Tag Archives: The Sword of Truth

Is There a Trend Toward Dark, Gritty Fantasy?

Tolkien, Brooks, and even Jordan, all write or wrote heroic fantasy that features a naive and innocent protagonist who becomes a great hero and defeats a dark evil lord.  That’s pretty standard heroic fantasy.  But I look at some of the more modern fantasy series, and I see a move toward a darker and grittier tone.

A Game of ThronesGeorge R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is probably the best example of this.  It began in the 1990s with A Game of Thrones and has yet to be finished.  He takes a long time to write.  Well, this series has nothing of the heroic fantasy series, except maybe dragons.  There seems to be no innocence.  Everyone has a dark side. There’s a lot of violence, sex, and an incredible amount of very graphic death.  Martin kills so many characters, no one is safe.  Major characters die! Even the good people aren’t entirely good. And the antagonists seem to have some humanity.

gardensofthemoonAnother series is The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson.  In the first novel, Gardens of the Moon, also written in the 1990s, we get another vast cast of characters that has the reader briefly confused.  They are also all varying shades of grey, though there is a bit of an evil in this one.  Any innocence is shattered completely, as this is a brutally violent series with many deaths.  And this world has non-human races that are completely unique.  It’s an original world that doesn’t seem to borrow from the old heroic fantasy.  What I liked is that you never really knew who was good and who was bad.  Like in war, it’s a lot of people on both sides just following orders.

wizardsfirstruleI’m including Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth in this for one reason only, the evil antagonist is unlike any I’ve seen in heroic fantasy.  Don’t get me wrong, this is actually quite typical heroic fantasy, and our bad guy is truly evil, but this crosses a line that you rarely ever see crossed in heroic fantasy.  Let’s just say that the rapes are rather disgusting.  While the heroes are on a typical heroic quest, the villain is doing unspeakable things that felt so out of place.

What do you think?  Is there a trend toward the dark and gritty in fantasy?

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Book Review – Wizard’s First Rule

wizardsfirstruleWizard’s First Rule, the first novel in the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind, is an epic fantasy story that gave me mixed feelings.

Set in a world where magic is common, the story begins in the Westland, where magic is not permitted or trusted.  The people are protected by a boundary that keeps the magic and people of the Midlands and D’Hara out.  It starts out with Richard Cypher meeting Kahlan Amnell, a woman with a mysterious power. He vows to protect her, and this results in a very interesting relationship between two unusual people.  The main cast is rounded out with Zedd, an eccentric old man who is Richard’s friend, and Chase, a formidable man who patrols the boundary.  Richard turns out to be our hero who has the Sword of Truth, and must try to defeat Darken Rahl, a man who wants to rule the world.

The characters are quite interesting, though I found many of them a bit unbelievable.  Richard is your typical hero in some ways, but he starts out with some pretty strong skills in tracking and surviving in the wilderness.  Kahlan is always secretive with Richard, but the two form a strong relationship, even though they cannot follow through with their feelings with each other.  Zedd comes across as a sometimes senile, but usually brilliant wizard.  I often thought he was a source of comic relief.  Chase isn’t as well developed, but he’s a very dependable character.  On the other side, Darken Rahl proves to be one of the most sadistic and cruel antagonists I’ve ever read.  He is brutal and the way he does things makes the reader want to hate him.  He has no redeemable values.  Denna, a Mord-Sith, is an intriguing character.  Although she is on the side of Rahl, she seems to be a more complete character than him, and shows both good and bad sides.  Queen Milena and Princess Violet show nothing good, and are one-dimensional characters.  There are several other characters, but the cast is fairly large.  I found that the dialogue and interactions between some characters were a bit unnatural.  For a serious epic fantasy, some of it just seemed so goofy and juvenile.  I couldn’t really connect with the characters.

The story itself was fine.  It’s fun to read, and quite engaging.  I became more and more involved in the story as it went on, and I couldn’t stop reading toward the end.  The beginning started off slowly like most epic fantasy stories, but it became more interesting as it continued.  The whole episode involving Denna was a surprise to me, and contributed to the story in a big way.

The world is very interesting.  It consists of Westland, Richard’s homeland, Midlands, a broad and rather undeveloped land, and D’Hara, Darken Rahl’s land.  I found that there were a lot of interesting places, such as the Mud People’s land, but it was overall fairly standard fare.  I’m hoping to see more chances to explore the land in future books.

Despite the lighthearted mood in parts of the book, there were very dark periods.  One aspect is that the torture and rape of young children is present, though never described.  This may turn off some people.  Another thing I found detracted from the story is that some of the people were very one-dimensional.  There were some characters that were completely good, and some that were completely evil.  I like to see more grey area than that.  Richard, Kahlan, and Zedd were all in the grey area, but just barely.

The title, Wizard’s First Rule, is explained very plainly in the book.  At first, I thought it was going to be about some wizard who rules the land, but I was wrong.  It’s about an actual rule that wizards have.  When I read what it was, I was dumbfounded.  I couldn’t figure out if it was stupid or brilliant.  My thoughts where this: “What the?  You have got to be kidding!”  It was that big of a surprise.

Overall, I found this to be a fun story with decent world-building.  I wasn’t able to feel most of the characters, which is a shame.  It could’ve been a top rated book.  So, I must give it a 4 out of 5 star rating.