on August 31, 2009
I was a big fan of Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series... well let me qualify that. I was a fan of about the first five books and "Wizard's First Rule" is probably up there with a few others as an all-time favorite of mine. The Mord'sith were probably the single truely original idea in a series of rehashed quasi-Star Wars/Wheel of Time cliches. That being said, I was looking forward to a new Goodkind book, especially since he would be exploring a different genre. I love thrillers. When I heard there'd be a bit of magic. I was even more thrilled. I love urban fantasies and combined with a thriller, that's even better.
Sadly, Law of Nines is awful.
It's a rewrite of Wizard's First Rule except this time we're in the modern world instead of a fantasy world. Alex Rahl is Richard all over again. Jax is Kahlan. Some of the character descriptions and dialogue sound like passages from poorly written fan fiction. Furthermore, I really REALLY hoped that Goodkind got his fascination with Ayn Rand off his chest with the Sword of Truth series, but noooooo. We have to hear about it all over again in LoN. Here Goodkind had a chance to really start with a new idea, a fresh idea, a new hook, new characters, but he didn't.
If you are a rabid fan of Goodkind, you'll probably love this book, but if you just want a good story regardless of its author, you'll realize there are far better options out there. Brent Weeks "Night Angel Trilogy" is awesome and well written. I hugely enjoy Robb Thurman for her urban fantasy and clever, fast-paced dialogue. For something fun and different try "The Lies of Lock Lamora" by Scott Lynch (although I didn't like the second book as much, but the first is definitely stand alone). Carol Berg and her two-book series "Breath and Bone" and "Flesh and Spirit" are beautifully written and the story is fresh.
As much as I wanted Law of Nines to be a new Terry Goodkind story, it isn't. It's just another retelling of The Wizard's First Rule.
"The Law of Nines" is a fantasy thriller, a sequel to "The Sword of Truth" series but set in THIS "real" world. It isn't necessary to have read the "The Sword of Truth" series, but if you have, you'll understand the rest of this paragraph. The thesis of the novel is that, in the ancient past, the people of the world of "The Sword of Truth" who did not have the gift of magic were expelled into THIS world, including a few members of the House of Rahl--the hereditary rulers of THAT world. Specifically that the process of magically "walling-off" the unmagical closed a connection between the two worlds, or perhaps split one world into two. "Parallel realities" or "alternate dimensions" if you prefer.
"The Law of Nines" begins when almost 27-year-old Alex Rahl, an artist, living somewhere in Nebraska, saves a mysterious woman, Jax from a truck which tries to run her down. A few days later on his birthday, Alex inherits a vast tract of land in Maine. That's the setup.
We later learn that the portal between the worlds is located on that tract of land in Maine, and that Alex is the only person who can open it. A new tyrant, Cain, in the "other" world has launched an essentially religious movement to eradicate magic, in order to gain power, but will need weapons and other technology to maintain his control (since he will also be deprived of the use of magic), and therefore wants the portal opened.
Numerous major and minor flaws in the novel demand considerable "suspension of disbelief". Unfortunately, "suspension of disbelief" is like stretching a rubber band---there are limits. When the limits of credulity are exceeded, and the rubber band snaps, the story ceases to entertain. Until now Goodkind has had the luxury of a "very stretchy rubber band". Logic is less expected in a fantasy (alien) world. In the same way, "aliens" on Star Trek can get away with terrible acting and stilted dialog, and come off as convincingly "alien" instead of simply awful. Alex and Jax simply do not show the same normal caution of even very adventurous normal human beings--they do irrational things, without considering the consequences.
The most obvious logical flaws flow from Goodkind's flawed premise: The "other" world is abandoning magic, which will require adopting technology from "this world". That means that "they" will need simple things like farming equipment, food preservation technology, medicine and virtually everything else we take for granted in "this" world. However, acquiring that technology (knowledge) would not necessarily require use of the portal. Cain already has hundreds, perhaps thousands, of "resident" agents in "this" world, who are able to easily travel back and forth between the worlds, WITHOUT using the portal. They can take any knowledge with them from "this" world to "that" world. More importantly, how could Cain have paid the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of "this world" merchandise that would be needed for the transition?
More fundamentally, the assertion that technology does not exist in "that" world is false. The level of technology in that world is the equivalent of the about the year 1800 in "this" world. They know metalworking, textiles, shipbuilding, fairly sophisticated construction, etc. That actually represents a fairly sophisticated level of technology (knowledge), accumulated over thousands of years. That's about the same level of technology in rural China in the 1960s. Beginning about 1980 China began serious importation of western technology (technical knowledge), and within 30 years have become an industrial giant, capable of manufacturing anything. The "technologicalization" of "that" world would have necessarily followed a similar path.
Nor is it realistic to believe that Cain could have extorted weapons and merchandise from "this" world. Note that all the material would have had to be exported via the portal, probably requiring highway construction, etc., which would have quickly revealed it's location. The U.S. military could have simply seized the mountain, and de facto, closed the portal. At best, Cain would have been faced with a stalemate.
I find it very strange that Goodkind (otherwise a proponent of rational economics) apparently has no understanding whatsoever of technology. Technology requires on a large population of technicians. Laugh at us geeks as much as you want---but you'd be living in caves without us. Technology cannot be "seized" or even bought by a non-technological society. Ship a laptop computer to someplace in the Congo, and it will be a worthless piece of garbage within a week. Ship modern weapons to "that" world, and they would jam up, gum up, and malfunction within days.
During the "Cold War" the U.S. freely sold very advanced military technology to 3rd world countries. The weapons were no threat to the U.S., because they could not be maintained without U.S. manufactured spare parts, tools, and technology. A billion dollars worth of military aircraft could become worthless within weeks of displeasing the U.S.
I was very intrigued by the initial premise (the connection between "this" world and "that" world), and even captivated by the first several chapters (which I found to be well-paced and captivating, not "slow" as another reviewer complains). I hoped to write a rave review, but I was sadly disappointed. The story had great potential, which Goodkind failed to realize.
I'm going to be honest from the get-go. I've never read any of Goodkind's books before and I've never seen the tv show based off of his works. I'd heard of him but I've never had the time to pick up any of his works.
The reason I mention this is because I've heard two things about this book. One is that this book was supposed to be accessible to all people (even the ones who haven't read anything of his before). The other is that there is supposed to be a slight tie in with his Sword of Truth series, despite this book being a stand alone novel from his other works. Apparently it's supposed to be a nod towards the other series but as I've never read any of the other works I have no way of verifying this. Now if you were one of those people like me who was worried that you wouldn't be able to enjoy this book, put your mind at ease. For the most part you can easily read this book and enjoy it without reading his other works.
Now for the story itself. The story follows a young painter named Alex Rahl who discovers that his 27th birthday is going to bring him more than just another year older. He discovers several things- the first is that he has inherited a huge amount of land. The second is that a beautiful and mysterious woman named Jax is desperate to keep him safe. The third is that many different people also desperately want him dead. As Alex tries to save himself from danger and uncover the mystery surrounding the Law of Nines he'll also discover that his life isn't the only one on the line...
Now I know what everyone is thinking. Is this a fantasy or what? To be honest, it's a book that spans more than one genre. It's very much the thriller it makes itself out to be but it also contains several elements of fantasy in it. The book focuses more on the thriller elements than the fantasy elements, so if you aren't really that big of a fantasy fan then don't worry that you won't get into it. If anything the book somewhat resembles an urban fantasy novel than any of Goodkind's previous works.
The only complaints that I have are somewhat minor & really don't deter from the enjoyment of the novel. The first one is that it took a bit for me to get into the flow of the novel. Since the book straddles both thriller and fantasy it took me a little while to get used to the different elements. It was almost as if at times it couldn't decide what it really wanted to be & was a bit off putting at first. After I got used to the writing style though, I was hooked. The second complaint that I had is that I really wished that I could learn a bit more about the characters, especially the enigmatic Jax. The characters were for the most part well fleshed out, but there were so many unanswered questions that I wanted to know about. (So here's hoping for a sequel!) The third complaint really isn't a complaint at all, to be honest. It's just that at times I really felt as if I was missing out on something that I would have gotten if I'd read Goodkind's other works before reading this one. You don't have to read the other books to get & like the story, nor is the work constantly referencing his other works, but I get the impression that the experience would have been greatly enhanced if I did. Again, none of these are really complaints- just things that I wondered about as I was reading.
The only thing that really & truthfully got in the way of my book enjoyment was the slow beginning. It just seemed to take a little too long for anything to really get started & the book's flow just seemed a little muddled at first. Since this is Goodkind's first attempt at a non-hardcore fantasy, I'm willing to overlook that. It's not easy to write in a different genre, especially after you are used to one specific type of writing style. It just means that any future books like this will just get consistently better (or at least I hope so). It doesn't entirely excuse the clunky writing but I'm willing to overlook that for right now.
So in short, I liked this book. It took me a while to get used to the book's flow but once I did the book was great. I really recommend that anyone starting in on this book keep reading for at least the first 100-150 pages. It takes Alex a while to realize the danger he's in & act, but it's in keeping with the character. All in all, I think that it's a pretty darn good first attempt at writing a novel that isn't predominantly fantasy. Some may argue that this book isn't fantasy, but like one forum poster said on Goodkind's site- do we really need to label books by genre? Can't we just enjoy the ride & let the book take us where it will? I do have to say that I'd like to see a book by Goodkind that wasn't fantasy related.
on September 29, 2010
To be honest, this book read like bad fan fiction. The writing was juvenile, the love story clichéd, and all the material was sucked from his other books. I've read all of his other material, and own the books, which I re-read every couple of years. This new book is written in a completely different voice than the SOT (Sword of Truth) series. The character depth is gone, and the antagonists are ridiculous. SPOILER: They look like pirates and break people's necks?
I was extremely disappointed in this book, and cannot recommend it to anyone.
on December 10, 2013
Ok, this is my first time picking up Terry Goodkind, and I have to be honest, I am really not impressed. The book says right on the cover this guy is a bestselling author? Have standards sunk so low, or have his other books been massively better than this one?
For the sake of transparency, I'll say up front that I've only read the first 100 pages. So my review has less to do with the storyline and more to do with the substance of the novel. I could tell almost immediately this book is in dire need of a better editor. I heard somewhere that as an author, each word you write must stand on trial for its life - unless it is absolutely needed, it shouldn't be included. Someone really should have mentioned this to Goodkind.
He is all show, no tell. Phrases like these run rampant throughout the narrative: "He was depressed, he was furious" (Gee, thanks for the heads up, not like we wouldn't have had a clue since your paintings just got destroyed) and then a few pages later he asks this lady where she comes from and she answers that its a long ways away. In case we as the readers didn't get that she just avoided the question, he lays it out crystal clear for us, "For some reason she had avoided answering his question, but he let it go". If that wasn't obvious to his readers then he is severely underestimating the intelligence of his target audience. Also, at one point it takes the author SIX pages to describe the main character walking into a mental institution to meet his mother. Not talking to his mother, but simply walking into the building. Six freaking pages of irrelevant information - he shouldn't need that many to set the scene. It is a really bad sign when I start skimming whole paragraphs at page 70 of a 500 page book.
At some point he meets a mysterious lady who starts acting incredibly weird, but she is pretty so he lets it slide (seriously). Then she says she must tell him something very important, but its complicated and she doesn't have time to lay everything out. Clearly, this calls for a 15-minute conversation in which she explains why her parents named her Jax, followed by rambling incoherently about "others" who want to do bad things and who spy on him through mirrors, but she isn't sure how or why yet. Even though I realize it will eventually be revealed that she is telling the truth, she still sounds utterly insane. Shouldn't she have prepared some sort of speech beforehand, using terms he could understand? How hard is it so say "Listen, Alexander, I know this will sound utterly crazy to you, but I'm from a different world and I work with a group of people who believe you are in danger. I can't talk long, but its important you stay away from mirrors. Just trust me on this." It's like she (and *gasp* the author!) are being deliberately vague and disjointed about some key concepts here. If you don't want the readers to figure out what is going on yet, Goodkind, then don't give us a character who claims to know everything and then have her act like a total clown with important information. That's lazy writing.
Despite sounding legitimately schizophrenic, he doesn't act nearly as alarmed as he should when confronted with a total stranger telling him these things because, again, the chick is really hot. He finally (FINALLY) starts to act like a normal human being and questions her (crazy, vague) ramblings, at which point she gets all irritated at him for not simply taking her at her word. NOT that she has even tried explaining what the heck is going on in any sort of coherent manner.
I mean, I can write better than this guy and I don't consider myself a writer. Maybe the rest of the story is good enough to overshadow his obvious lack of concise writing skills, but it has to be a damn good story to pull that off. Not sure if I will be finishing this book or picking up his other series (apparently the Sword of Truth is set in the same world but in the distant past?) Ugh, spare me.
on September 25, 2009
I'm a die-hard Goodkind Fan. I read the SOT series from start to finish. I considered Faith of the Fallen one of those books that forever changed the way I thought about things. Even trying hard to take Law of Nines as a "new" or "standalone" series starter I was extremely disappointed! The "nods" to SOT were shallow at best and completely senseless at worst. There were too many pointless caveats in this book to list (why did we spend pages dealing with a broken starter on a jeep?) and way too many unanswered questions that I found myself not even wanting answers to. I felt the entire book was the original SOT plot thrown in a blender and vomited back out sans the integrity, values, and character development that made SOT awesome. Oh, there were also some commonly overused subplots reused- a "secret society to protect a secret" and "Terminator-esque" mental health workers to drug patients that might know the truth. If you're going to write a new series- write a new series. Don't amputate limbs from an old series and write some kind of zombie-like facsimile.
on March 5, 2011
Wizard's First Rule remains one of my top five fantasy books of all time. However, the rest of the series left a lot to be desired, especially in the later books.
The Law of Nines is a hollow shell of what Wizard's First Rule was. As time has gone on, Terry Goodkind seems more and more unable to separate himself from his characters. His leading Female characters all seem strong, but then fall apart as soon as the lead male character shows up. The writing felt forced, the relationship between Alex and Jax just seemed.... Assumed. As if Terry was too tired and too bothered to attempt to create that spark again between the leading characters because he really wanted to be writing about Richard and Kahlan.
It really appears as if Terry fell in love with Richard and Kahlan and just can't seem to let them go... This thought is reinforced by the fact that he is soon to publish The Omen Machine (another Richard and Kahlan novel). The problem with this is that Richard and Kahlan have become stale. Their relationship is a simple series of Kahlan messing things up, and Richard having to come in and save the day. (Uhh, hello Jax, running off to sacrifice yourself and your world and, hello Alex, suddenly coming to the rescue).
To make matters worse, the lead "evil" character, R.C. is not developed, he seems to be a pale imitation of Jagang in this series and he seems to like to have all his bad guys "Break Necks", I wonder if R.C. punishes his thugs if they don't "Break Necks", because this whole book seems focused on "Breaking Necks". Are you getting where I'm going yet? If you read the book you will understand, if not, let me just say that the breaking of necks comes up all too often in this book. So much so that at times it was laughable and at times it was just plain irritating.
And sadly, it gets even worse. As the main characters are prone to the same political rants and views that took place starting in book 2 of the Sword of Truth series and continued on and on, and on..... And on, and on some more.
The theory behind why the bad guys needed the gate, basically to become alternate universe gun runners was incredibly weak, it made R.C seem completely stupid and retarded, sending thugs to hunt for Alexander Rahl, when he could have sent people of intelligence to learn about the 'technology' we have here in this world and bring that knowledge back and recreate it in R.C's world, of course then there would be no need for a gateway and the story falls apart. In the years that R.C. spent looking for Alexander, he could have created his own arsenal of assault rifles and Glocks. (and why is it that every author goes straight for the Glock as the preferred weapon? Hello, many special forces prefer the USP, it's more accurate for starters).
Maybe Terry was drunk when he came up with the premise. I think a more plausible story for a first book would have been to send Jax to attempt to stop anyone from making it back to her world with that knowledge, and maybe leave the gateway for a book further down the line, but that's just me.
And lastly, those who give this book a thumbs up should really think about how LONG it took Richard and Kahlan to get together. That relationship grew over 2-3 books. Can you really say that Jax and Alex had a well developed relationship in this one? And by the way, has anyone considered that Jax and Alex are RELATED???
"The Law of Nines" looks and sounds like a suspenseful thriller. In fact, it's a set-in-the-future sequel to Terry Goodkind's doorstopper "Sword of Truth" series -- and sadly it's anything but thrilling. Instead this fantasy/thriller is more like an endless and repetitive stretch of chases and fight scenes (how many times do we hear about throats being cut?), with a bland hero and a mustache-twirling villain.
On Alexander Rahl's twenty-seventh birthday, he almost gets run over saving a hot woman, a strange man buys and defaces a bunch of his paintings, and he inherits a vast expanse of virgin land in Maine.
The woman he rescued, whose name is Jax, adds to the weirdness by claiming to be from another world -- and unsurprisingly Alexander doesn't believe her, although he wants to. But then an ex-girlfriend of his appears one night with a couple of thugs, and Jax barely manages to save him. She reveals that the ex-girlfriend is only one of many enemies who has come from her other dimension. World. Thingy.
She also reveals that the bad guys are led by an evil overlord, Cain, who is eradicating magic from her world, and that somehow his plans involve Alex -- the last member of the House of Rahl. The two of them set out on a frantic search to discover what it is that Cain want, only to become enmeshed in an ancient conspiracy to reopen a gateway between two different worlds.
"The Law of Nines" is a book that sounds a lot more exciting than it is -- a Ludlumesque fantasy-thriller about the lost scion of a magical house. Even more so if it's the sequel to a bestselling fantasy series.
Too bad the actual plot is a seemingly endless series of very repetitive fights and chases, in which random people turn out to be evil minions of the bad guy (cue a staggeringly boring stint at a mental hospital). Even Goodkind seems to eventually realize that this is teeth-grindingly boring, so he throws in some random plot twists -- a contrived secret society, the evil overlord's secret hobby, and the most boring terrorist attack in the world.
And while Goodkind lavishes plenty of detail and foreshadowing in the first chapters, his style deteriorates quickly. His dialogue is plain at best and silly at worst ("It should have a taste to wake it from its long sleep to its purpose"), and Jax and Alex frequently launch into long, dull monologues about evil magic Communists, the wonders of technology (magic glue!) and the "Sword of Truth" world. Eventually you just want them to shut up.
Perhaps the biggest flaw in this book is that it feels like only half a story. Most of the important stuff is going on in the "Sword of Truth" world, but Goodkind never SHOWS readers any of this. All we get is Jax throwing out hints and half-sketched stories.
Even worse, Alex is a pretty boring hero who doesn't seem to feel anything other than spurts of rage, even when his ex-girlfriend tries to rape him. Jax is a more intriguing character (a butt-kicking woman stranded in a strange world) but Alex seems more interested in her sex appeal than her actual problems. As for Cain, he's a 2-D villain who wants to rule the world. Yawn.
"The Law of Nines" tries to mingle fantasy with "Bourne Identity"-style suspense, but the whole thing ends up being boring, repetitive and feeling like only half a story.
on October 22, 2009
Not too many things are sadder to me, in the world of literature, than when an author is just unable to unlatch from the same stories and patterns as the ones that have given him or her their name.
In the case of Terry Goodkind's Law of Nines, I can only say that it is really a shame that this has had to happen.
First off, let me just say that this novel was poorly advertised and setup for its audience. The premise and the idea that was handed to the readers was that this was going to be a full scale thriller, something completely different from anything else Goodkind had ever attempted. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Sword of Truth (SoT# series he has written, it is a 11 part series of epic fantasy. An 11 part series that ENDED at book 11 #or 12 if you count the Prequel that he wrote# And this has engendered a problem.
The Law of Nines is far from being a true thriller and it is far from being a stand alone novel either. After reading about three chapters of the book, it is most obviously a sequel to the Sword of Truth series. Only a lot more dull and uninteresting because it takes place in our world instead of a made up one.
To paraphrase a review I read on Amazon, the fact that a fantasy setting is brought into the real world implies that the rules need to change. For example, if I create a world filled with magic and creatures and prophecies, then of course I can create whatever world I want because it doesn't really exist. But as soon as I enter the realm of the real world, those same rules don't apply because the rules of the real world HAVE TO take over! Does this make sense?
Anyway, Terry seems either not to have realized this fact, or he failed to produce what was needed.
Another issue is that this book is supposed to be available to all audiences. You aren't supposed to have read the SoT to understand and enjoy it. Well, unfortunately, I've read them all and I still didn't understand all that was happening here. The mystical enigma behind the whole 'Law of Nines' - which is apparently central, since it's the title - is never really solved. I few paragraphs here and there, some mention of the importance of the number nine in the world of magic and a character that never asks the right questions, are all contributing factors to the reader never really knowing what the heck it means.
Going back to my original peeve with this book, Terry just can't let off of the other stories he's already written. Characters have the same names and are related to the ones from SoT. The same underlying plot that was beaten into our heads over and over in the SoT, is once again the underlying plot of this one, as though he wasn't satisfied with having shared his opinions on the subject to the readers of fantasy, so he needed to disguise a new book as thriller in order to shove it in the faces of more people. It's old, it's dull and it's overdone.
All of this is jumbled together with a serious drop in written quality, a lack of originality and too much predictability in the plot and the action scenes #seriously, I think at least twenty guys who were 'built like body builders' and 'early twenties' died by getting their throats cut#, a villain that reminded me of some guy from an old British episode of the Avengers and no character development.
Overall, the story had potential but I'm sorry Terry, you just didn't pull it off.
2.5 out of 5
on September 29, 2009
Like I said above, rating of 1 in 5 is too overwhelming for the book. Unfortunately (and unlike some other fortunate reader), I bought this book - in an airport, for a long journey (mistake #2) - having read Sword of Truth series and being a fan of the genre.
This regurgeted, half-digested, completely boring and utterly un-thrilling sequel (?) to the SoT series is a total waste of time, effort, energy and not to mention, money. The only reason I didnt tear it up after the 20th page was because everything else for entertainment in the long flight home was (equally if not even more) mediocre.
This is a pathetic attempt at writing a modernistic version of wizards first rule. The whole plot and direction of the story has already been stomped to death in the SoT series - what is new in this book - NOTHING.
If anyone suggests you read this book or worse gifts you this book, punch him\her in the nose immediately; drop the book right there and optionally, run as fast you can (for you just punched someone on the nose, didnt you!).