Soul of the Fire by Terry Goodkind

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Soul of the Fire by Terry Goodkind
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Some people complain about the slow pace of the book; to me, the real problem is that especially by the end of it, much of the content felt completely unnecessary.

The big obstacle of this book was, first and foremost, the Chimes. In spite of this, they actually seem to occupy very little of the plot, except when people are just worrying about them. This wasn’t a completely illogical approach, because it was necessary for the heroes to spend most of the story simply researching how these Chimes could even be stopped, as the knowledge was never known. In light of this, Goodkind has to introduce a different plotline–the Imperial Order–in order to flesh out the story so that characters don’t spend the pages reading books.

The way he tackled the Imperial Order, however, was to introduce a bunch of new characters and give us a vision of a particular country’s (Anderith) politics and habits in the face of cultural customs and bids from both the Imperial Order and the D'haran Empire. The results were lackluster. The new characters interact little to none with the original cast, and among them, few, if any, were sympathetic. Considering what happens to most of them, a part of me wondered why I bothered reading at all. They felt more like plot-fodder than plot-drivers, and this, I believe, was the primary reason for the boredom associate with this book. If they had been removed or given less prevalence in the narration, I feel as though this would have changed little, and any plotholes could have easily been patched up by other (more interesting) means.

It was evident early on that the series is an expose for Goodkind to espouse his political and moral ideology. From the beginning, most of it has always seemed rather forced and contrived (that is, it was very obvious what he was trying to do), but this book was particularly bad, if only because the fallacies of his logic were self-evident. Richard travels through Anderith explaining the promises of the D'haran Empire in an attempt to win the citizen’s vote. He is shocked and appalled, and loses faith, when he discovers that his promises hold no sway. At the end of the story, Richard feels the people have abandoned him, that they have betrayed him because they believed the lies of the Ander leadership (campaigning simultaneously) instead.

Honestly, what did he expect? He was so hateful towards the people in the end for not believing in him that he decided to let the city suffer its fate at the hand of the Imperial Order. But what did he do the whole time but offer them words? These are people who have spent generations under political and psychological oppression. All they have ever known is the leadership of the Anders, who spin their definitions of kindness and cruelty and teach these things to children at a very young age. The Ander have lived a life of privilege, and the Haken, who sway the vote, have never known anything beyond their own lands. They do not know Richard, they have not seen for themselves the work of D'hara under his rule. And yet he expects them to intuitively know his word is true, to overcome all of the psychological oppression they have known all their lives?

Perhaps Goodkind takes note of this unrealistic and unfair expectation in later books, but to me Richard has made a grave error. If Richard had decided that he could not realistically come to the aide of the Anderith people, that is one thing, but it was clearly evident to me that he ordered what he did–do not help a single person–out of spite. He is not regrettably being forced to let them suffer to pursue a better strategy, but punishing them for their child-like ignorance and misinformation. I find this reprehensible.

Finally, since the first book Goodkind has displayed his habit of wrapping up the story quickly and often providing little detail as to how everything works. This wrap-up was particularly fast-paced and senseless.

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