For those of you who started following me because of my reviews of this series, I apologize in advance. I finished this book over three months ago now, so my initial impression of the book has faded. Also, despite this being overall not great, I have very little ire for it. These two stars aren’t a result of outrage or ickiness like usual; they’re more the result of this book seemingly have very little relevance to the main plot of the series.
But, good news for you if this review disappoints, I’m starting book eight tomorrow! (Which is why I’m finally writing this review.)
I suppose your basic enjoyment of The Pillars of Creation hinges upon whether or not you think it’s a good idea for Goodkind to sideline his two main characters, Richard and Kahlan, in favor of Richard’s previously unheard of half-sister, Jennsen Rahl, for an entire full-length book in this series. I don’t necessarily think it was a bad impulse for Jennsen to get her own story. Maybe it’s just my lingering good feelings about her from the TV show, but I rather like Jennsen as a character, despite how very long it takes her to catch on to certain things in this book. But perhaps this all could have been done in a side novel or novella instead of a full doorstopper length main-series tome? I’m talking, like, Robert Jordan’s New Spring, here: four hundred pages, in and out.
But, aside from it being a puzzling choice story-wise, I’m not all that mad about it. The story itself, which is more of an internal character journey for Jennsen, wasn’t bad. It certainly moved faster than many of Goodkind’s plots have in the past, and I wasn’t ever bored with it. The main thrust here is that Jennsen and her mother have been on the run for most of Jennsen’s life, as if he ever found them, Darken Rahl would kill them. Jennsen, as is the case with many of Darken Rahl’s offspring, is pristinely ungifted, meaning that not only does she have no ability with magic, it doesn’t affect her at all. This is dangerous to Darken Rahl for obvious reasons. The book opens with her mother being murdered by a team supposedly sent from Darken Rahl (even though we as readers know Darken Rahl is dead, and Richard is now the new Lord Rahl), and she goes off with Sebastian, the man who helps her escape.
Turns out, though, that Sebastian is a spy from the Imperial Order, which he willingly tells Jennsen. He immediately begins trying to turn her away from the Midlands and to admire the Emperor and the Order. The result of this is that we spend most of the book with a Jennsen who thinks the Order is benevolent, that her brother Richard is evil and trying to kill her, and the Midlands he rules are corrupt. One of the only things that actively annoyed me about this book is how long it took Jennsen to catch on to Sebastian’s ploy. On the one hand, it was sort of fascinating to see the series and its characters from this new angle, especially since Jennsen is so sheltered and rather an easy target. On the other, because this is Terry Goodkind, this premise (which I’m sure he engineered for expressly this purpose) also leads to a lot of very unsubtle political ideology often taking the place of actual character development or plot. This is, of course, becoming an increasingly bigger problem as the series goes on. Often it seems more important for Goodkind to use his characters as avatars of objectivism than to make sure they’re behaving like actual people.
I haven’t even talked about Oba yet! Let’s talk about Oba. Oba is Richard and Jennsen’s other half brother. Oba is a psychopath. Raised by an abusive mother, he manages to kill her and the local sorceress, and set off for his own parallel adventure that brings him into orbit with his siblings. Oba is the main villain in this book, with baddie Jagang taking a secondary role. Oba is actually not all at that interesting. Your standard violent misogynist, only very big and strong, and like Jennsen, immune to magic. I wanted to talk about Oba because of something he does in the second half of the book.
SPOILERS There is this very strange sequence where Jennsen has to cross a magical swamp that kills everybody who enters it, only it doesn’t kill her because she’s immune. In that swamp, she encounters a very large boa constrictor, and basically communes with it spiritually, convincing it not to kill her by just like, looking at it or whatever. They bond. It’s very weird but sort of sweet. Then, later, Oba enters the same swamp, also doesn’t die, and when he encounters the snake, he straight up murders it. Y’all, I got SO MAD. He was murdering everyone this whole book; his mom, the sorceress, a BUNCH of people. But the snake made me about 5,000 times madder than any of the rest of it. It was very graphically described, and I can’t figure out what Goodkind was going for. There is an obvious parallel between Jennsen and Oba there, how one treats the snake versus the other, but it also felt gratuitous, and like a slap in the face. The snake murder comes way after most of Oba’s other murders/rapes/other horrible things. We already know he’s a very bad dude. It was just such a weird moment and I don’t know how to feel about it, especially since it was the only thing in the book that really engaged me emotionally. Maybe I’m just overthinking it, and I just really like animals (yes, even snakes–we demonize them, and I hate it) END SPOILERS.
Lastly, I wrote in a status update the following regarding the last chapter: “This last scene is a real turd. 💩”
Unfortunately, I no longer remember exactly what my specific complaints were, or what I wanted to say. I do remember that it was pretty terrible executed. Richard and Kahlan finally appear and Jennsen sees the light and Oba is defeated. If I’m recalling correctly, the dialogue was abysmal and laughable, as in I’m pretty sure I laughed at how bad it was.
And now, I will be reading book eight, which even major fans of the series agree is a huge waste of time, and is very didactic, so I’ve got that to look forward to at least.
[2.5 stars, rounded down for now, might round up later]