A couple years back I read the first book in the Sword of Truth series, Wizard’s First Rule, and it made me get all ranty and weird. But long story short: even though the book featured some of the most naive and derivative writing I’ve ever seen (at points, it was positively juvenile), and even though a large part of it read like a BDSM wet dream, I enjoyed reading it. It remains to this day one of the most batshit things I’ve ever read. So here I was reading book two, Stone of Tears, which I assumed from its absurd length, was just as batshit as the first one. Hooray!
Let’s just say I wasn’t wrong.
Stone of Tears follows the newly minted Seeker of Truth, Richard Cypher — fresh from saving the world from the evil Darken Rahl, who of course turned out to be his father, but he doesn’t know that yet! — and his one true love, the Mother Confessor (don’t ask), Kahlan Amnell, as they go from the brink of happily ever after to HOLY SHIT THE WORLD IS ENDING AND IT’S ALL OUR FAULT in the blink of an eye. After getting their happy ending in Wizard’s First Rule, the two are separated by vast distances and improbable plot points, as Richard is taken away on the eve of their wedding by the mysterious and sinister Sisters of the Light, who profess to be teachers of wizards, and claim that unless he comes with them to their super duper secret palace in a land of far away, his burgeoning magical powers will kill him. So Kahlan forces Richard to leave her with that age old thing that isn’t actually a thing in real life but only in bad fiction, where a person shoves another person away, making them believe I DON’T REALLY LOVE YOU, so as to save their life, instead of being calm and rational about it and being all hey, I don’t know, honest? and maybe saying things like, “Hey, Richard, I know you hate collars and all and it makes you feel like you’re back in the bad rapey place, but I love you and I don’t want you to die, so you’re going to go with these creepy women, okay?” But no, it’s, “I don’t really love you! Leave me! And you obviously don’t love me if you won’t do what I say!” Completely and utterly moronic.
So Richard goes off to study with these motherfuckers and he’ s completely hostile the whole time and acting like an idiot, while Kahlan heads off to find Richard’s grandfather, getting waylaid along the way by war in the Midlands by an Imperial army that is such an anti-democracy stand-in it’s not even funny (cue a mini Ayn Rand lesson in the middle of my silly fantasy novel — Terry Goodkind is a professed libertarian). Then Darken Rahl sort of comes back from the dead and the underworld threatens to eat the world of the living unless IMPORTANT RICHARD OF THE PROPHECIES can get his shit together. You know, fun stuff like that. Things get weirder from there, and so much crap happens it would be a waste of time for me to write it all out, not to mention you probably wouldn’t even believe me because so much weird shit happens in this book — like, rapey shit and junk — it’s almost surreal. Goodkind does manage to pull the whole thing into narrative form somehow by the end, which is frankly a miracle, but just barely.
Unbelievably, I think the writing has actually devolved since the first book. Or, at least it felt like it at points. In reality, Goodkind is the same ponytailed dude writing the same overly seriously ponytailed things. My reaction probably has more to do with the joy of discovery being gone. You know, that feeling you get when you’re entering a new fictional world that goes something like, “Oh! This is here! What is this new thing? My brain feels pleasant right now!”? For a good chunk of Stone of Tears, that sense of discovery is missing, and in its place Terry Goodkind substitutes mind-numbing repetition, both of dialogue and of situations, mostly to do with the love story between our heroes, Richard and Kahlan.
When he’s describing the rules of his world, or introducing certain characters, and certainly in his descriptions of battle in the Midlands, the book is interesting, even very interesting at points. But it takes Goodkind twice as long as a more talented author to get his point across most of the time because the dude doesn’t understand the concept of subtlety. If he was about to be eaten by a giant slavering tiger and the only thing that could save him was understanding the concept of subtlety, Terry Goodkind would get eaten by the tiger. He just. Doesn’t. Get it. It literally LITERALLY takes him pages of having characters repeat the same information over and over to even have them communicate in basic language with each other. Sometimes he, again literally, has characters repeat exactly what they just said the sentence before, but in a different form. He also falls into the juvenile writing traps of having characters say each others’ names constantly, and having characters say exactly what they mean at all times. These are characters with no inner lives, because they are constantly taking all of their thoughts and screaming them to the world. It is super annoying. On top of all this mess — there’s just too much mess for me to even deal with properly in this review — his characters not only talk stupid, but they’re constantly doing idiotic things for no reason except that the plot demands it, and more often than not, we’re left with a hero who vacillates between incredible stupidity and superhuman nobility and competence, with nothing in between. The book is about two hundred pages too long, and almost none of the characters speak like they are real people. All together, it is just so freaking weird.
There were some good tings about the book. There would have to be in order for me to keep going. That thing is like 979 fucking pages long. I mentioned that I liked his action scenes, and I do have to commend him for creating Kahlan Amnell because she is a fucking badass (and I do really love the concept of the Confessors). Some of his other characters are pretty good as well (like Zedd), even as others are completely awful (i.e. Rachel, has Terry Goodkind even met a child before?). But I think mostly the reason I kept going, and the reason I will probably read the rest of the series eventually (besides having an OCD story completion fetish) is that I can appreciate the vast scope of the world Goodkind has created, and that even though I believe him to be unskilled as a writer, the world he has created lives on in spite of him. This thing is an undeniable feat of imagination, and there ain’t nothing in this world I love more than the possibilities of the imagination.
Final verdict, 2.5 stars.
[Link to original review here.]