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Book Review: Confessor by Terry Goodkind

* Genre: Epic Fantasy
* ISBN: 0765315238
* ISBN-13: 9780765315236
* Format: Hardcover, 608pp
* Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC (TOR)
* Pub. Date: November 2007
* Series: Sword of Truth Series, #11

Confessor is the last book in Terry Goodkind�s epic fantasy/philosophy series The Sword of Truth. When the series began, many readers thought this book would be a great fantasy trilogy, short and sweet. It quickly blossomed into eleven novels, each 500 or more pages in length, and one novella Debt of Bones. Throughout that time, it generated a lot of criticism from fans of speculative fiction and professional critics. Yet each novel has consistently stayed at the top of many bestseller lists, alongside many �mainstream� books. It is a strange sort of situation. The series is both widely popular and particularly reviled.

This is, I think, because Goodkind placed a great deal of his personal philosophy of Objectivism into the books. Many of the characters stop often to extemporize on the virtues or faults of faith, reason, force and prophecy. Many readers objected to this, while others enjoyed it, and so the series became a sort of like it or hate type of reading. I always liked it. When I started reading the novels, I accidentally began with Stone of Tears, the second novel. But I was drawn in by both the story and the philosophy.

Confessor continues that trend, but as I have grown older and more critical (I was in my teens when I read the first books) I have begun to see why critics have so disliked Goodkind�s novels. Confessor concludes the story, finally solving the riddles of the chimes, the boxes of Orden, Jagang the dreamwalker, and Richard Rahl�s wizardly heritage. Yet it is also the culmination of Goodkind�s philosophy, and all the questions raised in the previous novels are finally given an answer in this final volume. But that answer was very unsatisfying to me. It exalts reason over faith, and it finally came to me why people so dislike the novels. Reason has been shown in this age of postmodernism to not be what people want anymore. They want both reason and faith, and since Goodkind rejects the notion that a person can have both, many readers are upset.

Confessor still draws the reader in, bringing up philosophical puzzles that agile minds will want to think about and address. The story continues to show Richard Rahl, the everyman, succeeding against impossible odds through his own force of will and not through mystical power (although that is part of the tale). This is compelling, especially to fantasy fans, who always want to imagine themselves as such a hero. This then explains some of Goodkind�s success. Yet Goodkind has given himself over to too much philosophizing. In the earlier books, the philosophy and the action was much better integrated than in Confessor. For instance, when Nicci is captured by Jagang she spends several pages berating the man and denigrating his philosophy. Jagang, the rapist and murderer just sits there ant takes it. He lets her finish and then brutalizes her. I just don�t see it happening that way. Jagang wouldn�t allow Nicci to speak ill of him, if he is as evil as Goodkind tries to make him.

Additionally, Jagang has gone from being the antithesis to Richard Rahl to being little more than a petulant child. His character is reduced to little that is interesting, and this bogs the story down.

In wrapping up the series, Goodkind is also forced to do a two-step to try and wrap up all the threads of his narrative. While he does so in most cases and everything does weave together in the end, I think he had to make some convolutions to get there, and it is relatively obvious to the reader. And, of course, Goodkind relies on his Richard rescues Kahlan, Richard loses Kahlan plot outline for this story as well. His problems for the character are once again regurgitated into the story and follow the same old plot line, if with new solutions and situations. It is still the same, and I find I have tired of Richard being successful in one thing and then losing again. Fortunately this was the conclusion to the series so for once Richard�s successes stay successes, albeit with a couple of setbacks.

I found the final conclusion rather unsatisfying. But then, I don�t really like the philosophy Goodkind espouses, so the triumph of reason over faith left me feeling a little hollow. And the heavy handed way he judged our world was annoying rather than motivating. Confessor was particularly full of philosophy, had a lot less action than previous books, made all faith blind and always on a level with brute force, and was simply too long.

Still, if you have been reading the series, you probably ought to finish it, but if you have not been reading the series, you could probably let it go entirely. If you are thinking of reading it, read Wizard�s First Rule and then the last three books Chainfire, Phantom, and Confessor and you would have essentially read the entire series. What happened in between those books is fluff and philosophy, and while interesting to some extent, you will rapidly burn out on rehashed plot. Sure, you wouldn�t have all the characterization or quite all the facts surrounding the tale, but it would be enough.

Confessor is the logical conclusion to the series, it just isn�t really all that fun. There are a few good action scenes, and of course we are glad for Kahlan and Richard, but sadly, Goodkind misses the point of faith. His disdain is a big turn-off and anyone who believes that faith is part of life is unlikely ever to enjoy the story. I appreciated the opportunity to read the series, and as a teen it was in some ways motivating, but as an adult I see the fallacy of the philosophy, the recycling of the plots, and the out-of-character actions of some of the characters. Would I go back and read The Sword of Truth series again? Yes, but only out of nostalgia, not because I believe the novels are of great value.