This is the latest Sword of Truth novel (number seven, and counting); the inside cover bills it as “A novel of the nobility of the human spirit”. It’s actually not a bad description.
For those unfamiliar with the series: A fellow raised as Richard Cypher was named the Seeker of Truth by the greatest wizard of the Midlands, found out that he was the son of Darken Rahl, one of the most evil wizards alive, fell in love with the Mother Confessor Kahlan Amnell, discovered he was a war wizard, and became a ruler of a nation-just in time to face an invading army from the Old World, which is only now beginning to come in serious force.
How’s that for compressing six novels?
More recently, Richard ran into his greatest failure. In the last book, Soul of the Fire, Richard attempted to forge an alliance with Anderith, a nation with a serious caste system problem; due to a number of events, they voted against opposing the army from the Old World-charmingly called the Imperial Order, run by the dream-walker, Emperor Jagang. Given some of the rather dirty politics that went on (almost like real life), and given the fact that Kahlan was beaten to an inch of her life in the process, Richard became disillusioned with the whole effort, and decided that he no longer wanted any part in saving the Midlands from the invasion. He took Kahlan and his bodyguard Cara to the Westland to get away from it all. Unsurprisingly, the world wasn’t interested in just “letting him go”.
With this book, Faith of the Fallen, Goodkind reintroduces Sister Nicci, one of the Sisters of the Dark, a sorceress in the service of the main evil power, known as the Keeper. Nicci’s an interesting character; her reintroduction is heavily influenced by a rather grisly execution to one of the Imperial Order’s officers. She doesn’t really see herself as a part of the Order-in fact, it seems that she’s more interested in self-discovery. The bad news is that she wants to find out if she’s right by using a test subject-Richard. Using a spell to bind her life to Kahlan’s, she blackmails Richard into traveling with her to the Old World to learn first-hand how righteous their cause was. She seeks to justify the bleakness of her own existence.
In the meantime, Kahlan-finally recovering from her injuries-returns to the war, and attempts to destroy as much of the Imperial Order’s army as possible. She’s aided by the Sisters of Light; Zedd, the First Wizard; and her own army made up of mostly Richard’s followers and her own. The Imperial Army is pretty damned big, though-and it looks as though Jagang has many more soldiers to call upon to reinforce it.
The nice thing about the Sword of Truth novels is that they can be read as solo novels alone. Sure, it’s better to read them as a series, because it is about the continuing adventures of Richard, Kahlan, and their friends. But each novel is nicely self-contained, and contains a beginning, middle, and end. Goodkind has been remarkably consistent in this, and there are several writers who could learn a lesson from this.
Faith of the Fallen explores the other side; the people who live under the regime of the Imperial Order. I found those portions of the novel far more interesting than the ongoing war. The previous novels had done a job on showing how barbaric the Order was in waging war, but this book shows how the general population lives. It reminds me a twisted version of communism (no letters on politics, please! I’m no poly-sci major), and the population isn’t encouraged to see the better part of human nature. It’s an attitude brought out by their leaders, and it baffles Richard throughout the book.
In spite of the dark mood that permeates the book, it does succeed, I feel, in living up the the jacket’s claim of being a novel of the nobility of the human spirit. The last five or six chapters more than gloriously makes up for the darker tone, and may provide a bit of hope for the next novel. If nothing else, it inspired me to hope the next one comes out as quickly as possible.