Let us begin with the first paragraph, as prescribed in the ancient rites:
IT WAS AN ODD-LOOKING vine. Dusky variegated leaves hunkered against a stem that wound in a stranglehold around the smooth trunk of a balsam fir. Sap drooled down the wounded bark, and dry limbs slumped, making it look as if the tree were trying to voice a moan into the cool, damp morning air. Pods stuck out from the vine here and there along its length, almost seeming to look warily about for witnesses.
An overly long and wordy description of a vine. We have entered the Tolkien Quadrant, I see. Our hero, Richard, notices the vine in the midst of despair over his father being murdered. In an extraordinarily dry infodump we learn the following information: – Richard has seen this vine once before, in the home of his late father, who was some sort of trader – A quirky old fantasy mentor named Zedd taught Richard all about the ways of nature, until his woodcraft stat increased to the point that he can identify all plants hella easily – Richard’s brother, Michael, cares not for woodcraft stats and didn’t come to visit their father after the two men moved away, so he’s probably evil or something – Their father left a sprig of mystery vine in a blue jar in the house just before he was murdered, so it’s probably important I will say this, I like that we’re starting off with an immediate mystery instead of just “here’s a bunch of random shit that might go somewhere at some vague time in the future”, which is how a lot of these sprawling fantasy epics seem to go. Also, let’s take an introductory overview of the quality of the writing.
Grief and depression overwhelmed him, and even though he still had his brother, he felt abandoned. That he was grown into manhood offered him no sanctuary from the forlorn feeling of being orphaned and alone in the world, a feeling he had known before, when his mother died while he was still young.
Richard’s father died, and he was sad. But then he found a mystery vine and he was curious, so he went to look for more mystery vine. After finding more mystery vine he was slightly less sad, due to be being more curious. Then he felt mildly horny for some reason, possibly indicating a hitherto unknown vine fetish.
I’m not sure how well this is coming through in just the snippets I have quoted here, but the writing in this is incredibly stilted and lifeless.
Even though his father had often been away, sometimes for weeks, Richard had always known he was somewhere, and would be back. Now he would never be back.
Wizard’s First Rule: in the tradition of literary classics like Patricide with Dick and Jane.
Michael, who appears to be a bit of a VIP, has “the best trackers in the army” looking for the killer and doesn’t want Richard to have anything to do with it, but Richard is a fucking rebel so he goes off and searches until he finds more mystery vine.
Finally, against his better judgment, he gave in to the whispers in his mind, and went to the upper Ven Forest, close to the boundary. The whispers haunted him with the feeling that he somehow knew something of why his father had been murdered.
Richard’s world is (according to the background information I read on Wikipedia) divided by impassable magical barriers. The mystery vine is growing right up against one of these barriers, which leads Richard to conclude that it somehow got through.
The whispers had stopped teasing him, but now they brooded. He knew it was just his own mind thinking, and he told himself to stop trying to give the whispers a life of their own. Zedd had taught him better than that.
I don’t know whether this is just badly worded or if we’re supposed to conclude that he’s literally hearing voices. The vine is killing a tree so Richard, being a kind-hearted sort, tries to pull it off.
That’s when the vine bit him.
I think I’ve figured out what’s on the other side of the boundary.
The vine injects some sort of thorn into Richard.
To his rising concern, the thorn, as if alive, wriggled itself in deeper
This guy is the most deadpan person alive.
Richardfinds a medicinal plant to put on the bite, but the thorn is still digging its way into his flesh. I’d be kind of panicking right now if I was you, dude. Then suddenly something happens!
Richard looked up, flinching as a dark shadow swept over the ground, leaping across limbs and leaves. There was a rushing, whistling sound in the air overhead. The size of the shadow was frightening
Is it going to be this dry the whole way through? How would Goodkind describe a gun battle? “The soldiers fired their guns. Bullets flew through the air. The gunshots were loud. A bullet hit Richard in the left kidney. It hurt, and he was worried.” The scary shadow is being cast by something big and red that flies. Is it a dragon? It’s probably a dragon. Richy tears off after the dragon.
Searching the sky, he spotted the thing, far away and too small for him to tell what it was, but he thought it had wings
That’s because it’s a dragon. Holy fuck man, try to keep up. Richard considers going to tell Micheal about all of this, but decides not to bother him since Micheal is about to become “First Councilor”. I guess this is a democracy just like in our world, where even the lowliest and poorest can attain high political office.
So not like our world at all, actually.
That afternoon there was to be a ceremony and big celebration at Michael’s house. Important people were going to be there, come from the farthest reaches of Westland. Richard was supposed to be there, too. At least there would be plenty of good food. He realized he was famished
For some reason I can’t help but read this in a young child’s voice, which is odd since Richard is supposed to be an adult.
He spots someone moving around in the woods and think it’s his friend Chase, a “boundary warden”. So just to recap we have Richard, Michael and “Chase”. I certainly am being sucked into this beguiling fantasy universe! Not that I want Goodkind to start heavily in on the fantasy worldbuilding, at the same time.
It wasn’t Chase; it was a woman, a woman in a dress. What woman would be walking around this far out in the Ven Forest, in a dress?
This is reminding me uncomfortably of the start of Eragon. (Holy shit I should do an Eragon Let’s Read some time) There are some hooded ne’er-do-wells stalking the woman so Richard, bold man of action that he is, decides to spring to her defence.
Richard makes a check against his woodcraft stat and his thinking stat and manages to come up with a way to lead the woman away from her pursuers. Unfortunately he fails the check on his Personality stat, so the action is written like this:
He crouched, muscles tight and hard. His heart raced as he tried to think of what he could do. The morning sun was hot on his face, his breathing was shallow.
Thrilling fantasy action! The entire thing is written like this. Goodkind really can’t seem to write an exciting action scene, in contrast to Rothfuss, who can actually do pretty exciting stuff when he wants to but just chooses not to most of the time. At least something is actually happening, I guess.
Holding his right hand over a painful stitch in his side and still trying to catch his breath, he started to worry that he was going to look silly. What if it was just a girl and her brothers playing a game? He would be the fool. Everyone but him would have a good laugh.
I swear this makes it sound like Richard, the woman and the dudes chasing her are all about ten. This mental image better not stick in my head or things are going to get weird.
It was a woman, not a girl
Then why did you think she was “playing a game” with her brothers?
He looked down at the bite on the back of his hand.-It was red and throbbed painfully. He remembered the thing in the sky. He thought about the way she had been walking
God damn, this is making me pine for Rothfuss and his overblown purple prose.
Richard came partway to his feet. Waves of heat rolled from his body.
Naturally in the midst of all of this combustible excitement our boy Richy makes sure to tell us how hot the woman is (so hot), because male fantasy authors.
Her brown hair was full, lush, and long, complementing the contours of her body […] The weave of the fabric was fine and smooth, almost glistening, and bore none of the lace or frills he was used to seeing, no prints or colors to distract from the way it caressed her form
We’re on chapter two and the author is already masturbating to his own work. This doesn’t bode well.
Her eyebrows had the graceful arch of a raptor’s wings in flight. Her green eyes came unafraid to his. The connection was so intense that it threatened to drain his sense of self. He felt that he had always known her, that she had always been a part of him, that her needs were his needs
omg are you serious are you serious Jesus this is so bad.
When she’s done probing the folds of his soul or whatever the woman tells him that the men following her are extremely dangerous. Richard presents his plan- to take a side trail and cover their tracks so it will look like they stayed on the way the woman was going- and they set off at once. There’s some stuff about… clouds, or something, because Richard sees a cloud shaped like a snake and Zedd is a cloud reader. Okay then.
Crossing the cliff near midheight, the trail offered a panoramic view of the southern Ven Forest and, to their left, in cloud and mist, almost hidden behind the cliff wall, the high, rugged peaks belonging to the boundary
I had assumed the boundary was like a force-field or something, but I guess not. Richard assumes they’re in the clear, but then the four guys unexpectedly surround them. They’re big. And they have buckles. With weapons. Also they’re handsome. Terry Goodkind can’t write worth a damn.
He knew these men weren’t interested in talking, and they clearly weren’t afraid of him. He wished he could walk away now.
For the love of God, was this written by some sort of random fantasy generator? Why is it so boring? I feel like it’s probably not coming through in these little snippets, but the prose is so dry and wooden it’s hard to believe. Richard is supposed to be sweating bullets here, surrounded by dudes who could kill him in an instant, and it’s written with the same level of excitement and energy as that description of the vine I started with.
Richard glanced to her green eyes and saw the visage of a proud woman beseeching his help.
And when it’s not dry and wooden we get shit like this, apparently. And the dialogue, oh man:
“We will both be passing.” […] “Not this day,”
This is actually a novelization of a larp, isn’t it?
The man to his side pulled a short sword clear of the scabbard . strapped across his back. With a depraved grin, he drew it across the inside of his muscled forearm, staining the blade red.
Slicing open your arm before a battle seems like a really great idea. To once again harp on one of my favourite fantasy pet peeves: infection, you stupid fuckers. You’re in the middle of the woods. Don’t cut your goddamn arm open. Anyway, there’s a really confusing action scene where the mysterious woman uses magic to knock the sword guys around a bit, and then Ricahrd does….. something.
As he came crashing forward, Richard fell back against the wall and with both feet hit the man square in the chest as hard as he could. It knocked him clear of the path, into midair.
He hit him with both feet? Did he drop-kick the guy or something? Because I don’t think that’s a real thing people do in fighting outside of professional wrestling. The fight scene quickly becomes extremely goofy and hard to follow, with the attackers smashing into each other and going sailing over the edge of a cliff one by one.
Richard had never been so afraid in his life.
I can just feel the raw terror from here.
She noticed blood on the back of her hand and wiped it off on the wall, adding it to the red splatters already there. Richard thought he might throw up.
Richard felt very sick, and that made him sad.
He thought maybe she was about to cry and looked over at her. She wasn’t, but he felt that he might.
Again, I’m not sure how much this is coming through, but keep in mind that literally everything is written this way. It’s all “Richard looked over. The woman was leaning against the wall. he felt relieved. There were bodies. He felt confused”. It’s just so lifeless. If something hilariously stupid doesn’t happen in the next five pages I’m going to
“My name is Richard Cypher.”
ppffttt AH HAHAHAHAHAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA
RICHARD CYPHER ARE YOU SERIOUS
Okay, okay. Deep breaths. Ahem. The woman is terribly impressed that Richard (RICHARD. CYPHER.) stood and fought with her, even though it frankly seemed like she did most of the work herself.
“You are a very rare person, Richard Cypher.”
Okay. I’m good. I’m cool. Everything is fine. It’s serious blog time. Unfortunately the woman doesn’t have a wacky name like “Jessica Enigma” or “Sarah M. Ystery” or anything, it’s Kahlan.
“You too are a very rare person, Kahlan Amnell. There are not many who would have stood as you did.”
Is it too early to start breaking out the George Lucas dialogue jokes?
It was an odd sort of smile, a special smile, not showing any teeth. Her lips were pressed together, as one would do when taking another into one’s confidence. Her eyes sparkled. It was a smile of sharing.
Uh, right, okay. Whatever you say. Richard (Cypher) says “my friend” to Kahlan and she’s shocked by this so the two of them- fully grown adults- sit there on the blood-stained ground in the aftermath of their intense life or death battle and have a little discussion about the Meaning Of Friendship.
“Well, you have one now,” he said in his most cheerful tone. “After all, we just went through something pretty frightening together. We helped each other, and we survived.”
do you wanna go into the bushes over there and make out
Richard asks how she managed to waste their attackers but she won’t tell him. I know he’s not aware that he’s in a fantasy novel so there’s no reason for him to assume it’s magic, but we know we’re reading a fantasy novel, so I don’t get why the book is being coy about this.
“Kahlan,” he said, trying to make his voice sound reassuring, “being a friend means you don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to, and I’ll still be your friend.”
or if you don’t wanna make out we could just hold hands it’s cool
Richard suddenly remembers he has to be at Michael’s party (MICHAEAL CYPHER) and he invites Kahlan to tag along. For some reason she’s super on edge and “what is this emotion you humans call friendship”. This may be somewhat unfair but whenever women in fantasy novels have hang-ups about any sort of emotional or physical intimacy it makes me start to worry that we’re heading for That Subject. You know what I’m talking about. We better not be heading for That Subject.
“They are called a quad. They are, well, they are like assassins. They are sent to kill . . .” She caught herself again. “They kill people.”
Now I’m just picturing those four guys arranging themselves into a human quad bike and tearing around the forest after Richard and Kahlan.
Richard asks where the quad came from and she calmly replies that they followed her across the boundary. Richard is naturally shocked by this.
So let’s go on one of our patented long-winded digressions. Lots of genre fiction in both fantasy and sci-fi (arguably more in sc-fi) include settings in which the characters live in some sort of enclosed community where there’s an impassable barrier or a forbidden zone or the outside world is supposed to be inhospitable or what have you. What surprises me about these settings is that the protagonists are always completely intellectually stunted about the subject and appear to have absolutely no curiosity whatsoever, and inevitably when they discover someone else from beyond the wall or the impassable desert or whatever they’ll be completely bowled over by it.
Does this strike anyone as profoundly unrealistic? If you lived near a giant mountain range and were told all your life that it was completely impassable wouldn’t you at least entertain the idea that maybe that’s not true? Especially if, as in Richard’s case, we’re outright told that travelers often tell stories of seeing weird shit around the boundary and there are guards patrolling the forests with the express purpose of keeping people away? To draw a parallel to modern times: space is the last great unknown to humanity, but when it comes to the question of whether life exists elsewhere we don’t seal our minds off and say “no, there is no way anything else is out there, let’s just completely ignore it and never discuss this ever again”. Instead we absolutely fill our pop culture with fictional aliens and devote vast sums of money to investigating the question scientifically, such that if we ever do discover evidence of extra-terrestrial life it will of course be very surprising, but it’s not like the very idea will seem utterly strange and foreign to us.
The Midlands was a land of magic
So you see a woman who’s near the boundary and who knocks a bunch of dudes off a cliff without touching them and the thought doesn’t even begin to cross your mind that maybe those two events are connected in some way?
So that’s the first two chapters of Wizard’s First Rule. I think I can safely say that this is going to be another highly negative Let’s Read.