6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
WIZARD'S FIRST RULE is the first volume of Terry Goodkind's "Sword of Truth" fantasy series. This series tends to divide readers -- some people love it, while others seem to despite it. Either way, the series has been an incredible success, selling somewhere between 10 to 20 million copies worldwide. Next to Robert Jordan, Goodkind is probably the bestselling contemporary fantasy writer for adults.
I'm not an expert on the fantasy genre, but I thought WIZARD'S FIRST RULE was pretty enjoyable. The characters are relatively likable, and the story is quite imaginative in places. The book does start out slowly, but the last 300 pages are very violent and exciting.
The major downside of WIZARD'S FIRST RULE, as many have pointed out, is the quality of the writing. Goodkind writes in a pretty simplistic style, and much of the dialogue is wooden and unrealistic. This is Goodkind's first novel, and it really shows. But I think a strong storyline compensates for medicore writing, and the plot of this book was compelling enough for me to eagerly turn the pages. Whatever its shortcomings, this book did not bore me.
Readers sensitive to violence may want to steer clear of this book, since there are several disturbing scenes of torture and murder. I don't think Goodkind crosses the line of bad taste, but this book may not be appropriate for younger readers.
Overall, WIZARD'S FIRST RULE is an entertaining read. I don't think it's anywhere near as well written as George RR Martin's SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, but it is definitely one of the better fantasy novels I've read recently.
Recommended to fans of good storytelling.
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2011
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book was the worst. In lieu of a review, I've provided a spoiler-free synopsis so that you don't need to waste your time.
Descriptions of trees, descriptions of food, more descriptions of trees and food, "friend friend friend," "special smile, special smile, special smile," unfunny comic relief, random magic babble, more descriptions of trees and food, people crying in every chapter, there's a sword now, description of soup, sexual perversion that in no way serves the plot, things are dark, now they're not, long boring sojourn with some Mud People, more crying (seriously, every character cries multiple times), half-baked philosophy, random magic babble turns into full-blown nonsense, heavy-handed foreshadowing, a talking dog, some more sex stuff, stiff dialogue, more trees and food, hey! a dragon!, crying (naturally), obvious betrayal, half-baked philosophy leads to even-less-baked solution to problem, laughable denouement, sequel baiting, you smacking yourself in the face for having waded through hundreds of pages of crap.
245 of 330 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you like lengthy discussions of pedophilia and descriptions of sexual torture, then you'll probably enjoy "Wizard's First Rule". If, on the other hand, you believe that those topics are best excluded from fantasy writing, then you should probably avoid this book like the plague. It would be no exaggeration to say that "Wizard's First Rule" is, by a considerable margin, the worst book I've ever read. It trundles along without any hint of originality or inspiration, and the bizarre and unpleasant sexual content is added frequently in a failed attempt to break the monotony of the paint-by-numbers plot. At the end, all you can do is gape in awe at the author's total incompetence and wonder how anyone with an IQ higher than 30 could possibly find as much as a single redeeming quality in this mess.
We start with an evil overlord, who bears the idiotic name of Darken Rahl. (His father is named Panis Rahl. I kid you not.) Darken happens to need a magic object (in this case, it's a box) to fulfill his desire to take over the world. Starting to sound familiar? It gets worse. We meet a noble but somewhat reluctant hero named Richard Cypher. Richard is mentored by a wise, gray-haired wizard. He also falls in love with a beautiful woman named Kahlan. Unfortunately, an ancient form of magic prevents Kahlan from having sex with any man that she's in love with (D'oh!), but she does the next best thing, following Richard all over the place and offering up dialogue so corny that it would make George Lucas blush ("I can't go on anymore without telling you about me. About what I am. It's cleaving my heart, because I'm supposed to be your friend.") The three heroes march off, fighting various monsters and bad guys along the way, and eventually have their final showdown with Darken Rahl (spoiler: the good guys win). Amazingly, Goodkind takes this already thin storyline and stretches it to over eight-hundred pages, filling the space with tediously predictable events such as a scene where Richard must choose between saving his girlfriend or saving the world. For those who haven't studied the art of comic-book plot development, I'll ruin the suspense by saying that the author dodges the dilemma by having him save them both.
The characters are unbelievably thin. Darken Rahl has no personality or motivations whatsoever. Will fantasy authors ever realize that undeveloped villains are neither frightening nor interesting? Richard fares little better. Whenever he's not fighting, he spends most of the time wallowing in self pity and wishing he were home, yet these emotions never seem to get in the way of his heroic quest. The behavior and emotions of Kahlan and the Wizard Zedd are almost exactly the same, to the point where you wonder why Goodkind bothered to make three separate characters. The cast of supporting characters is even worse. For example, we have a spoiled, arrogant princess (hey, there's an original) who seems to exist only so that we can have the emotional satisfaction of seeing her get humiliated several times.
Whenever the plot slows down, which happens quite frequently, the author tries to keep us awake by providing some violent sexual content. Women are raped, many children get abused and/or murdered, and I'm not even going to mention the man who is forced to eat his own testicles. The high point, or perhaps I should say the low point, of this phenomenon comes towards the end, when Richard gets captured and tormented by a Mord-Sith, one of Darken Rahl's personal torturers. Consider this passage: "There was a stunning explosion of pain in his head. Denna's grip on his hair was all that kept him upright. It was as if she had compressed the pain of an entire death training session into that one touch. He couldn't move, breathe, or even cry out. He was beyond being in pain; the shock took everything from him, and in its place left an all-consuming agony of fire and ice." Now try to imagine this nonsense going on for close to one-hundred pages, and you may start to see the problem. It's interesting to compare the violent content in this book to that in "A Game of Thrones". While George R. R. Martin also included scenes of rape and torture, he always kept them short and never went into unnecessary graphic detail. Furthermore, his episodes always had a purpose, helping to build the characters involved or describe the societies that they live in. In contrast, Goodkind's uses of rape, torture, and pedophilia are pure exploitation. They contribute absolutely nothing to the novel as a whole, and could easily have been omitted without losing anything other than a sizeable chunk of the book's excessive bulk.
Believe me when I say that the problems listed above are only the tip of the iceberg. There is literally nothing in this disaster of a novel that is done right. Due to amazon's size constraints, I don't have time to describe the needlessly long and tedious descriptions, the unsubtle sexism and homophobia, the insults to vegetarians and the physically handicapped, the painfully bad fight sequences, the absurd plot contrivances, and the ending that's worthy of a third-rate Disney movie. Suffice to say, "Wizard's First Rule" is a painfully awful exercise in overused stereotypes, without as much as a single redeeming quality. A vengeful Mord-Sith couldn't make me pick up the sequel to this piece of excrement. Nonsense like this is one of the reasons why many people simply choose to avoid fantasy fiction entirely. Luckily, we have masters like Martin or Guy Gavriel Kay to defend the dignity of the genre, but they're going to have an uphill battle as long as talentless hacks like Goodkind continue to crank out garbage like "Wizard's First Rule".
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I will start by saying that this book is not without its merits and greatness. That said my first and foremost opinion about this book is: this book is PAINFUL to read. I literally had to force myself to finish it as I believed by the raves of friends who read it when they were young and online reviews of the masses, that it would get better. And I had (until then) the philosophy that if the book is worth starting to read, its worth finishing.
The explanation... (some minor, indirect, spoilers may be present though only for conveying reasoning and will be kept to a minimum.)
First the good. The world the book is set in is fantasic in every way. The aurthor goes into great detail on setting the scene. There is no doubt in my mind, he knew what he wanted his world to look like in the minds of his readers.
Secondly, some of the characters... BY CONCEPT were great! I definately had a genuine dislike for the 'bad guys' in the book. The author goes to great lengths to ensure we adequately know how bad they are and actually get the readers to go right along with believing their evilness. Even to go as far as to dedicate an entire 100 or so pages (this book is LONG by the way) to the gruesome BDSM torture of our main character in extensive detail by one of the villians. It even takes that very segment and creates a sense of stockholm syndrome with a twist in both our main hero and subsequently in the reader with the evil captors. The author really does have a taste for detail. Many would critique the torture segment as being too lengthy and too uncomfortable for most readers with its description. However as I said the writer successfully, through its length, give the reader the full feel of the characters transition and mental conversion. The length also has the same effect on the reader... sadly. So bravo on that aspect, if only he put as much effort on other character development... but thats for the 'bad' section ahead.
Thirdly, the story. The story, when reflected on was overall, entertaining. As odd as it is its the only book I have ever read that I can say when I talk about the book to others its actually MORE interesting than reading it. But that is BECAUSE the story has a really interesting journey to it, and though cliche at many points even to the point of rip offs of other works, its still a fun combination of events and a very obvious build up for a series.
Now the bad....
First, details. OH MY GOD THE DETAILS. I get the painting a mental picture thing, but this guy goes into more detail that Tolkein, and that says alot, and its not a good thing! I swear at some point I read an entire chapter on the shade of green the leaves were on a tree the character walked past. When I got to roughly the third chapater like that, I started skim reading to get through it and back on track to what matters. I could understand if it was a plot point to the greeness of the trees leaves, but when it is literally just to set up the description of the scenery where an event takes place... thats a bit much. You should not have a chapter to set up the scenery for what the next chapter looks like. That is beyond horrible to read.
Secondly, the characters... Its almost like the author was not a human being himself and was writing the reactions based on some alien species that doesnt have a concept of emotions passing observations on human interaction. Let me give you an example... Characters both meet and fall madly in love in the same chapter, a chapter that will be often one third the length of describing the color of green on the trees leaves.... The same 2 characters are on their merry way skipping down the road holding hands and discussing the differences between their worlds, which are rather large. They have been in life and death scenarios risking their own lives to save one another. While skipping along in love with eachother, one sees some apples. Takes one for them self, starts to eat and tosses another one to their new found love and companion, said loving companion then pulls their knife in a hulk like rage and nearly kills them for daring to offer them a red fruit, since in their world (previously establish how very different they are to each other) all red fruit are poison and offering them one was a threat on their life! Oops, I forgot we were just discussing the alst several days how different things were and failed to notice you were eating one too, and convieniently forgot 'our undying love and willingness to die for each other even proven in combat'... Opps! My mistake. and both characters march on down the road skipping happily hand in hand again like nothing ever happend. #@$(&* how does that make sense!? And the story is FULL of attempts by the author to throw random bits of information about the world at us. Ok now I know red fruit is posion in the other persons world in this book... but really you couldnt find a better way to introduce that? And it comes into play only once more later on down the road. wow. No I am sure it may come up again later in other books, but that was just terrible. Oh and the whole transistion into murderour rage and back to friends... yeah takes like 3 paragraphs... tops. Bottom line, there is very little to no character development in almost any character, and where there is development, it is almost always very poorly done. Oddly the most believeable characters are the ones he spends almost no time on, or just simply lets the reader learn about them passively through the story... the bad guys usually.
Thirdly, the author repeats himself.... ALOT. Literally characters will repeat their feelings on the same subject like 7 times over the course of a conversation. Example conversation (dumbed down for simplicity and brevity, a concept hard for this author) : "John, I love you." "Why thanks jane!" *walks down the road* "Oh hey john, I have a strong liking for you that in other words would be called love." "Thanks Jane!" *walks further down the road* "Why john, I need to tell you something." "whats that jane?" "I love you." OK TERRY, WE GET IT, SHE LOVES HIM. This happens over and over and over with so many characters and situations its mind numbing and outright insulting to the reader at many points as if we totally forgot something we read 2 paragraphs/last chapter/when ever the not vauge concept was or we might have failed to understand the idea conveyed outright to us earlier.
As I stated above, when talking about the book or the story, or describing it to others it is 1000 times more entertaining and engrossing and sounds way more epic and worth while. Reading it however is horribly painful and because of it, I vowed not to read the rest, which is a shame since I bought the first three books of this series. A good book can be 500 pages long and you get sucked in so fast and are kept so interested in the book its done in a day and feels like you just started it, bad ones can be 100 pages and take months and feel like it took longer. This is one of the bad, and it goes for roughly 1000 pages.....
The book would have been a 2 stars had it not been for what was mentioned above in the 'good' section. But the bad is just so bad, that it just couldnt save it. I actually felt insulted at the aurthors writing level and his method as his reader when I wasnt trying not to skim over the overly descriptive segments.
Dont waste your time. I strongly think the reviews I read were derived from similar emotions as my friends, they read it when they were younger and just got into reading books and was also their intro to fantasy, otherwise, this would NEVER be held in such high regard.
66 of 88 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2010
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
People kept recommending the Sword of Truth series to me, so I finally picked this up. Actually, I bought it twice, once as a paperback and once as an e-book, an irony I now regret.
Comparisons to The Lord of the Rings are inevitable, since (like it or not) that's where most modern fantasy draws inspiration. The plot of Wizard's First Rule is that the hero, Richard Cypher (and with a name like that you know he's got to be special), must stop the Big Bad Villain, Darken Rahl, from acquiring a magical artifact that has the potential to give him unlimited power. The MacGuffin in this case is a set of three boxes. But that's all we know about them. We don't know who created them, or why, or what the reasoning was behind the two-in-three chance to either kill yourself or destroy the world. They just ARE, dammit, because it's a FANTASY WORLD and if you don't like it go read a physics textbook.
The cover of the paperback refers to a "fantasy novel in which the characters act like adults," so I was expecting something like George R.R. Martin, or even Jim Butcher. Instead, I got this juvenile, derivative crap. The writing is clumsy and unimaginative. The hero is a classic Gary Stu, who's already awesome at everything and yet is constantly discovering new abilities at just the right moment to save him. I'm talking about spontaneously pulling off things that supposedly take years to learn, without even knowing beforehand that the skill exists.
I didn't come across a single likable character in the book. They're all one-dimensional and boring, and frequently don't make a lot of sense. The main villain in particular is nothing more than a cardboard cutout with "EVIL!" written on it. Kahlan's and Richard's relationship is something you'd expect from junior high students, certainly not adults. The story's main plot twist is something you'll see coming from literally the first chapter, and end up wondering why the characters don't realize it immediately, since they have access to all the same information you do. The characters' apparent naivete and stupidity makes it all the more jarring when they do something violent: It's like watching a small child deliberately strangle a kitten.
And the Sword of Truth... don't get me started on the Sword of Truth. Its main magic power is that it makes its wielder angry, which would seem to conflict with seeking the truth (anger does not a clear head make). In exchange for this it drains its wielder's strength and eventually turns him into Gollum (except Richard, because he's special). It also won't harm things the wielder doesn't think are evil, which 1) is demonstrated to be completely subjective, and 2) could be problematic for self-defense. (If anything, that would seem to discourage careful analysis of a situation, supposedly part of the Seeker's job...) One would think the Seeker would be much better off carrying a normal sword, without all the complications. Then there's that thing where, if you forgive someone before you kill them, that makes it ok, which is just sick. Combine that with the extended S&M scenes, and I'm left with a seriously disturbing impression of Mr. Goodkind.
Nothing that happens in the book is meaningful. None of the challenges to the characters result in growth. Most obstacles are overcome through deus ex machina. The ending will make you /facepalm, because, as another reviewer said, there's no way the villain could be that stupid. The difference between this book and a parody of fantasy is that parodies are generally fun to read.
Stuff to read instead: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien; A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have to laugh a little about anyone caring what the author says in a forum or how cocky he is. I like to judge a book on its own merits, not on my opinion of the author. For that matter, this isn't a book you would want to judge by the first audio tape either. It takes a bit of time to get ramped up. That said...
This will be one of the most brutal fantasy series you will ever read. If you've read the Chronicals of Thomas Covenant (Steven R. Donaldson), you only glimpsed the kind of violence you will see in the Sword of Truth books. Of the five books in the series I have read so far, this is the least brutal, and that's saying something.
However, if you can handle the violence, you will find that Mr. Goodkind is an author that is extremely good at keeping a reader on the edge. Terry sets the scene for horrific events that don't relent until the bitter end. Particularly memorable was the cave sequence and Richard's enslavement to the Mord-sith (a sort of dominatrix from hell).
Though I'm no addict, I've read a fair share of fantasy series and this one rates in my top 5. If you want a true five-star series, I would recommend Raymond E. Fiest's "Magician" series. But if you like it rough, the Sword of Truth novels get it done.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I purchased this book on Audible and listened to it while traveling. Although I was dismayed by the lack of quality, I tried to give Goodkind one last chance by listening to the sequel. Don't bother. It only gets worse.
Why do I feel this is the worst epic fantasy series I've ever read? Let me count the ways:
1. It's too cutesy by half. While reading I often wondered whether it was written as a young adult series. It wasn't, the torture scenes show us that much, Goodkind just expects adult readers to accept layer upon layer of impossible coincidences. See other reviewers for specific examples.
2. The main character is a textbook Mary Sue. His only flaw is that he's in denial about how perfect and powerful he is. This gets worse as the series progresses.
3. Goodkind seems to think constant, teenage or teenage-like angst is counts as emotion and character development. The characters are all so angsty and whiny that you want to punch them.
4. The characters are extremely one-dimensional as well. There are no shades of gray in this book. The villain wants to take over the world and kill everybody because evil. He reads entrails and kills children because evil. He wants to ban fire (literally, fire) everywhere. Spoiler, in the next book he aligns himself with Satan. Why? Evil. Goodkind tries to introduce complexity by talking about how villains actually believe they're doing right, but he never bothers to reflect this in any of the villains' decisions, personalities, or dialogue. Yeah, the people siding with Satan, murdering children, stabbing their siblings in the back (next book), raping, torturing, banning fire (what?) etc. thought they were doing the right thing. Gotcha.
5. Along the same lines, the exposition is atrociously superficial. Where characters' relative goodness/evilness isn't revealed by their names alone ("Darken Rahl," "Zeddicus Zul Zorander"?), Goodkind goes out of his way to scream their alignments from the mountaintops. No shades of gray. See other reviewers for examples.
6. Problematic philosophical and political messaging. Goodkind puts a great deal of Randian/objectivist nonsense in his books, which I suppose makes sense with the general Mary Sue-ness of the main character. It's still gross.
7. Goodkind is a terrible joke-teller. Pretty much ever attempt at humor falls flat.
8. Repetitive writing. Even the most starry-eyed child in the world wouldn't use the phrase "best/bestest [blank] ever" as much as Goodkind's characters do.
9. Retconning the setting. It's not egregious between the first and second books, but it's there, and I'm told it gets much worse as the series progresses.
10. The sadism. A little bit of torture, used in the right way, can work well in fiction. With Goodkind it drags on and on in elaborate detail. There are so many graphic descriptions of rape, torture, and violence that it's just gratuitous. It adds nothing to the story, other than to further over-emphasize the goodness/evilness of the characters (see point 4).
11. The characters are way too powerful. This may seem nitpicky, but Goodkind writes his heroes and villains so powerful that he has to come up with dozens of dumb excuses for why they can't solve their "problems" by using X or Y overpowered move that they used in the previous chapter/book.
12. Lastly, to people who care about real-life war crimes, here's how Goodkind dedicated his seventh book in this series: "To the people in the United States Intelligence Community, who, for decades, have valiantly fought to preserve life and liberty, while being ridiculed, condemned, demonized, and shackled by the jackals of evil." I don't have time to write a dissertation on how many people our intelligence apparatus has murdered, or how many fascistic governments it directly created (Guatemala, Chile, Iran, to name just a few), all I'll say is Goodkind won't be getting another dime of my money. Especially not for fiction this bad.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Okay, okay, I understand where some of the previous editorials are comming from, BUT to say the book is stupid, bad, or a rip off from other books is just plain wrong! I will not bore you with a long winded explanation of the book, if you are reading this, you have ether already read the book, or are thinking about buying it ( dont want to spoil it for you). Anyway, the book is a very good read, the storie is entertaining, and I thougth very origonal (at least there were no dwarfs, elves, or trolls). I would recomend this book to anyone that is a lover of fantasy novels. I enjoyed the second book in the series just as well, and am eagerly looking forward to the third.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I guess it is inevitable that every Swords and Sorcery novel should give a respectful nod or two to Tolkien's masterpiece. Wizard's First Rule bears perhaps more similarities than most and the reader must be forgiven for playing spot the parallels here. We have the slightly eccentric wizard Zedd (Gandalf), a stout yeoman man-at-arms character Chase (Aragorn), a creepy but tragic transformed creature Samuel (Gollum), rampaging hearthounds (Wargs), and of course the brave if reluctant hero Richard (Frodo). We have a journey from the cosy West to the spooky East, a talking dragon, a royal revelation etc. Goodkind has clearly employed a large dose of the sincerest form of flattery here! As the tale unfolds however more of Goodkind's own inventiveness becomes apparent. On the emotional level, some scenes are decidedly strong stuff. The smouldering sexual chemistry between Richard and Kahlan becomes surprisingly steamy at times. Scenes of prolongued torture leave few details hidden. Some decidedly distasteful subjects are included, such as rape, infanticide and paedophilia, to depict graphically the evil that Richard must conquer. Areas that Tolkien would leave to the reader's imagination, Goodkind lays bare in often excruciating detail. The tale gathers much momentum in the latter stages and I contentedly stayed up until the early hours to read the rivetting denouement. So, all in all, this is a worthwhile read and the sum of its parts amounts to rather more than just another Lord of the Rings tribute. Oh and I must say that Goodkind's dragon is rather nice!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book is kind of a funny story for me. As a teen, I read the first 6 or so Sword of Truth books. I really enjoyed the first and second. I thought the magic system was creative, but after a while I got tired of the character's constant philosophical preaching. Still, since I remembered being so fond of the first novel, I suggested it to my book club.
Boy was I wrong. I'm embarrassed for the kind of person I must of been at 19. In the first three chapters I knew something was off. Being 10 years wiser than the last time I read it, I googled Terry Goodkind and Libertarianism and a trove of critiques popped up. That doesn't matter so much, I'm reviewing the book, not the political philosophy, but novel itself is a slave to the morals Mr. Goodkind is trying to express. Evil characters are shown to be lazy and grotesque, never working for what they have while the "good" are shown to be humble, hardworking folks that put in hours of loving care to get they meager possessions they have.
The bad guys are entirely too evil. They are all rapists and pedophiles. The good guys are entirely too good - they constantly try to sacrifice themselves for each other when it makes absolutely zero sense. And the constant apologizing gets so old. It's as if Mr. Goodkind is rehashing every argument he's ever had. The right character is so totally and completely right that the other person capitulates and apologizes for being wrong. There are pages and pages of this kind of interaction.
Not to mention the blatant plagiarism. If I was the author of this book, I think I would have a lot of trouble reconciling the these it has in common with Robert Jordan and J.R.R. Tolkien works. The only really good thing I can say about this book is that it's an interesting read. I have never before encountered a fantasy series that was so enslaved to a single political philosophy. If you had asked me if there was such a thing as Libertarian High Fantasy a year ago, I would have been like "Pffffft." It's fascinating how many things are wrong with this book (more than I can list here) and I think this would be a good cautionary tale for aspiring fantasy writers.