When I first started the Sword of Truth series, I loved it. I hadn’t read a lot of fantasy, and as a result I was surprised at the mixture of likable characters and adult drama that filled the pages. So I continued to read, and Goodkind continued to write, and write and write. As a completionist, I stuck with them, even though the stories became more and more predictable and repetitive. For this being a twelve book series (as of this writing), not a lot happened in the later books. I have spent countless hours reading these massive books, and I can say that not all of those hours have been rewarding. If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self about my reading habits, the advice I’d give him would be “The Sword of Truth series will disappoint you, more than half of the books are not good and the payoff is only average. Then, when you think you’re finished, he’ll release another book that’s really bad. If you insist on reading this series, just read the good ones and read recaps of the bad ones.” I’m sure I wouldn’t have followed my own advice (I’m like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “Looper” that way), but here’s my breakdown of the books in this series and where the reader should drop off in favor of a recap:
1. Wizard’s First rule –A solid introduction to this world and its characters, one that has unfortunately been damaged by the end of the series. While Richard and Zedd are faily prototypical heroes of Fantasy, Kahlan’s role as a confessor was unique enough to give make this a plunge worth taking. After reading “Confessor,” you will realize a lot of what the characters believe in this series are lies and the drama of this book was mostly unnecessary. But you won’t realize that yet, so I say go ahead and read this one if you’re interested in this series. Overall rank – 3rd out of 12.
2. Stone of Tears – More than any other book in the series, Stone of Tears expands the world of the Sword of Truth series and leaves the reader optimistic about the scope of amazing stories Goodkind will surely share with his readers. The Sisters of the Light and the expansion to Aydindril provided enough change from the previous book to distract from the normal problems that were starting to pop up in the writing. Because it was early in the series, there was less prior material to recap as well. Overall rank – 2nd out of 12
3. Blood of the Fold – At this point in the series, I still enjoyed this book but also realized that Goodkind was fairly limited as a writer. Tons of time is spend recapping prior events and lengthy speeches by characters become more frequent. Goodkind also spends a great deal of time describing acts of violence against women, more so than in the rest of this series (which still deals with this quite a bit). Even if the scenes don’t bother you, you’ll realize quickly how often Goodkind uses this as a crutch for generating tension in his plot. Overall rank – 4thout of 12
4. Temple of the Winds – The Hallmarks of what ruins most of this series begin here and are on full display. The villains are all sadistic clones of each other, prophecy comes up out of nowhere that foreshadows the end of everything and isn’t mentioned again before or after this book, the magic used at the end and reveal of the Temple of the Winds are deus ex machina that completely ignore the rules of magic set out in other books. Also, the way that Kahlan “betrays” Richard in blood was about as close for me to throwing a book in the garbage as I got in this series. Overall rank – 6 out of 12 (Yes, that means many of these books are really bad).
SKIP IT, READ A RECAP
5. Soul of the Fire – A lot of the same problems as the last book, but this book sets the new tone for the series that every book will follow, namely that no character in the book knows anything about magic. Wizards and the like such as Zedd, Nicci, the Prelates, Nathan etc. will argue with Richard about what magic can and can’t do. **Spoiler alert for the series** Richard is always right, in every book, every time. Despite that, these same experts (his teachers) will doubt him through every book. Finally Richard will solve the problem through some amazing magic at the end that comes out of nowhere, then be treated as an amateur again at the next book and also forget how to use magic yet again until the ending. Overall rank – 7 out of 12.
SKIP IT, READ A RECAP
6. Faith of the Fallen – The last good book in the series, and my favorite entry overall. Look, it’s Goodkind, so it’s not perfect. This is the preachiest book in the entire series, but the story and characters were all at their most enjoyable. Throughout the Sword of Truth, with almost zero exceptions the characters are archetypes that don’t change or do anything unpredictable. In this book, Nicci has an actual character arc and grows as a person. I’d describe this as Goodkind doing a good Ayn Rand impersonation, so it’s definitely not for everybody but it was well done. Overall rank – 1 out of 12.
7. The Pillars of Creation – The most forgettable installment in the entire series, that’s actually sort of a compliment at this point. There was nothing about this one that completely infuriated me, but there were also still tons of pages of recaps and character speeches that did nothing to advance the plot. This is an entry that could have been skipped altogether and not affected the series. Overall rank – 9 out of 12.
SKIP IT, RECAP OPTIONAL
8. Naked Empire – This is a bad book. I’ll summarize by saying the problems that were in Temple of the Winds, Soul of the Fire and Faith of the Fallen are proudly resurrected for this novel. What I could do, is recap what all of those problems are and spend ½ of a book talking about those problems and how they were addressed previously instead of actually writing a new story, and fill the other half with definitive statements on how we should view the world and what makes a person good (this style of writing could be called “Goodkinding”) but that wouldn’t be very entertaining, would it? Overall rank – 10 out of 12.
SKIP IT, READ A RECAP
9. Chainfire – The beginning of the END. Book one of a trilogy to wrap up this meandering series that lost all quality 2 books ago. Surely, stuff starts to happen that is important in this book, and the long recaps are abbreviated? WRONG. All of the same problems here, including new magic rules that nobody knows and are quickly broken, more dark prophecy out of nowhere. Here’s your recap: Richard and Kahlan are separated. Overall rank 11 out of 12.
SKIP IT, READ A RECAP
10. Phantom – We’re getting closer to the end, but still nothing much happens. This book had probably the least interesting plot of any in this series. Kahlan and Richard are still separated, but now there’s a blood-beast to contend with. (A blood-beast is another magic thing that came out of nowhere, that nobody has ever heard of, and is tied into new prophecy). I’ll rank it higher than “Pillars of creation,” “Naked Empire” or “Chainfire” because the stupid blood-beast was more action than any of the entirety of those go nowhere books. Overall rank 8 out of 12.
SKIP IT, READ A RECAP
11. Confessor – The best book since Faith of the Fallen (settle down, the other four books were all… not good). There’s still tons of recap and preaching, but actual things happen in this book! There’s an exciting Ja’la match, a trip to the underworld, and the final use of magic rules that come out of nowhere and prophecy that doesn’t make sense (because the series ended!). The end of the book conveniently tries to fix everything, and really there aren’t many consequences for any characters of interest in this book. Cara and maybe Zedd have endings that wrap up their story, but the rest of the characters are pretty much where they’ve been since book three in the series. Overall rank, 5 out of 12.
12. The Omen Machine – Wait, there’s another book after Confessor? I’ll start by saying this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Like Scarlet Witch in Marvel Comics, I had to say outloud when finishing this book “No more Goodkind.” For starters, early Goodkind was well written even when his poor plots and overly preachiness took over. The Omen Machine was not even well written. Much of the fun banter is missing, also gone is the feeling of any gravity to a situation. Despite being a shorter book it was harder to get through than any other in the series. The big wrap up that Confessor finally delivered? The Omen Machine takes place ONE DAY later and goes right back to the same well with a new prophecy that threatens all. Kahlan in particular is useless in this novel, ignoring all of her prior resourcefulness from the series and requiring Richard to do everything. This series had a few books I’ll remember fondly, but this last book was so bad and it caps off a string of subpar books that Goodkind’s not getting any more of my time or money. 12 out of 12.
SKIP IT, DON’T READ A RECAP, PRETEND IT DOESN’T EXIST
Overall Rankings from Best to Worst:
1. Faith of the Fallen #6
2. Stone of Tears #2
3. Wizard’s First Rule #1
4. Blood of the Fold #3
5. Confessor #11
6. Temple of the Winds #4
7. Soul of the Fire #5
8. Phantom #10
9. The Pillars of Creation #7
10. Naked Empire #8
11. Chainfire #9
12. The Omen Machine #12
**Note – I read these books before I started reviewing each book I read. My thanks to the many reviewers who have reviewed the individual books in the series for their assistance in reminding me which order to put the bad books in.**