The Omen Machine by Terry Goodkind

Rating 7.7/10
There is plenty in The Omen Machine for you to enjoy.

An accident leads to the discovery of a mysterious machine that has rested hidden deep underground for countless millennia. The machine awakens to begin issuing a series of increasingly alarming, if minor, omens. The omens turn out to be astonishingly accurate, and ever more ominous.

As Zedd tries to figure out how to destroy the sinister device, the machine issues a cataclysmic omen involving Richard and Kahlan, foretelling an impending event beyond anyone′s ability to stop. As catastrophe approaches, the machine then reveals that it is within its power to withdraw the omen ... in exchange for an impossible demand.

The Sword of Truth (SoT) was one of the first epic fantasy series that I read, consuming my teenage years and early twenties as I waited patiently and eagerly devoured each instalment in the twelve book series. While Goodkind copped a lot of flak for his "preachy" style of writing becoming more prevalent as the series progressed, book twelve did everything the final book of a series should do - it tied up every loose end that had been introduced over the course of the series and delivered a conclusion that was epic in scope and immensely satisfying. After everything Richard and Kahlan have been through, and given the magnitude of "evil" forces they defeated, it's hard for me to imagine how Goodkind could come up with a new Richard and Kahlan story that can compare to the SoT series and make sense.

Enter The Omen Machine, a machine hidden within the depths of The People's Palace whose one line prophecies have a habit of manifesting in the real world faster than Richard and Kahlan can react. Without knowing it, this is exactly what I was looking for, a credible threat with real consequences that Richard and the team can resolve over the course of a book. This is a story that should work, but while reading the book I couldn't shake the feeling that something just wasn't right. The world was built, the characters were established and yet Goodkind chose to play it safe, chose to challenge the characters physically but not metaphysically, and chose to resolve the main threat by means that were so poorly foreshadowed that I am going to call it Deus Ex Machina. There were so many opportunities for Goodkind to really make a splash with this story, and yet he steered clear of them, preferring to stay in his comfort zone and even returning to the preachy writing that caused so much derision during the middle books of SoT. The concept is great, it has been well woven into the SoT mythos, but overall The Omen Machine just smacks of lazy story telling. So much so that I started seeing these little mistakes that were inconsistent with the world and characters that had been established over the previous twelve books.

The lazy story telling also wormed it's way into the character development. All our favourite characters are back, and that seems to be enough for Goodkind in terms of developing protagonists. Richard and Kahlan are their usual selves, and despite the credibility of the threat, neither of them show any respect for it, and at no point do they gain respect for the threat during the story. The lack of even the most rudimentary character arc is concerning with Richard and Kahlan reaching the end of the story by being belligerent and stubborn, having learnt nothing along the way. Worse still are Zedd, Cara and the rest of the support cast. They have gone from being complex individuals with their own stories to tell to being nothing more than sound boards for Richard as he tries to decipher every riddle. It goes a little something like this - Richard says something profound, Zedd rephrases what Richard just said in layman's terms, Richard has another epiphany and says some more profound things, rinse/repeat.  What happened to the enigmatic and arrogant Zedd, First Wizard of Aydindril who knows the answers to everything? What happened to the brutal yet caring Cara, Mord Sith and protector of the Lord Rahl? These characters are shells of their former selves, and add nothing to the story. Except for the introduction of a few mysterious antagonists who are more that what they seem, I am very disappointed with the way Goodkind treated the characters in this story.

One thing that hasn't waned is Goodkind's technical writing skills. His use of very short chapters were off putting at first, but looking back on it I think it was a very clever ploy as it kept me going "just one more chapter" every time I tried to put the book down. His pacing was consistent, his use of language was appropriate, the book was so easy to read that I had finished it before I even realised that I had so many issues with it. If Goodkind can fix the issues with his characters and just take a risk with his storytelling, he will be able to do his technical writing justice and get back to producing high quality works in a world that I love exploring.

I was quite excited when I first heard about The Omen Machine and the underlying concept. It made a lot of sense to me that the biggest threat to Richard and Kahlan is the rediscovery of ancient and powerful magic, and I would have gladly read a few stand alone stories aimed at dealing with these new threats. Unfortunately, The Omen Machine fails to cash in on this concept with Goodkind delivering a substandard product that has been lazily written and fails to engage with the reader. If you are a big fan of Goodkind and his works (like me) there is still plenty in The Omen Machine for you to enjoy, but I don't feel like there is enough in there to satisfy readers new to the world of Richard and Kahlan. While I will definitely be back to read the second book in this new series, I will be taking it on with far more trepidation and will be far less forgiving of a substandard performance.
Ryan Lawler, 6.9/10

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The Omen Machine is the start of a new series by Terry Goodkind, continuing in the world of The Sword of Truth. Reading the names of Kahlan and Richard in the first line of the synopsis made my day when the book was announced, and Goodkind didn’t disappoint! Once again descending into the world of Confessors and Mord-Sith felt great, and the familiarity of the characters almost had me squealing like a fanboy again. Reading the series The Sword Of Truth is mandatory if you want to enjoy this book, you could consider it the 12th novel in this series. On to the story!

With the war being ended in Confessor, the D’Haran Empire is at peace. Hoping that all their troubles have finally come to an end, Richard and Kahlan settle down in their respective roles. However, it’s not long before trouble starts to brew again. The People’s Palace is stricken with shock and grief as several soothsayers brutally kill of their own kin to protect them from what they have seen in their visions. Richard’s disbelief in prophecy ignites his skepticism and he frantically tries to get to the bottom of this. Visiting the residing soothsayers nets him a lot of vague omens, that all seem to be from a book of recurring prophecies. As the people grow more troubled by the large amount of prophecies coming true, tensions rise between them and their Lord Rahl. Richard, after all, does not approve of letting prophecy lead someone’s life and stubbornly refuses to acquiesce. Where are these omens coming from and what is the darkness they are referring too? Time is running out and the only clues point to a place where no one dares to tread…

“Dark things stalking you, running you down. You won’t be able to escape them…”

The Omen Machine is a Terry Goodkind novel through and through. Once again prophecy gets Richard and his friends in trouble, while Richard keeps on drilling everyone about reasoning and free will. It’s great to see how much he has grown since his life in the Hartlands, yet still retains his old qualities of responsibility and honesty. These do make it very hard for him to keep his subjects on the right track though…

The engaging writing style will have you sitting at the edge of your seat as the story enfolds. I’m glad that Goodkind is utilizing his thriller-writing skills, which he showed off in The Law Of Nines earlier. The sense of mystery and haste make this a fast-paced book that will surely encourage you to read for longer than you intended! A negative point would be that our other old friends, like Zedd, Nathan and Cara, play only very minor roles. But then again, The Omen Machine isn’t called a Richard and Kahlan novel for nothing I guess! I’m already looking forward to reading the next instalment in this new series!
Koen Peters, 8.5/10

This The Omen Machine book review was written by and Koen Peters

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All reviews for: The Sword of Truth Series

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The Omen Machine reader reviews

from Holland

6-stars

It's not up to par with the rest of the series. The characters are acting contrary to their nature, being plain dumb, unbelievable stubborn or annoying know-it-alls. To be honest, the only interesting characters are the omen machine and the newly introduced baddies. A few plotholes here and there, a story that seems rushed. Personally I think an editor should have picked out at last a few of the errors. His writing is stil pretty good though which makes the book above average. I hope the next one will be better (a lot).

from Jakarta, Indonesia

9-stars

A brilliant book. Goodkind has excelled himself, although it is a bit 'jerky' at times the technical skill and imagination involved in Goodkind's writing is amazing and it feels very good to have Richard and Kahlan back.

7.6/10 from 3 reviews

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