Definitely the worst of these books yet. I almost one-starred it, but the main thing that was making me want to do that was semi-addressed by the end, so I don’t think this series has quite reached the point of untenable badness just yet. (And I want to save the one star, because I’m pretty sure there is much worse to come.)
Lately I’ve been forcing myself to write reviews immediately after finishing books, but I made an exception with this one because a) I needed a break from it, and b) I annotated the shit out of my copy and needed to put actual effort into going back through it for quotes and such. Ironically, this has resulted in a frontlog of reviews (this is a word I just made up). I have, I don’t know, twenty reviews? ready to go. But I wanted to write this review first so I could post them in the order I read them. This is my brain!
So, seriously, this book was very, very bad.
It’s pretty rare that I say a book is “bad.” Most books have redeeming qualities, or maybe just aren’t my thing. Actually, there are a lot of books that people have loved that I hate. But just because I hate them, doesn’t mean they’re bad. One thing does not necessarily follow the other. It drives me absolute BONKERS when I see reviewers say books are BAD when really what’s going on is that they just don’t like them. There’s a difference between quality and preference. I feel like it’s a really subjective difference, but it is there. The Temple of the Winds has SO MANY THINGS wrong with it that I don’t feel uncomfortable at all just straight up saying it was bad. And yet, it was entertaining for the most part. But even that redeeming quality was mostly outweighed for me by the juvenile writing, terrrrrible dialogue, the blatant sexism, the lazy plotting, and awful character work.
The only part of this book I have no complaints with is the fantasy setting. I mean, it’s generic, but some of it is genuinely cool and/or interesting when separated from that other stuff. Like, I love the idea of the Confessors. And the way Goodkind handles prophecy in general is interesting in a way I’ve never seen another fantasy novel handle it. (Prophecy can only be interpreted by other prophets because the prophecy isn’t just the written words, but images and feelings that come with it that normal people can’t interpret, or even perceive.) I say “in general,” because there is a scene I’m going to talk about below involving prophecy that made me want to throw this damn book across the room.
So, let’s break it down. Spoilers all up in here:
Drefan Rahl and the “Mysterious” Prostitute Murderer
There’s a lot of stuff going on in this book. It’s 800 something pages. Drefan Rahl is one of those things, and since he connects in a major way to three storylines, I’m starting with him. So famous Richard Rahl, Lord of D’Hara and lover of Kahlan, at the end of the last book declared himself ruler of the known world or whatever, you know, for people’s safety. This involved forcing all the provinces and countries that used to make up the Midlands (a confederacy, ruled by the Mother Confessor, who is Kahlan) to declare loyalty to Richard and join the D’Haran Empire, giving up their sovereignty in exchange for protection. If they don’t do this, Richard will consider them an enemy, aligned with the anti-magic Emperor who is coming to kill them all. Richard has assumed that he was an only child until now, but it seems his father Darken Rahl, the old Lord Rahl, had lots of bastard children, most of whom he had killed, but one survived. That one is Drefan, who shows up in the middle of all these provinces and countries declaring themselves for Richard. He also happens to show up right when Emperor Jagang makes a new move by sending his agents into the city to cause chaos, by starting a plague outbreak with magic.
You, as a discerning reader, will pretty much know right away that Drefan is a bundle of trouble. He pretends to be the leader of a group of healers, a “nice guy” who is out to protect people and live down his awful father’s reputation. And then the first thing he actually does completely wipes that from your head. Cara, one of Richard’s Mord-Sith bodyguards, is attacked by Jagang, who is possessing this guy Marlin’s body (sigh), and Marlin escapes their custody, harming Cara in the process. Drefan just happens to show up right at that moment and “heals her”. I mean, he does heal her, but he gets up to some sketchy as hell rapey shit while doing it. During the healing, he full-on grabs her naked breasts, and then puts his hands down her pants and up her lady business. He says he’s doing this to check JUST IN CASE the bad guy put her in a state of continuous orgasm. You know, because that is a thing he thinks LIKELY. Either this world is way more fucked up than we thought, or this guy is a disgusting asshole. Even Kahlan balks at his behavior. She dwells on it for the rest of the novel, but she is horribly passive about it. She never tells anyone about her misgivings, even though Richard is trying to decide whether or not to trust his newfound brother, and that would have been helpful information. She is a doormat. (Sidenote: It was at this point that I just started writing “WTF” all over the book every time something like this happened. And it happened a lot. I should count the WTFs.)
So while all the city is going to hell with the plague, a rash of extremely violent prostitute murders start happening. We get to witness the first one via the “anonymous” POV of a new male character, who is the murderer. I knew immediately this murderer was Drefan. It was blindingly obvious. And yet, Goodkind wastes time trying to trick us into thinking it’s this other red herring guy. And I don’t know if Goodkind hates prostitutes or not (my guess is yes based on reading this book), but Drefan certainly does. His mother was a prostitute, so he thinks all of them are drunks and degenerates and generally horrible people. He murders them to cleanse the city. It’s predictable, and disgusting. He also continually, stupidly, and without proof, blames the spreading of the plague on the prostitutes, even though none of the victims we meet have ever even met a prostitute.
We also get this gem from him to Richard:
“Kahlan is beautiful. You are a fortunate man to have a woman of such substance and noble character. A woman like that only comes along once in a lifetime, and then only if the good spirits smile on you.”
Yeah, the rest of us are crap. (But really, to Drefan, we are.)
And then after all this awfulness, we have to deal with Drefan and Kahlan being a key part of the prophecy that is set to save everyone. But more on that later.
Seguing into the plague, seriously, fucking Drefan is OBSESSED with blaming the spreading of the plague on prostitutes. This is how he introduces himself:
“I’m Drefan Rahl, High Priest of the Raug’Moss community of healers. I’ve had some experience with the plague. I suggest that you confine yourself to your room and avoid contact with strangers. Especially prostitutes.”
I mean, WHAT!?????
Here’s him again, referring to Richard:
“You’d think he’d be worried about the plague, if not getting caught. The plague is running wild among the prostitutes, more so than among the populace at large.”
Drefan. Learn science. Then punch yourself in the face.
Also, like everything to do with the plague, this is just lazy writing. I knew going into this book that the plague would be the main threat, but it’s honestly barely in this, aside from a scene near the middle where we meet several children dying from the plague, who then do die. After that, we only get periodic updates from random characters telling us things like “more people are dying” and “oh that plague thing is still happening.” But we never SEE it. Particularly since I just read a plague book that was great (Doomsday Book), this felt extra bad to me. The plague never feels like a real threat by itself, only ever in the actions of Richard and Kahlan, who do some truly melodramatic things as a result. Only ONE character that we care about actually gets sick, so of course she is also the only one to die. She also happens to be a lesbian, who literally dies with a chipmunk eating from her hand. I’m telling you, I can’t make this up.
It also annoys me that this plague is the same as ours. This part may be just my personal preference, but I feel like it’s lazy writing. This is a made up world. That plague could be anything, and he went with something that is from our world (which also seems unlikely).
(P.S. TO DREFAN: THE PLAGUE STARTED WITH A CHILDREN’S GAME, AND ITS FIRST VICTIMS WERE ALL KIDS, SO HOW EXACTLY IS IT SO PROMINENT WITH PROSTITUTES AGAIN? OH WAIT IT’S NOT SHUT UP I HATE YOU.)
The Hot Mess of Nadine
Guys, Nadine. Just GUYS. NADINE. Nadine is the reason I started to think that Drefan wasn’t the only man who has a problem with women.
So Nadine is a young woman from Richard’s hometown who randomly shows up at the palace, declaring she’s, well. This is what she says:
“I’m on my way to my love. He’s been gone since last autumn. We’re to be wed, and I’m on my way to him.”
Stellar in every way, those sentences. It turns out her “love” is Richard Rahl, nee Cypher, and Shota the witch woman has told her she’s going to marry Richard. Nadine crosses a HUGE country to marry Richard, who she has not seen in years, and even before that, they barely spoke because of something awful Nadine did, just because this rando told her to. They weren’t even dating before that awful thing happened! (I promise I’ll tell you about it in a sec.) So for this completely moron to travel all that way on the word of someone she doesn’t even know, who tells her she’s going to marry Richard, for that to translate to, Oh I’m going to marry Richard, he must love me and I must love him and we’re going to be married despite literally everything telling me that’s not going to happen! you just know she has to be incredibly stupid.
Upon finding Richard and a bunch of people she doesn’t know, she:
- Continually tells them, including Richard, that they are going to be married, even after Richard tells her they’re not, he doesn’t love her, treats her like he doesn’t even LIKE her, introduces her to Kahlan, and tells her that he loves Kahlan NOT HER and he is marrying Kahlan NOT HER.
- Accuses Richard of tricking everyone in the room into thinking he’s a Lord and tells everyone in the room that obviously Richard can’t be Lord Rahl, because “Richard is a nobody.” This is an excellent way to woo a man. Especially one with a huge ego! Nadine, you complete idiot.
- Insists on inserting herself into everything, even though everyone keeps telling her to go away.
- Alters her dress overnight so that it’s tighter, so as to entice Richard, and then prances around in it.
She also continually says things like this to Kahlan:
Nadine looked Kahlan in the eye. “And you’re so beautiful. It doesn’t seem fair. You even have beautiful green eyes; I just have dumb brown eyes. You must have had men lined up around the palace your whole life, wanting you. You must have had more suitors than most women can even dream of. You have everything. You could have your pick of any man in the Midlands . . . and you pick a man from my home.”
“Any other woman in your place would’ve had me shaved bald and sent me out of town in the back of a manure wagon.”
NO, THEY WOULDN’T!!
Look, aside from Nadine being the worst, the fact that Goodkind thinks this is what happens between two women who want the same man says a lot about him. Men like Richard are SO DREAMY so we all must lose our minds at the possibility of being with him, ignoring any and all common sense, and behaving like cats fighting in an alleyway over whatever it is cats fight over. (My cat ate her own vomit this morning.)
And this is Kahlan’s reaction to Nadine:
“She wanted this tempting, dangerous, beautiful young woman away from Richard.”
Just, no. Why would an intelligent woman like Kahlan, who is supposedly marrying a man she trusts and loves, give two shits about Nadine? I mean, maybe be annoyed with her and wish she would leave, but treat her like a legitimate threat? No effing way. Kahlan isn’t stupid enough, or petty enough, for that. Or, she shouldn’t be, if Goodkind knew how to write his own character.
The pinnacle of the Hot Mess of Nadine comes when Nadine details to Kahlan why Richard and she never got together, and it turns out Nadine’s version of getting a man is just as bad and stupid as she is. She tries to snag Richard by seducing his brother, and planning for Richard to catch them. You should really read this whole page in its full glory to get the whole effect:
At least Goodkind takes the opportunity at this point to have Kahlan say this:
“Nadine, as the good spirits are my witness, you have got to be just about the stupidest woman I have ever met.”
All the Nonsense With Richard and Kahlan
Maybe this next thing has always been an issue and I just didn’t realize it. I did watch the TV show in between reading the last book and this one, and that show has none of the problems the book series does, particularly the sexism and characterization problems. So maybe the contrast between the TV versions of Richard and Kahlan–who are awesome–and the versions found here is what really brought this to my attention. Or this book just really really sucks, even more than the last three, at being good to these characters. It’s probably both.
Anyway, this book assassinates both of its lead characters. Kahlan becomes a doormat who dissolves into weeping fits at every provocation, instead of being the strong badass that she was. Richard is rude to everyone, even cruel, tries to control people in the name of keeping them safe, and loses his temper every five seconds. I guess the lesson here is that we women turn into emotional basket cases as soon as we fall in love, and men turn into controlling bags of dicks when given power over something, and the best part, that’s the way it SHOULD BE! That’s the IDEAL!
For example, here’s our hero seeing Nadine for the first time in years:
This wasn’t a deadly rage that gripped his eyes, or a lethal commitment. This was somehow worse. The depth of that disinterest, in that empty smile, in his eyes, was frightening.
The only way Kahlan could imagine it being worse would be if such a gaze were directed her way. That look, so devoid of fervor, if directed at her, would have broken her heart.
THIS is the guy?? This is the guy we’re supposed to see as a the rightful ruler? As the paragon of goodness? Richard is a good name for him, because he sure is a Dick. (I almost feel bad about writing that, because my little Italian grandfather’s name was Dick, and he was adorable.)
In fact, Richard enters Dick Mode quite frequently in this book, including acting that way to Kahlan, the supposed love of his life. And is a huge dick to Nadine as previously discussed. He and Kahlan have a confrontation after the stupid prophecy is revealed, and Kahlan starts crying, of course, OH RICHARD I WOULD NEVER BETRAY YOU (the prophecy says that she will betray him), and Richard just gets mad at her for going after the guy who brought the plague to the city, but really he’s not mad that she went, but that she DISOBEYED him. UGH IT MAKES ME MAD. Here’s the thing. Kahlan is a queen, a LITERAL queen. She is a warrior and has been for her whole life. Richard has been whatever he is for less than two years. Kahlan is also the Mother Confessor. Why are his wishes the only ones that are important? And how does he possibly think that he can keep her safe? Or that he even needs to? Kahlan defies Richard again when she goes to find Shota the witch woman and figure out WTF is up with Nadine. Of course, she feels bad for doing so, and takes the time to (literally) cry over her wedding dress before she goes.
In any other story, Richard is the bad guy.
As mentioned previously, Kahlan suddenly turns into the weeping willow and there’s the doormat thing, but there’s also a new and unpleasant development where she decides to suddenly turn into Regina George. While talking to Richard, Kahlan calls Nadine “a whore,” and then later, after Nadine expresses a particularly vile opinion, she says again, “Out of the mouths of whores.” WTF. First of all, that is an insult to actual whores. Second, since when is Kahlan so vile? And that moment, we’re meant to empathize with her. It’s so out of the blue and awful, I actually sided with Nadine for a second. And that’s saying something, because as I already told you, she’s the worst.
The worst, absolute worst, part of this book is the end, when the prophecy finally shows up. “The Winds” or whatever tell Kahlan that in order for Richard to find the Temple of Winds (the magical McGuffin where Richard will supposedly find the cure to the plague), she will have to marry Drefan, and Richard will have to marry Nadine. This plot development is so moronic and contrived and pointless, I’m not even going to waste any more time on explaining why it is all of those things. What I AM going to waste time on is what happens next.
They go to the top of a stupid hill, and then they stupid get married to the wrong stupid people for no stupid reason. THEN the Temple tells them the Temple will only open once they consummate their marriages. Why? I don’t know. Maybe the temple is sentient. Maybe it’s a voyeur. Maybe getting people to stupid marry each other and then watch them have sex is like the Temple’s porn. BUT IT GETS EVEN BETTER! Kahlan basically gets suicidal because the Temple will know if the marriage is false, meaning they can’t just get married to get into the Temple. It has to stick (because of course it does). Meaning she can never be with Richard . . . not until they’re both dead. Then if you start thinking, oh yeah, she can’t have sex with Drefan! Her Confessor powers will take over! Nope. The Winds take away her power so she can have sex with him no prob. And. AND! For the cherry on top of the perverted sundae, he writes it so that Kahlan is on her period, and makes sure to mention it (this also fulfills a part of the prophecy, that she will betray him in her blood . . . sigh). Oh, and they can’t talk OR ELSE. Then she has sex with Drefan. In the complete dark. She doesn’t enjoy it. Nothing happens. She figures the Temple wants her to enjoy it. She decides to enjoy it the second time, because what the hell.
But SURPRISE! The guy she had sex with was Richard! And he’s pissed that she enjoyed herself while thinking it was Drefan! And he storms off and abandons her!
And I hated it so much. This book does not understand love or jealousy or betrayal. This book thinks it can have it both ways. It thinks it can be a book with two soulmates who love each other and know each other truly. And it thinks it can have those same characters do things that are in direct opposition. It betrays its own characters just for drama, and it manufactures conflict out of nothing. Richard believes so little that Kahlan loves him that he has a hissy fit over something he knew she had to do. And then be blamed her for making the best of it.
The only reason I’m not giving this book one star out of complete disgust is that Richard apologizes and makes it clear that Goodkind at least knows a little of what’s what. He tells Kahlan:
“I have come to beg your forgiveness. I am the one who was wrong. I am the one who caused the true pain. I am the one who betrayed our hearts, not you. It is the worst sin I could commit, and I alone am guilty of it.”
So there was lots of other stuff I made note of that doesn’t fit into one of the bigger categories. I’m just going to list them out, since this review is already too long.
- This is the best dialogue ever:”You must be dreaming,” Cara said. His gaze shifted to the Mord-Sith.
“Dreaming? Maybe you’re dreaming. Maybe I’m your worst nightmare.”
“I don’t have nightmares,” Cara said. “I give them.”
- Every time he shows up, Emperor Jagang insists on referring to every woman he talks to as “Darlin” and it makes me want stab something.
- Every time they talk about Kahlan’s wedding dress, they call it her “blue wedding dress”. EVERY TIME. We get it, okay? IT’S BLUE.
- Richard punishes Cara like a patronizing asshole.
- Nathan, the escaped prophet, decides to get himself a little virginal blonde-haired, blue-eyed sex pet. It’s pretty gross, and then she dies.
- An exchange in the magical nun message book:’Ann, you wrote “Richard”. Did you really mean Richard?’
‘Yes.'” No, she meant Bobo the dogfaced boy. Idiot.
- There are actually lots of “anachronisms” for lack of a better word, in this book. Things that shouldn’t be there i.e. the word panties.
- “To live by violence is to invite it.” — Something I think is true, but which Goodkind obviously means us to think a stupid opinion, by giving it to a stupid character. Then a page later, the Dicktator tells everyone, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” And the thing is, Goodkind has created the kind of world where that is true.
- The Wizard’s Fourth Rule, in case you’re curious, is that there is power in forgiveness, in giving it, but more in receiving it. Honestly, I’ve got no complaints with that.
- More evidence that Goodkind knows nothing about women. Here’s what he thinks a woman’s reaction is to being near the end of her pregnancy:”I guess it’s only natural to dread such a profound change in their lives. Until it’s over, until the day is upon them, some of them are miserable with dread.”
- The Sliph, the magical being they use to transport themselves great distances, used to be a prostitute when she was a human, which lends a nasty angle to the fact that she receives and gives sexual pleasure when she transports people. Ugh, Goodkind is so obsessed with prostitutes.
- All I wrote next to this one was “fuck you”:
“The gift of a wizard was stronger than a sorceress’s–even Verna’s–gift.”
And that’s all I got, folks. Until next time.