I mean, I’m being hyperbolic, because reading this felt like it took forrreevvver, but I’m also being literal. I started this series in summer 2009. It has never taken me so long to get through a series. I did the Wheel of Time in three years, and there are more books in that series, and the books are longer (mostly). So it is slightly weird that I’m so close to the end now. I’ve only got one more book left! I’m not doing any of the later books he started writing when he decided his creative well was dry and ran back to Richard and Kahlan (plus he self-published them so they’re probably even more out of control than the books published by Tor got). I miiight (big might) do the Nicci books down the road if I get curious, because she’s one of the bright spots in the books, but for now, this is the end.
I was pleasantly surprised by how into the last book I was. It had real emotional stakes and for the first time in books and books actually started moving the plot along towards an endgame. This one was a bit of a downgrade after that, and I didn’t even have the usual dubious pleasure of pointing out weird shit Goodkind thought up. Either I’m totally used to his nonsense by now, or he’s toned it down. Honestly, it could be either or both. Mostly this book didn’t feel entertaining, and I was constantly checking the time count on my audiobook, thinking, when will this be over? (I did the audio for the first time on this series to see if it could help me get through it, and it did! Not my favorite audio narrator, but he was good enough.)
The amount of plot and movement in here required a book at half the length of this one, but everything took twice as long as it should have due to: Repetition of ideas and phrases by characters, sometimes three our four times in a row; endless scenes where characters explain things to each other that don’t need explaining, and ask each other endless questions that are very stupid; way too much focus on the technobabble of the magic; seriously nobody cares about this, get back to the actual story; indulgence in violence that means descriptions of various peoples being violated in various ways goes on way too long. Among other complaints. Those are just the ones I can pull off the top of my head.
The overall arc here isn’t bad. Kahlan, sans memory, is being held captive, first by the Sisters of the Dark who enacted the Chainfire spell that erased her from most people’s memories, then by Jagang. Most of the time, I was engaged with her plight, as she fights to gain a sense of herself and her situation without having any idea who she is or where she came from. Richard’s arc is to accept that he can’t do anything about Kahlan at the moment, and he needs to focus on defeating Jagang/saving the New World. Part of this gets REAL fun, where Richard realizes that his army can’t defeat Jagang’s on a field of battle. They just have too many men and seemingly endless resources, not to mention Jagang’s armies split their forces and have Richard’s forces cornered in the People’s Palace. So he decides to have the army retreat, and instead of engaging Jagang directly on his chosen field of battle, Richard decides to move his troops to the Old World, and basically have his army turn into a bunch of phantom guerilla regiments (the first and most literal meaning of the book’s title, the second being Kahlan’s phantom-like presence).
Only, they aren’t told to go after military targets. He tells them to target civilians as well as the supply lines, to basically kill everyone they can find to send Jagang a message, and to make it impossible to maintain his troops in the New World. Richard gives this huge righteous speech about it, and I tell you what, I completely turned on him after that was over. Richard has become the bad guy, officially, not that the narrative or the author is aware of it. The ends justify the means, according to him. I’m sure the millions of people being slaughtered will be happy to know they are dying so horribly in service of Richard’s “just” war.
Hoping for a more exciting, less repetitive, and non-objectionable as possible last book. Can’t honestly hope for more than that, given the previous ten books. Goodkind gonna Goodkind.