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539 of 608 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2006
Hear me out; everyone seems to be writing glowing reviews for this book and I am not going to be one of them. Read on though, at least try and appreciate a different viewpoint.

I have been a fan of Terry Goodkind from the start. I consider myself well read in this genre of fantasy and have bought each book the day it came out with great anticipation. The last few books have been, to say the least, mostly disappointing and have failed to capture the magic of the first few books. I kept my peace after reading them, hoping and expecting that he would come out with a book to redeem himself and set the storyline on course again. And so I eagerly awaited Phantom; Chainfire was good, not great, but good and I had hoped that Phantom would get to it again.

Not so. I have a number of issues with the book, so here they are.

First Minor Issue - Everyone is painstakingly, ravishingly beautiful. Got it Terry, no more needs to be said. If I read one more time how beautiful and heartbreakingly gorgeous (but deadly at the same time) that Nicci is, I will scream. Or put down the book and be very upset.

First Major Issue - Life is sacred. Got it. No really, I get IT! I am tired of the pedantic drivel that spouts out of Richard (and now other characters) at will. I thought Faith of the Fallen was a monumental piece of work, that was the truly last excellent, innovative and thought provoking book Goodkind wrote. In trying to continue to tirelessly hammer home his quasi-religious ideological "life is worth living" theology, the book really starts to lose drive. Every time Richard pauses for breath and talks to someone, I know that somewhere in the next few pages he is going to start preaching about how sacred life is and how people have the choice of living life free, blah blah blah. I can appreciate a theological tone to a fantasy novel, used correctly it can certainly be a vehicle for adding depth to literature. TG is driving it so hard though in this last few books, that it comes out as tired and fanatical - like something I would see on TV at 1:00 in the morning begging me to see the light of Jesus.

Second Major Issue - I have a guilty secret; I still enjoy when they discover new things about magic. But on top of that guilty secret is that TG is a very self serving writer and has destroyed his own credibility in the world he has created. I am tired (again) of having monumental odds placed before characters and they somehow find an obscure magical reference, are able to save the world (or the situation) and life moves on. This is not realistic. Magic in itself is not realistic! But the way in which magic is implemented and used should be realistic. Magic is not (and should not) be a catch all that can solve all problems, is the crutch in a time of need, etc. TG uses magic here as a crutch for moving the plot; he had some good plot twists in this book but whenever he seems to dig himself a hole and can't get out - Whala! A new form of magic, a new spell, a new way of looking at a thousand year old problem and Richard has his solution.

I would go on, but I won't. Overal (if you haven't read it yet) the book moved the plot forward towards a final batter/confrontation with Jagang and the end of the world (read Tarmon Gaiden), the characters rush around (it appears) aimlessly, but some grand finale is being planned. A ton of new magic is discovered, and hidden depths of the first Wizard Barracas are explored.

Interestingly enough I enjoyed the book. I was up late last night finishing it and couldn't put it down. Some of the old excitement has once again entered back into TG's work. But I felt I would be remiss if I didn't point out the glaring issues in his work. If people want to congratulate him on the best book ever written, have a ball. I hope you have an open mind when reading this, at the end of the day I am a Sword of Truth fan and have all of his books in hard cover and will continue to buy them when they come out. I think TG has some great energy and I am awaiting the last book to come out - but this does NOT excuse poor writing.
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159 of 187 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2006
Terry Goodkind's latest novel in The Sword of Truth series is quite a bit shorter than the previous installments. Weighing in at a mere 587 pages it wouldn't even counter-balance a single gallon of milk. On the up-side, this means that he has given us roughly the same amount of plot as his other books (not counting Wizard's First Rule) by merely cutting back on his infamous 10-page-at-a-time interspersions of philosophical meanderings. Actually, if you want to skip the philosophical bits entirely, they were all lumped together between pages 114 and 215. The rest of this book is all action, and very exciting.

Let's see... Without spoiling the plot, here's the basics you'll want to know about. Scenes with Jagang remain as graphic and unpleasant as ever. Rachel makes a return appearance after too long an absence, and remember wicked little Princess Violet from Wizard's First Rule? She's back, badder than ever, and has a new tongue in her mouth.

Very enjoyable book, but I think the last sentence might have been the most exciting: "BE SURE TO LOOK FOR THE NEXT AND CONCLUDING BOOK IN THE SWORD OF TRUTH SERIES." I know - an 11-book series seems like a strange number to conclude on, but I need closure, so I won't complain.

To those readers not familiar with this series, I recommend going in order starting with Wizard's First Rule. However, Goodkind does insert enough backstory throughout Chainfire to make it possible to understand what's going on if you start with just the first book in this concluding trilogy. (*note* I had originally written that you could start with just this book, but on thinking about it, that would probably be a bit too confusing. The amount of backstory in this book was much less than Chainfire, and served mostly to help me remember the details I had forgotten since I last read a Sword of Truth book 1 year ago.)

In brief, the series goes as follows:

Wizard's First Rule (first and best in the series)
Stone of Tears
Blood of The Fold (plot of the overall series is introduced)
Temple of The Winds
Soul of the Fire
Faith of the Fallen (Best book other than Wizard's First Rule)
The Pillars of Creation (recommend skipping)
Naked Empire
Chainfire (first book in the concluding trilogy)
Final Book (name not yet known)
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57 of 67 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2006
Since I've read the previous 9 books in this series, I felt obligated to read the 10th. Ever since "Faith of Fallen" (Book 6), I've felt this series has been on a downward slide. Phantom continues this slide. It has several glaring problems:

1. Goodkind's philosophy lacks depth and as a result, the long discussions on the value of life are tedious and repetitive: OK, we get it, the Order is bad. In this book, the first two hundred pages is mainly a monologue on how bad the Order is. Truly, no army or society could function under the system the Order has created. The Order is absurd. As best as I can tell, the Order is now a mixture of Sado-Communism-with Cult of Personality thrown in for good mix. And yes, we understand that life is sacred. All the characters now spout the same unending drivel about the sanctity of life. Yep, got that too. I get it -- I'm pretty sure I understood all this by the end of Faith of the Fallen but now 5 books later, I'm still beat over the head with it. The philosophy is pretty one-dimensional at the end of the day. Life is valuable vs. Life is not.

2. Goodkind is strangely fascinated with sadism, especially rape and child abuse: this book is rather sickening in its continual description and emphasis on the mistreatment of women and girls.

3. Goodkind has no concept of how actual armies work: We're supposed to believe that the Order's main armies is "millions" of men strong moving in one massive blob. Of course, it's supplied by an agrarian society and relies on horse drawn wagons to carry its supplies over hundreds of miles. Supplying an army that is larger than the combined size of the Union and Confederate armies of the Civil War (and pretty much any army, pre-WW2) with horse drawn carts and no true industry is downright ridiculous. This army would starve to death or, more likely, die in large numbers from massive dysentery or other diseases -- the Order which practices no hygiene whatsoever seems remarkably disease proof.

4. Monologue: One word says it all. Characters no longer talk to each other, they just preach or go on for endless pages in monologues. Even the extended discussions on the workings of magic border on the ridiculous. I miss the days of witty banter between Zedd and the other characters or real discussions between the characters.

5. Richard misses Kahlan: in case you don't know this, you will be told this every other page or so that mentions Richard. Heck, just walking around and breathing causes him to miss her. It's ridiculous after a while.

5. The plot feels increasingly contrived: VERY MINOR SPOILER, but a major character faces the threat of rape and avoids it through a plainly contrived plot device.

6. Philosophical inconsistency: MINOR SPOILER: In a remarkable twist, our main characters begin to embrace the concept of "total war" -- how that jives with the philosophy of "life is sacred", I have no idea. How the D'Harans and the other characters' increasingly blind cult-of-personality devotion to Richard jives with the philosophy of running your own life, I'm not sure either. Is he a benign Kim Jong 'IL? How they all willingly buy into the total war concept without blinking is beyond me too.

So if you've read 10 books, read this but save your money and wait for the paperback or check it out from the library. If you are wondering whether the series is worth reading, read the first 4 or 5 books and then just stop.
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43 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2006
I started reading this series at the age of 18, when Wizard's First Rule was published in 1997. I thought it was wonderful; the pacing was brisk, the story was interesting, and the characters were, for the most part, likeable. The next few books were nearly as enjoyable, although Goodkind's seeming fixation on rape, torture, and domination got a little irritating after a while. Before I continue the review, I feel the need to elaborate on this point.

I am not a prude, and I don't have a problem reading things that make me feel uncomfortable, provided they have a purpose in the story. For example, rape plays a focal point in Stephen Donaldson's pioneering Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series, and it never really bothered me reading about it because it was absolutely necessary to the plot and added to the fallibility of the main character. In contrast, Goodkind uses rape to show us how "bad" the "bad guys" are. In this case, it becomes a clumsy tool, used to later justify atrocities committed in the name of liberty against these "very, very bad guys". In Goodkind's universe, if you put an attractive woman in a room (and ALL of the female protagonists in the Sword of Truth series are attractive, of course) with a man who is not working for Richard, she will be raped. To make matters worse, Goodkind will write just enough detail to make the reader feel a bit dirty, like a peeping Tom watching something he shouldn't.

In addition to constant references to rape, the violence that's been everpresent throughout the Sword of Truth novels is also here in Phantom. That is not to say that the book is overly graphic. It's just sadistic. In order to beat home the same tired point (that the bad guys in this book are bad, bad, bad!), Goodkind heaps extra helpings of abuse on Kahlan and Rachel, both of whom are in the hands of villians for most of the book. Again, I'm not opposed to violence in writing; indeed, George Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series is far more gristly than Goodkind's work, but it manages to be that way without feeling sadistic, without leaving the reader wondering whether the author tortured animals as a child. Oh, and let's not forget that most of Goodkind's anger is directed at women in this book (via rape and brutal beatings). I don't know if this is a coincidence, but it certainly is more than a little troubling.

On to the story. There actually isn't much plot movement here: as people have already stated, Richard is, once again, captured and emasculated, new plot elements are introduced seemingly at a whim (when writing himself into a corner, Mr. Goodkind need only wave his wand for solutions, as evidenced by his absurd treatment of the Book of Shadows, a plot twist that decapitates the first book of the series, rendering its events entirely without meaning), and we're served a heaping spoonful of very basic philosophy.

The philosophical component of Phantom is especially difficult to read because:

1. Goodkind rehashes what we've already read in Faith of the Fallen and Naked Empire, but does a poorer job of it. There is very little here we haven't seen before.

2. The philosphy is very, very simple, like something a high school freshman might write about after reading The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged. I'm sorry, but when you're dealing with ideas that are this simple (e.g. liberty is important!), you simply cannot sound insightful or profound. It's almost painful reading this stuff, knowing that Goodkind sees himself as some sort of visionary when he's reaching conclusions that most people reach when they're teenagers.

3. The Cold War is over. When Ayn Rand wrote her books, at least she was speaking against an ideology that she felt was threatening the fabric of individualism. Goodkind is setting out to wage war against a paper tiger. Thank you, Terry...we already know that Communism (e.g. The Imperial Order) is flawed. You're preaching to the choir.

4. It's blatantly hypocritical: the entire foundation of Goodkind's philosophy is used as justification for killing numerous innocent children in the Old World. Why is this okay? Because according to Jebra (via her description of Order soldiers teaching Dharan children to become merciless killers), The Imperial Order brainwashes people so absolutely that they become little more than animals and are unredeemable. Interestingly, the soldiers of the Dharan Empire, who were also little more than beasts/rapists before Richard became the Lord Rhal, are now paragons of virtue and liberty. For some reason, they were able to change completely after Richard gave them one speech, but the people of the Old World do not deserve the same treatment. It's baffling.

As the second book of a trilogy, Phantom closes leaving us with more questions than answers, but that's the nature of trilogies, and we can only hope that Goodkind ties things together in the final book.

Oh, and if it's possible, the protagonists of this book are less likeable than ever. Kahlan and Richard's relationship, which is so uninteresting that the author needs to constantly separate them in order to keep the book readable, continues to lack anything resembling depth (if you've watched the new Star Wars trilogy and squirmed uncomfortably through the atrociously-written dialogue between Anakin and Amidala, you'll know what I'm talking about). Furthermore (as some here have pointed out), Zedd, Cara, Nicci, Anne, etc. all now behave in one of two ways: either they question the validity of Richard's assertions, even though he has always been right and they never have, or they fawn over him tirelessly after coming to see how right he was all along. Richard is so self-confident and idealistic that he's become the archetypal "hero" figure that is indicative of derivative fantasy. Morally, he can do no wrong, which is unfortunate because it makes him far less interesting and believable than Richard the Boundary Warden from the first book in the series.

All of these problems would be a little more palatable if the book were well-written. Unfortunately, it's not. Borrowing the words of others, Goodkind has never been a great writer, only a good storyteller. Now that the story is quickly falling apart, there is little to enjoy. I guess this begs the question, have I gotten that much older and jaded, or has this series really descended so far?
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2006
...reading Goodkind's latest crapfest will leave you with mingled feelings of pain and rage. "What the hell is wrong with Terry Goodkind?" you'll ask yourself as you punch the book cover repeatedly. "Why did I buy this and subject myself to hours of mind numbing drivel?", as you begin beating yourself over the head with Phantom. Yes folks, Goodkind's done it again. Only one book away from the conclusion of what was once one of the most promising fantasy series ever, and Goodkind is still spewing out the same sophomoric dialogue (or monologue, I guess. No one is really allowed to talk anymore except Richard.) So here's a quick breakdown of TG's latest effort:

The good news: - The plot (when one exists) is actually kind of interesting. While some of the previous books (Naked Empire) basically had no plot or action, this one does have some interesting stuff going on. Of course, it is the penultimate book in the series, so it damn well better have some action!

The bad news: Where to start? Oh yes...

- Preachy (as usual). Same old stuff here. Richard the philosopher continues his quest to bore the people of the world to death with the same ideas he's been spouting for at least 4 books now. Honestly, how many books do we need to learn that "life is precious", "freedom must be fought for", "socialism is evil", blah blah blah. And the worst part is, Goodkind thinks these are such novel ideas. I can just see him approaching literary orgasm as he sits in front of his computer thinking "oh man, now I'll have Richard preach to this crowd about how great life is! Damn I'm good!" Gahhh.

- Static characters. No character development for several books now, and this one is no different. Richard and Kahlan's relationship remains dull as a spoon. Zedd remains old and foolish (because Richard is never wrong, remember?). Nicci remains beautiful (how many times must we be told this? We get it, she's hot!) The soldiers of the Order are ultra-evil - which is just a vehicle to allow some of the morally questionable things Richard does to them.

I suppose there's a lot more, but I'm too angry to write anymore. Check out some of the other 1 star reviews, and you'll get the picture. I know the majority of you reading this will buy the book anyway, just so you can complete the series (same problem I have), just don't expect much. Goodkind's golden days are long past.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2006
After reading Chainfire, I had some hope that Terry Goodkind had regained some of the creativity that had been lost in his later books. Frankly, the story has been declining after the Stone of Tears. Unfortunately all the things that have made the later books fail to entertain is here. Richard continues to be the lecturer instead of leader and there are long drawn out lectures on the meaning magical symbols. Much of the arguments have the feel of just being made up to fill in space in the book and not really taking the reader anywhere.

The book has many of the flaws that you come to expect in the middle book of a trilogy. It's meant to put the players in the right place for the ending. This could have been done in about the third of the pages, but I guess people would feel ripped off if the got a book of 200 pages in stead of 600. Instead we are bored to death.

It's a good thing the series I coming to an end. It should have long ago when the creativity started dying out. Time to move on to other books and authors.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2006
... Goodkind's writings leave you with mingled feelings of pain and rage. After 4 books filled with his pseudo-intellectual political ramblings that you might expect to be taught to 6th grade social studies classes, one might think that even Goodkind would be embarrassed to have Phantom filled with the same moronic writing. Guess what? The bar has just been lowered baby!

OK first the good stuff. Not much here, but at least some action is being taken to set the series up for completion. The main characters seem to scramble around, not always with some apparent purpose in mind, but at least they're moving. Some good old fashion bloody violence is included, almost to an excessive level at some points. And I must admit some of the magical discoveries are fairly interesting. Good enough to merit a 2 star rating.

But the bad stuff. Ugg.

- Richard just will not shut up. Everytime he opens his mouth I want Zedd to bash him in the face with a shovel. 9 out of 10 times he'll talk about either life being precious, his deep love for Kahlan, how people must have choice to live free, or about his deep seeded fear of spider monkeys. OK, I made that last one up, but how cool would it be if 20 spider monkeys just mauled Richard and ripped his face off?

- Repition in general. Ever wonder how series like this and Wheel of Time can possibly go for 10-15 books? It's because the authors basically say the same thing over and over. Aside from the political drivel Goodkind thinks is so novel, he loves describing the same things in the same exact way. Nicci is absolutely gorgeous (at least 8 times this book). Kahlan is breathtakingly beautiful (12 times). Richard is morally untouchable (persistent throughout). Zedd is old. No sh*t Terry.

- No grey areas. The driving philosophy behind the book is so simplistic and naive it leaves no room for REAL characters. You're either good or evil. Nothing in between. The only difference is how good or evil you are. The Order is REALLY REALLY evil. They rape and kill whenever. The soldiers are so unbelievable you know Goodkind makes them that way to justify the questionable tactics Richard uses to defeat them. And then on the other side of the spectrum is Richard, a character who is so perfect and ethical you might as well rename him Jesus. Readers don't want perfect characters! We want heroes with flaws. How can you root for someone who's perfect? The characters just aren't interesting because you're never in doubt as to whether they're good or evil, and thus it's easy to predict their actions. Evil people kill and rape. Good people fight the evil people. Simple.

- I pretty much hate most of the major characters now. They all defer to Richard so much that they've become pathetic, whining sicophants. And then when they do question him, they're ALWAYS proven wrong, and then they heap the praise on Richard so much it makes you want to light the book on fire.

So all in all nothing new here. Goodkind continues his trend into the bowels of sophomoric philosophy. It's a shame too; the series really started off excellent. But the writing now is so condescending and childish that I really don't reccommend buying it, or at least wait for the paperback so you don't throw away 20 bucks on this crap.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2006
Let me preface my review by saying that I have been a fan of Terry Goodkind for over 10 years now. I fell in love with Wizard's First Rule and have not read anything that can compare with it to date.

That said, his books have suffered recently (starting with Faith of the Fallen) with his agonizingly long philosophical rants. Ok Terry, I understand that "people are stupid," but good grief, how many times do you need to repeat something before you think your readers understand? I GET the point. The Order is evil and will rape, pillage, and plunder anything in their path. Life in the Order is meaningless, life under Richard is the only moral way to go. Do I need to read hundreds and hundreds of pages of gory violence, rape, torture, murder, and repetitive droning to get the point across? NO!

I found myself literally groaning with agony at how repetitive parts of this book were (not even combined with how many times he's said the same thing in previous books). There were even times when he repeated the exact same sentence verbatim within a few pages (who is his editor anyway? I noticed several glaring typos and grammatical errors).

That being said, there's more plot in this book than there has been in the last three books combined. Goodkind is *finally* moving his plotline back to fantasy and away from the incessant indoctrination of his personal beliefs. There's lots of new magic and new twists, and he brings back a lot of characters and plot intricacies from Wizard's First Rule.

Personally I get the impression that his plot and character development has become so vast that he can't really weild it anymore. Characters will get a lot of attention in one part of the book and then will suddenly disappear and aren't mentioned again. (Case in point - what happened to Jebra???) He's starting to bring some the characters together for the final conclusion, but I suspect that he will leave a lot of the other characters from previous books without any resolution.

It seems like he digs his himself into a hole, puts his characters in a practically impossible situation, and then just creates a new character or new breed of magic to get them out of trouble. There's always some convenient magical cure for any predicament. It seems like Goodkind just makes it up as he goes along. The subplots seem to suffer from the lack of direction and purpose. It doesn't seem like there are any real clues as to what's coming next, which is great for surprise, but doesn't allow much room for the reader to try to put the pieces together himself (which is half the fun!).

All in all I thought this book was much better than Chainfire, but still not even close to the caliber of Wizard's First Rule. I'm hoping that the final installment lives up to my grand expectations, but based on how many pages he continually devotes to ranting about the Order's cause, I'm not crossing my fingers.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2006
"When I was building my house in the woods, I was doing it by myself. I would write scenes in my head while I worked. That was when I decided the time had come to write, that I was ready. So I let the story build. Kahlan and Richard were there with me, telling me their troubles, their terrors, their stories. Some of the scenes I had written in my head several years before I could finally write them down."

-- Terry Goodkind

I fell in love with Wizard's First Rule because of its characters. Zedd was a persnickety old codger that was as smart as he was demanding as he was loving. Kahlan was brave, determined, and scared. Richard was confused, hardheaded, and righteous. Adie was wise and mysterious.

When I first heard Goodkind's description of his writing experience, it echoed back to Homeric inspiration from the muse. I could imagine Goodkind toiling, surprised by unexpected visitors. Their clothes askew, he tried to focus as their eyes darted in search of passing D`Haran troops. Sensing trouble, they would dart off again, hopefully to return--Goodkind kept awake at night because he wanted to know what happened next. And he captured this mysterious tension, able to pass the excitement to his readers.

If the muse visited Goodkind to inspire Wizard's First Rule, their reunion is long overdue.

I won't be able to fully express the monotony that is reading Goodkind's regurgitation of Randian principles. I've read Atlas Shrugged already, sir. I suffered through John Galt's lecture--a lecture that merely repeated vast swaths the book already covered. I have no desire to do it again.

I weep at the loss of characterization. Once upon a time, Richard made different statements than Zedd, who made different statements than Kahlan, who made different statements than...

Not so any longer. Nearly every scene is rife with Person A telling Person B that life matters, that it's worth living, and that we must fight for it. Then Person B responds to Person A that indeed, we must fight for life, it is worth living, and it does matter. And it's not so much that this is a bad lesson. Books can be didactic. But Zedd taught us this in about four paragraphs in the first book. Does it really need to go on for four pages again and again?

Apparently so. Why?

My guess is that Goodkind is under a contractual obligation to produce a certain number of pages by a certain date. Hence we find not only recycled plot themes (the Order was a threat even without the boxes of Orden, and how thinly does Goodkind expect to spread the chimes?) but also uninspired what-you-thought-is-not-as-it-seems drivel reminiscent of the but-it-was-just-a-dream category school of plot devices.

It's been difficult reading Goodkind since Pillars of Creation. I'm glad there's only one more book to finish.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2006
First, I need to acknowledge Terry Goodkind's remarkable skill in creating characters about whom I've come to care enough to continue to wade through the Objectivist drivel that oozes from these books. I'm really sorry that Ayn Rand's father lost his business to the Soviets, but how long do the rest of us have to pay for it?

That said, you really have to love the irony (or maybe it's just plain hubris) of Goodkind having a character spend dozens of pages ranting against ideological indoctrination.

If I were not such a slave to my feelings, I'd stop buying these books -- but I am, so I await the conclusion.
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