. 15: Before Alex was able to dodge more than a few inches to the side, the gun went off. On the very next page: He’d had time to move only inches before she’d pulled the trigger. The more of these I find (and I’m not noting them all), the more I wonder. Has Goodkind Ann Riced his editors, or what?
Alex just killed a dude in a manner that suggested he knew what he was doing. I don’t remember any prior mention of his having martial arts training.
Bethany is indeed a villain. She occasionally refers to herself in the third person. And she’s there to rape Alex after she’s done tasing him into submission. On the one hand, ugh, why? On the other hand, this is weirdly refreshing and I can’t wait for Alex to be victim-blamed. (I am so petty.)
Alex didn’t think she was all that familiar with technology. He thinks this after Bethany accidentally tases herself by pulling the trigger while her skin is in contact with the Taser barbs in his chest. Despite the fact that she’s perfectly versed in the use of cell phones and was using the Taser like a pro prior to this. In other words, Alex has no reason to think this.
HAHAHAHA!!! Alex got slut-shamed.
He appears to have zero trauma from the sexual assault. At least he spared a thought for the guy he killed, I guess. Well, one of them.
The heroic painting vandalizer is not, in fact, an abstract artist. Disappointment. Oooh! Unless this Radell Cain guy he works for is really RC Dillion, the artist whose abstract works Alex was looking down his nose at earlier.
Oh, goody. A repeat of the “magic is like technology” speech. I really wanted another one of those.
Ye gods, this “what would happen if all of our technology stopped working” speech is SO VERY PREACHY. Also, the word “filth” features quite a lot.
This whole Prophesied Chosen One thing is so, so tired.
Now we’re onto “true art is magic” and I’m even more suspicious that Radell Cain is RC Dillion, abstract (and therefore not “true”) artist. “Art—good art—involves principles of balance, flow, placement, and composition, among other things. These elements must be in harmony, each element working with all the others, in order for art to have a deep meaning to us, for it to truly touch our souls.” Jax says this, but I still hear Goodkind sneering at abstract artists.
Jax tells Alex she knows he’s The One because she spied on him magically through his studio mirror and saw him cry for his dead grandfather and then get angry and pound his fist on his desk as he cried. I cannot with how lame this sounds: “You were angry at death for taking him. You were raging against death itself. You raged against death because life means that much to you.” OMG I read it aloud and it sounds even stupider.
Now they’re getting Jax some Earth clothes so she can blend in better and I can’t help thinking “Obligatory changing room montage!” Also, I should start keeping a list of things this book makes me think Terry Goodkind must hate. So far we’ve got:
- Women who text
- Abstract art
- Being concise
- Distressed jeans
- Women who buy and wear distressed jeans
That magic shop Confessor reference feels horribly shoehorned in there. “Woman of Mystery” my ass.
“The [magic] this world misses we have, but we’re going to lose it just so a few people can seize power for themselves. Everything we have is going to be taken from us. It’s all going to be destroyed at the cost of millions of lives just so a few people can grab power.” At this point I’m estimating this book would be a good 150-200 pages shorter if characters could refrain from repeating themselves and thinking/talking in circles.
Five seemingly unnecessary paragraphs dedicated to a torture/interrogation method the painting defacer likes to use. I’m predicting this very thing shows up later, and I’m giving myself a cookie when it does.
While he was licensed to carry in Nebraska, that license wasn’t valid in other places, especially Boston, where the law took a dim view of people protecting themselves. And in the next paragraph: Alex had a very clear-cut belief about his fundamental right to his own life. He didn’t think that he should have to die just because a criminal wanted to take his life. He had one life and he believed that he had the right to defend it, simple as that. And in the next paragraph: He wasn’t willing to die because of the dogmatic principles of imperious public officials. It was his life, not theirs. Every single one of these little preachy, repetitive rants feels like an author intrusion. Adding to the list of things Goodkind probably hates:
- Gun control
Alex watched her sign her name. He hadn’t known her last name before. After dropping this little tidbit, Jax’s last name isn’t revealed. I’d bet a box of doughnuts it’s Amnell.
When they finally entered the big, bright room at the end of the corridor, several of the woman clustered near the television looked up, but then went back to their show. There were a few other woman scattered around the room but Alex didn’t pay any attention to them. Fun with typos! At first I thought how much more interesting this scene would be if they weren’t typos and the room was full of one woman’s clones, but then I read it again and now I’m hearing Animal from the Muppets shouting “WOMAN!” and that’s even better!
Oh, for @#%$’s sake. I’d decided to stop noting things like this because there are just too damn many, but this is waaaaay beyond the pale. This is all from the same conversation, and it’s only a small sample of all the drugging and feeling and caring repetition in this chapter:
- In her drugged state she probably wouldn’t be able to understand it all, or to care a great deal.
- “She’s drugged. She won’t feel it. I know. I’m drugged the same way and I don’t really feel much of anything or care.”
- “She won’t feel it much or care.”
- “This drugged up, neither of us will feel it or care.”
- “She won’t really be aware of the pain, or care.”
BUT WILL THEY FEEL IT, THOUGH? WILL THEY CARE? WILL THEY??? Also, I should mention that all of this was part of the obligatory threat of raping/torturing the woman to gain the alleged hero’s compliance. Ah, well. At least the action has picked up enough to distract me from what an asshole Alex is.
Jax wiped a weary hard across her face. Poor hard! Let it get some rest!
ALL of the villain’s henchmen are giant beefcakes. ALL of them. Why?
The host on the TV was fawning over an actress who thought she was brilliant because she happened to have been born beautiful and read lines written by other people. It amazed Alex what qualified a person for being worthy of adulation. Whelp, we’re at a lull in the action and I suddenly have nothing to distract me from what an asshole Alex is. Jax, who also happened to be born beautiful, is lucky she kills people for a living instead of acting. Otherwise Alex might scorn her too. Also added to the list of things Goodkind must hate:
And I’m going to go out on a limb and throw in:
- Women in general
So they’ve figured out that Cain wants Alex to open some sort of gateway so he can transport weapons and technology and stuff to Jax’s world and rule with an iron fist after he strips the world of magic. This is offered without a blush or a sideways glance or even the least hint of irony regarding Alex’s stance on gun control. I think my brain is melting.
OH MY FREAKING GREAT AUNT GERTRUDE I WAS RIGHT. I THOUGHT IT WAS TOO STUPID TO BE TRUE BUT NO. RADELL CAIN IS RC FREAKING DILLION AND HE’S GOING TO BE DEFEATED BY ALEX’S “SUPERIOR” ARTISTIC VISION. ALL OF THAT “ABSTRACT ART ISN’T ART” GARBAGE IS ACTUALLY CENTRAL TO THE PLOT AND I HATE THIS BOOK SO MUCH AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!
So, now that I’ve guessed the ending I’m going to be really bored for the next forty-odd pages. :/
When she handed him the knife, he started to wipe the blood off. Jax stopped him. “No, leave it.”
Alex frowned at her. “Why?”
“These blades were made to draw blood. It should have a taste to wake it from its long sleep to its purpose.” What knife-respecting assassin tells someone to sheath a dirty blade?
“I love you, Jax Amnell.” I owe myself a box of doughnuts.
Oh ho, now she’s all “trust me no matter what” and “never doubt that I love you” before he goes to sleep. She might as well write “I’m ditching you and going it alone without telling you my plan” in reflective paint on her forehead. (I hope her forehead’s big enough. Maybe she could get it printed on a T-shirt instead.)
Alex held his hand out. “I need the knife.”
Radell Cain’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”
“To open the gateway.”
“And how is the knife going to do that?”
“Opening the gateway requires the person named by the Law of Nines. Right?”
Cain studied his face for a moment. “Go on.”
Alex spread his hands. “So how the hell is the gateway supposed to know it’s me, know I’m the one named by the Law of Nines? Do you think that because it’s me I can simply say ‘Open sesame’ and the gateway will recognize me as the one and open? There is no magic in this world, so how is the gateway to know that I’m the one that is able to open it?”
“I give up, how?” Cain asked with clear distaste for the game Alex was playing. (I FEEL YOU, CAIN. I FEEL YOU. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.)
“Yes. It needs my blood to recognize that I’m the one who is able to open it.” GAH!!! THE WHOLE BOOK IS WRITTEN LIKE THIS. Here, let me fix it for you:
Alex held his hand out. “I need the knife.”
Radell Cain’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”
“I think we need my blood to open the gateway.”
THERE. I just saved you half a page of circular, repetitive conversation. YOU’RE WELCOME.
“For the gateway to work […] one of the trees has to be removed [from a drawing on the magical gateway control panel], just like I removed one in that painting I gave you.”
Jax was frowning in earnest. “How are you supposed to know which one to remove?”
“Easy. You take out the one that doesn’t fit the composition.” Alex laid a finger on one of the trees. “This one spoils the composition of the drawing. It doesn’t belong. An artist would know that. I knew it the instant I first saw it. Radell Cain didn’t see it because he wasn’t really an artist.” . . . . . . . . . . . . @#$% you, book. I hate you so much.