Goodkind’s ‘Faith of the Fallen’ follows effortlessly from the previous ‘Soul of the Fire' where both Richard and Kahlan have banished the Chimes from the world, thus restoring magic. However, not without price, as the first two hundred pages are given over to Kahlan’s rehabilitation (she conveniently can’t use magic to heal herself) back in Richard’s home forests interspersed with more development of the Sister of the Dark, Death’s Mistress, Nicci, as she gains her freedom from the Imperial Order and Jagang (roasting his able lieutenant to death along the way).
Goodkind spends considerable time explaining why Nicci is as emotionless as she is, detailing her childhood brainwashing by her severely misguidedly charitable mother (who fails to learn that whilst her intentions are good, her actions ultimately cause greater suffering) and subsequent emotional problems as she grew to adulthood in the Sisters Palace. References to Richard’s arrival under the captivity of Verna in previous novels are heralded as her personal epiphany.
So by the third hundred set of pages we are neatly in position for Richard to use prophecy to disavow all interest in helping the fight against the Order and for Nicci to turn up and cast a maternity spell linking her to Kahlan and giving her power of life and death. This emotional weapon forces Richard to follow her into a farcical ‘oblivion’ as she seeks the answer to a question she cannot fathom.
There is a decidedly interesting and humanizing section where Kahlan places the culpability for all the death and destruction on the ex-Prelate, Ann, emphasizing that it is in fact her obsession with prophecy that ensures it must come about.
Nevertheless as Nicci and Richard travel a lonely path south to the Old World, Kahlan’s metamorphosis into a true death’s mistress commences as she (in true Ce’Nedra style) leads the ragtag army against the Imperial Order in guerrilla fashion. The numbers of troops tend to get overly large and the inevitable volume of deaths displayed as purely numbers rather than people. In fact (other than the wedding of Warren and Verna) most of Kahlan's role in the novel is reduced to general as battle after battle is fought. To be honest the repetition of action meant those pages were read quickly in order to return to the more interesting plot following Richard.
So, Richard and Nicci make it to the worst town in the Old World where he continues to confound her. With his usual charisma he encourages growth of a communal spirit with his helpful style of free enterprise that brings out the best in people. In some respects (and this is fairly novel in the fantasy genre) Goodkind is attempting a social and political criticism/comment. From Richard’s incarceration to his rebellious carving of the main entrance statue on the new palace we accelerate through the rest of the novel as it is ultimately Nicci who realizes the truth of what she has become and follow Kahlan as she finds to save Aydrindil.
As ever Goodkind’s characterization is exceptional (with the sole exception of Cara who is overly drawn, and her relationships with Richard and Kahlan too artificial, though softened when she meets Benjamin) his plot lines keep moving at a steady plod, galloping at the right times to draw the reader into a frisson of excitement. Goodkind again elevates Richard Rahl beyond the normal, emphasizing that the inevitable change that sweeps behind this war wizard can also be achieved by simple calm and goodness all the while building his character upon the Wizard’s Sixth Rule.
As good as Jordan, and grandiose as Eddings, the latest installment of the Sword of Truth is another fine example of a fantasy author at the peak of his literary powers.
Review by travelswithacanadian
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