Well, this was kind of clumsy, but I actually liked it? I’ll be honest, I’ve had such poor experiences with the last couple of Sword of Truth books, I expected more of the same here, and went looking for it. But this ended up being pretty harmless, and by the end, it actually had me engaged. Well, as engaged in this series as I have ever been, (which, by the way: engagement peaked in book one). So: haven’t enjoyed anything in this series this much since then.
This is a novella Goodkind wrote in between books four and five, and it was originally published in one of the Legends anthologies. It’s a prequel, following a young woman named Abby and the time she met the First Wizard, Zeddicus Z’ul Zorander. The story takes place years–at least several decades–before the first Sword of Truth book, when Zedd was still a young(ish) man, and his daughter is very young. Abby travels to meet Zedd to seek his help, as D’Harans have invaded her village and taken her father, husband, and young daughter hostage. Abby is the POV character, but this is really the story of how the boundaries went up, and the war with Panis Rahl was ended.
Surprisingly, there is a clear focus and intent in this story. It’s not just a novel-length polemic, as the main books are becoming, nor is it so chock full of platitudes and strange aphorisms that you just want to roll your eyes (like the earlier books). Maybe Goodkind is just better when he’s being forced to whittle things down. (Note: His dialogue and phrasing are still overdramatic as hell, and it’s way overwritten, although at least none of the characters here have been hit with his customary Stupid Stick. Also, none of the heroes are acting like dicks, which is also a thing he’s taken to doing in the later books.)
This actually would make a good YA fantasy novel, even if it is a little dark. But I could have handled it for sure as a younger person. Unfortunately, Goodkind is not writing for a YA audience, so that may tell you a little bit about his writing prowess. This is also waaaaaaaay less gross and fucked up than his books usually are (bag of nipples, anyone?). It was practically normal.
I feel like I’ve got to note here that my positive three-star review of this may have a lot to do with the fact that I had zero expectations for it going in. It didn’t have a high bar to clear. Or really any bar at all.
Anyway, to sum it all up: I surprisingly enjoyed this, but I’m sure when I pick up book six in the main series later this year, he’ll back in grand form with perviness, jerkiness, and stupidity on obvious display.