As a HUGE fan of the Sword of Truth series, I have picked up each novel with a renewed interest in where Terry Goodkind will send us next, and what will happen next in the monumental battle against Jagang's seeminly endless army of the Order. Most of the novels have been absolutely amazing -- with only two exceptions, one of which has been included in this boxed set.
Pillars Of Creation ****
If this had been the very first book in the series, it would have been received MUCH better than it originally was. I have three big reasons why, and they have NOTHING to do with how good the book is. Let me explain: I purchased this book originally in hardback, and I noticed that the inside front cover *teased* us with a miniature description of the storyline...the problem is the publisher manipulates you into thinking this story features the main characters of Richard, Kahlan and soforth. The second reason is that of ALL the Terry Goodkind novels, this is the ONLY one NOT packaged as a Sword of Truth Novel on the front (of the hardback edition). WHY??? I'll TELL you why: what little we actually see of Richard contains nothing about the actual Sword itself. The third reason is the MAIN problem with the way the novel was packaged in the first place: It really moves the entire storyline nowhere. I may discover that to be incorrect after I finish the 11th and final novel (not out as I write this) but thus far, you could easily skip from Faith of the Fallen directly to Naked Empire and lose virtually NOTHING. I simply do NOT understand this type of departure from the main storytelling. I have since actually interviewed Mr. Goodkind and he is WELL aware of how this bothers a large number of his readers, and yet his explanation didn't satisfy my interest in the WHY he actually did it. Just imagine if George Lucas had decided instead of making Return of the Jedi, told a parallell story that took place within the Galaxy Far, Far Away, but not advancing ANY of the previous plot whatsoever and never including Luke, Leia, Han Solo and the droids except for the last 15 minutes ultimately giving us no real reason or desire to see the final chapter regardless of how entertaining it may have been.
With that said, I STILL enjoyed Pillars. It was well told, executed and kept my interest -- sometimes if only to continuously wonder where in the WORLD the main characters were? I liked the story of Richard's un-Gifted sister very much. That does not mean I didn't miss Richard and the rest, but felt it an odd departure and still do not feel that the novel *fits* into the saga as a whole. I enjoyed Soul of the Fire even less, but at least half of that novel introduced a situation that is critical to the on-going progression of the storyline.
Naked Empire *****
This was pure and simple Terry's effort to make up for how he disappointed us readers with Pillars. That may not be what Goodkind actually was thinking as he wrote this, but it certainly is MY opinion. In the midst of trying to handle the ever worsening war with the Order, Richard discovers a group of people who have cut themselves off from the rest of the world, seemingly on purpose, and quite literally refuses to defend themselves from the invasion of the Order. They are the pure definition of a pacifist -- times TEN. Richard becomes a bit preachy at parts, but that did not bother me the way it did others. When you actually DEAL with a committed pacifist, it takes a great deal of persuasion and repetitive speaking in order to gain any ground -- if any at all. A well-told tale that really did not advance the entire storyline much -- okay not at all, but at least featured Richard, which is really all most of us want anyway.
This was a slow starting story. But once the rubber hit the pavement, it took off with a burst of tremendous speed. The idea that some of the Sisters of the Dark could have the audacity to trigger a spell as far reaching and possibly earth-shattering as the Chainfire, well it is certainly one which is monumental in scope and amazingly creative as well and completely entertaining at the same time. The last 50 pages are as good as ANYTHING written by Goodkind, and more than that, I felt it was just about the best part of ALL of his novels period. The following novel I felt was JUST as compelling, but I already wrote about that in another review. Suffice it to say that when Goodkind is batting well, he quite literally hits home runs...some are Grand Slams, while others are just really really good, but twice he has hit a couple of fouls, one of which borders on an outright failure, but I'll leave that judgement call up to you. I still cannot wait for the 11th and final Sword of Truth novel to hit the shelves next year -- well at least I HOPE it comes out in '07...making us wait until '08 would certainly constitute a human rights violation, right?