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!)