Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch.1-2

wizard's first rule header

CHAPTER 1

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.

159px-Piranha_Plant_NSMBU

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.

CHAPTER 2

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.

Uh

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

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.”

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

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.

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15 thoughts on “Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch.1-2

  1. Patrick

    The Woman is a dragon, isn’t she? She came from where the dragon went, has winged eyes, is a stranger to friendship…

    Reply
  2. Signatus

    All right. I actually just finished those two chapters (OMG, I’m so freaking busy!) and I have to say that was… interesting. Moreso when I’ve been listening to Age of Empires OST while reading this post so, that gave everything a pretty nice new dimension.

    Anyways, the first thing that striked me was the vine description. Come on, it’s just a vine. I can picture how a vine strangles a tree (which is not that strange, actually) without needing three paragraphs of description. From the moment the book started, I new that was going to be some pretty bad read.
    However, I have to admit I did feel intrigued by the whole mistery. Yeah, it is as archetypical as a Dragonlance book, but it did interested me enough to keep reading. Mistery vine, assasinations, woman who appears from the other side of the Wall… sorry, the boundary, yeah, I can work with that.

    Anyways, I pretty much reached the same conclusions as you did. The writing is so dry and, as it is usually the problem with these books, reactions are unrealistic.
    The action sequence was totally confusing. I had a terrible time knowing what was going on, aside from people flying over a cliff I didn’t know was there (thought it was a wall?). But, most of the time I’m not sure where Richard is supposed to be. I’m still not sure how he ran down the cliff and reached the path withou being “detected”.

    Funny thing, I was studying about the five steps of emotion in a dog behaviour academy I’m currently studying in, and it was presented with a pretty graphic example about a guy being attacked by some dudes. I kind of remembered it while reading this because, in the example, the moment the guy broke into emotional rapture, he just ran away not looking where he was going. That’s a realistic emotion.

    Richard, who is a pretty normal forest dude, and has no weapons on him, is faced by four heavily armed Nords (as in Skyrim nords), and he displays as much emotion as the chair I’m sitting on. He has been displaying a heavy array of emotions to that point, as in, he has mentioned how his father was murdered and that pushed him to the scary, scary boundaries. Then he sees a dragon (it is a dragon, we all know) and instead of cowering in a first impulse like the primate he is supposed to be (unless this people evolved from braindead figgs, which would explain everything), he just looks up and says; “Oh, look, a huge, red, flying thing I’ve never seen before. I’m sure it’s friendly”

    So, we have Richard and our female lead role surrounded by murdering assassins and… nothing. They just fight.
    Look, I know some people might be noble to the point of sacrificing one’s life for a total stranger, but most of the time, normal people will look away and say; “Yeah, you get her. I’m outta here!”
    Survival is a heavy behavior generator, and it can make people do all sorts of terrible things, like, looking away from rape in order to avoid the same fate (like the woman in WMF).

    The dialogue about friendship is one of the most stupid things I’ve read in a while, and Rothfuss can craft some pretty terrible dialogues. It makes no sense, it doesn’t flow naturally. Actually, I haven’t seen a dialogue in the two pages that I could say, Yeah, I can totally believe this. They felt forced and disjointed.

    The fact tha the author tries to conceal some pretty evident elements in order to surprise us later is pretty stupid. I mean, we know that was a dragon, we know she’s a mage, and I’m pretty sure Richard is going to grow magic powers from the vine. You don’t need to keep obvious things from us, it doesn’t make me go; “OMG!”.
    It actually feels more like; “Yeah, was totally expecting that. Next!”

    To finish, really? Mistery woman walking with a dress in the middle of nowhere. Why is she wearing a dress? Skyrimg female rogues and warriors wear a friggin armor! When people travel, specially if being pursued by four assassins, they tend to wear comfortable things to move swiftly and be able to hide. Not dressed that make you stand out like a duck in an United Nations convention.
    Anyways, mistery woman, that comes from mistery other side, where magic is concealed and whatever, and normal male lead that will grow to greatness. Never seen that before!

    You made a brilliant observation about forbidden areas. I never understood why people could live next to; “See this box? You can’t never see what’s inside!” for centuries, until some reckless boy decided to take a peek at what’s inside.
    Everytime someone has said; “You can’t climb the Everest”, you have someone saying, “Prove me!” (and then reaching the peak or dying horribly).

    So, yeah, it doesn’t make much sense that nobody has ever tried to take a peek at the other side.

    Reply
  3. Reveen

    Sooo… what do you like better so far? Boredom by nothing happening, or boredom by lifeless prose?

    I suppose it’s kinda like comparing dying in the desert or freezing to death in the arctic.

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      I’ll take boring story any day, this thing is alresdy a slog. And for all the shit I give Rothfuss his prose is a lot better than Goodkind’s.

      Reply
  4. lampwick

    Yes, the woodenness of the writing is coming through. Yes, it really is, you can stop quoting now. No, really, you can stop. Please. Please stop quoting…

    Reply
  5. Fibinachi

    Actually, I think there’s a bit later on where it’s revealed that people trying to cross the barrier die, terribly, and that all the guards and patrols are there more for the protection of stopping curious souls / children.

    Or maybe my mind is rationalizing because, yeah, it is kind of odd.

    Anyway, the first 10-20 chapters were actually really good. I mean, really compared to what happened later on. Good luck with this! q:

    Reply
  6. braak

    “They are, well, they are like assassins. They are sent to kill . . .” She caught herself again. “They kill people.”

    Well, then they aren’t LIKE assassins.

    Reply
  7. DXW

    I read this book back when I thought the Wheel of Time was the apex of modern literature, when ‘literary’ reading for me meant HP Lovecraft- and even *then* I was thinking “Wow, this is a pile of shiiiiiit…”

    I have never, ever understood why this series has such a following.

    Reply
  8. Austin H. Williams

    I’m reading these snippets, and seeing things that are technically good, like brief descriptions, simple sentences, stuff like that. But they get sandwiched between these overblown and clunky lines, and the simplicity itself is completely inelegant. It’s like Goodkind tries to do all the right things in the wrong way. I find myself wondering about all the competent writers whom I actually appreciate. I certainly have started questioning my own output.

    I remember someone saying about Amanda McKittrick Ros, largely considered the worst published writer of all time, that her style was so bad that it not only ruined her stories, but it ruined other stories as well. I’m sort of feeling that here.

    Reply
  9. magpiewhotypes

    Oooooooh dear.

    I suppose if you lived near a boundary that was literally deadly to cross–very tall magic mountains, a very wide magic desert–you might be duly impressed by somebody who makes it over. However, plants can grow through Goodkind’s mighty barrier, so I don’t know what the deal is here. Wake up people, you can knock it down with an African violet!

    Reply
  10. reading7mandy

    Good luck, by book 6 I was ready to chuck the book across the room. I finished the series and it’s worth it, but I had to push through more than a few times.

    Reply

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