The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind

Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind

By far my favorite series so far! Terry Goodkind has outdone himself time and again when publishing sequel after sequel of this 11-book epic fantasy saga. The first book of The Sword of Truth,  entitled Wizard’s First Rule, is one of, if not the best fantasy book I have read so far. It is a little surprising, because it has some rather prevalent romance overtones, and I never been a romantic type (Ok, maybe a little bit in high-school, but now I’m a bitter old man.. 24 year old to be exact).

The plot might seem standard for fantasy at the first sight (mighty protagonist as the champion of all that is good, waging battle upon the evil forces of the whoever the main-bad -guy is). That is not the case here. What seems to be a straight cut good vs. evil, turns out to be layered with lots of gray areas. Nobody’s totally good (maybe excluding Richard Cypher, the protagonist, but even he gets a little mud on his shoes) in the series. Even when we get to the Coalition of Evil of the books, the antagonists are portrayed more in-depth. We get to know the reasoning behind their actions. They are not bad, because they want to be bad. They do what they do because they believe that their actions are right and serve the common good of the people (Commie Alert!), but that is not an excuse, just another layer of grey between white and black.But what got me sold on the series was not the plot, characters (although that played a big part in my affection for the saga), but the philosophy behind it.

Don’t get me wrong here, I never liked philosophy, although I always had A’s from my philosophy classes. It’s not that I didn’t understand what those all-so-mighty philosophers were trying to write in their ancient text. I just never could find a philosopher that I could agree with (No Kant, you didn’t cut it either with your Categorical Imperative and Duty everywhere). More to the point, I hated the very idea of some arrogant little philosopher telling me how to live my life like he knew everything and I knew nothing(yeah? if you’re so smart and I’m so dumb, why am I alive and why are you dead, pal?).

 

So, how was the philosophy in The Sword of Truth different from what was preached by Plato/Kant/Locke/etc.? Well, for starter I didn’t know that I was reading a philosophy book, until I started questioning things myself. Why did that character did what he did. What were the reasons for his actions? What was the outcome? Was it right or wrong? What would I do differently? In other words, the book got me thinking (ouch, that hurt). Other thing was, that the explanation given by the author through the dialogs and characters’ thoughts, was something that I agreed with.

So, for the first time in my life, I found a philosophy that I didn’t discard almost right away as a piece of garbage. Aside for reading the books, I decided to find out more on this mysterious philosophy that I agreed with so much (or to be honest about it – to find out if I can find something that I disagree with). I googled the author’s name and found some sort of his biography (I think it was a wikipedia entry). Turns out that Terry Goodkind considers himself an Objectivist, and cites Ayn Rand (originally Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum) as his major influence.

At that point, I decided to learn more about Ayn Rand and the Objectivist philosophy and found it rather to my liking. I found the ideas of rational self interest, objective knowledge gained through measurement, capitalism, and fierce opposition to communism (go live in a socialist/communist country and you’ll get my drift here) very appealing to me. I always believed in freedom, and always believed that freedom is the only thing worth dying for. I hated when somebody (be it my parents, teachers, or whoever) told me what to do, when their only argument for validity of their opinions was an old saying: “Because I say so!” This might explain my aversion to philosophy as a whole and kind attitude towards objectivists.

Anyhow, that’s what the philosophy in The Sword of Truth is all about: thinking for yourself, making your own decisions, and working for your own happiness, and not the common good of all just because somebody else doesn’t feel like working right now (sounds like the ideas of libertarians –  vote Ron Paul!). Pretty much sums up the idea of a free will, right? But no matter what you believe in, this series is a really good read regardless of the philosophical undertones, plus at some points it gave me a little tear in my eye (another thing I’d think that would never happen).

11 books + one rather short prequel (Debt of Bones), mostly targeted to adults, but wouldn’t hurt a teenager either.

My ranking for the series: 10/10 (All time favorite –  a MUST read!)

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hey Konrad,
    You really hit the nail on the head with your review of Terry Goodkind’s fantastic Sword of Truth Series. The philosophy behind the amazing storyline and the rules that defined the conflict in each novel lifted the series to so much more than entertainment and escapism. The series got me thinking more than any other book I’ve read, and have in fact defined my next literary pursuit: Ayn Rand’s objectivist novels, Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
    After having read so many reviews by people who don’t appreciate the underlying philosophy, it’s refreshing to read a review written by one who sees the same in Goodkind’s books as I do. It’s also refreshing to have knowledge that there is a mind out there that had recognized the problems with the popular modern philosophies and who has discovered a wonderful, well-reasoned and truly liveable philosophy of life through Goodkind’s books.

  2. Thanks for your comments Barry! It is really odd how your experiences are so much like mine. I mean disagreement with modern philosophies, objectivism, Ayn Rand and all.

    As far as the book(s) itself, I guess I appreciated the underlying philosophy because it was the first one that I could actually agree with. Other trends in philosophy (the ones the teach at school at least) just seem to be either based entirely on religion, golden rule, or are plain socialist in or the other, which is unacceptable to me, since I despise anything to do with Commies.

    Do you consider yourself a Libertarian by any chance?

  3. I haven’t studied libertarianism enough to make a claim either way. My objectivist attitudes stem directly from reading the Goodkind books, though; so if I were to place any label on my beliefs, it would be that I am a free man, free to make the choices that my life requires.
    I still have a lot of reading to do. I have only recently finished the Goodkind books, and I’ve put an order in with Amazon.com for The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I feel that I need to get to the root of the philosophy itself in order to understand it well enough.
    Regarding what I have learned of this philosophy, though, objectivism seems like the philosophy I will not only believe in but live by passionately. Everything I’ve come to understand of objectivism works. It is reason and thinking and constantly pursuing a better life for yourself and those you love. Without even knowing it, I have been applying objectivist attributes in my own life, to a degree, ever since I decided to renounce god when I failed to see the sense in placing my faith in an invisible man in the sky (no offense intended to any believers in god who end up reading this).

  4. Yup, I pretty much went the same way, from Goodkind to Rand.

    As far as religion goes, I don’t have anything against it, but it’s not my thing. I’d rather believe in myself and my drive to success than rely on… well, some guy in the sky ;)

    I have some theories on this subject, but this is about fantasy here, so I don’t want to go off-topic too much.

  5. Hi,

    I am sorry but this series started off amazing but by book 5 I began to hate it. Reflection upon upon reflection upon reflection instead of just getting on with the story.Yes there was an underlying philosophy that the Goodkind obviously wanted to express thats great but the obsessive reflection on the relationship between Richard and Kahlan got unbareable. Unfortunately i never stop reading a serious half way through. I was relieved to have finished it. I was very disappointed as I was blown away by the characters and story line up untill book 5. Feist remains number one

  6. I’m currently on book 11 of this series, but can weigh in on what Konrad said.

    I too, found great meaning and truth in the philosophy of Objectivism. I had most of what it contains, however I never had the form or structure to express what I believed til I learned of Ayn Rand and her philosophy.

    I don’t understand how so many people get part way through the series and give up. Yet many people who I’ve seen write this, the fact they have to give up on the series, have read all of Robert Jordan’s books… Yeah, madness. There is actually something more than entertainment to Terry’s books, which is not rare, but the value of the philosophy and thought-provoking is enough to make it shine.

    Interesting side note: I’m a Norse Heathen, Objectivist, Libertarian, I’m pro-war, hate-monger, and wish to be future Emperor of certain countries. Down with Leftist idiocy!

  7. I have to agree with Kevin on this one. This series started out well, but really drags after the initial books. So much reflecting and guessing and trying to figure out what’s happening with the confusing magic just gets tedious. If you can enjoy a philosophy book, maybe you can enjoy this series. I wouldn’t recommend reading past the first book.


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