This set contains books 7-9 of Terry Goodkind's wonderful epic fantasy series The Sword of Truth: The Pillars of Creation, Naked Empire, and Chainfire.
The Pillars of Creation - 4 stars.
This is not among the best books of the series--some of the new characters are better than others, and some parts of the story more engrossing than others--but it is still quite good. I especially liked Althea and her husband Friedrich, and Tom. Jennsen is a mixed case, but more good than bad. Oba was a bit annoying. Sebastian is one of the best new Goodkind characters, good or evil (perhaps in this case not obviously either), in a long time. The section when he takes Jennsen to meet Emperor Jagang for the storming of Aydindril stands up to almost anything in the series thus far.
And, as usual, Goodkind's story illustrates important political and philosophical themes. Here we have a novel about the crucial need of, appropriately enough in light of 9/11, good intelligence agencies (though this is hardly an Ian Fleming novel), and more deeply of using your own judgment rather than relying on what others tell you is the right or wrong thing to do. A worthy message well told.
Naked Empire - 4 stars.
In Naked Empire, Terry Goodkind weaves a plot that, through the action of the story, illustrates increasingly deeper themes with great relevance to our culture today. Politically, and most superficially, it is a story about the hopelessness of the doctrine of pacifism for establishing genuine peace, but that it rather leads to tyranny. Ethically, it is about whether people are justified in fighting for their values by retaliating against physical threats to them, or whether it is ever proper to turn the other cheek. Epistemologically, it is about whether genuine knowledge comes by revelation from another world, or by reasoning about our perception of this world. And metaphysically, it is about the doctrine of mind-body dualism versus that of mind-body unity, and the results of accepting each. (There is even a bit about esthetics, though not nearly as a much as in Faith of the Fallen, in which the nature of art played a much more central role.)
As usual, the plot advances the stories of the characters and the world in which they live, and Goodkind's characterization is excellent (though Owen is a bit obnoxious at first, but not as bad as Nadine in Temple of the Winds).
Chainfire - 5 stars.
I would rank this book up there with Faith of the Fallen as the best book in the series so far. While not as explicitly philosophical as Faith of the Fallen (which, aside from Richard's first premature and out-of-place philosophy speech at the beginning, seamlessly integrated philosophy with dramatic action so that by the climax I was on the edge of my seat not in spite of, but because of the ideas involved), Chainfire cashes in on the reader's love for the characters, and their value to each other, that has been built up since the beginning of the series. The scene in which Richard contemplates suicide is particularly stunning. Publisher's Weekly's complaint that there's not enough action is shallow and stupid. Who needs sword fights when you've got drama like that? Besides, the "beast" that's after Richard is the best antagonist Goodkind has created yet.
A word about the box set itself: it would have made more sense to box Pillars and Naked Empire together with Debt of Bones instead of Chainfire; that way, when Confessor comes out in paperback, they could have done a fourth set consisting of the Chainfire trilogy (Chainfire, Phantom, and Confessor). But I suppose they will instead do Phantom, Confessor, and DoB for the last set, and it's a minor complaint in any case.