Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch. 3

wizard's first rule header

CHAPTER 3

It’s off to the house of the elder Cypher brother to party down.

Michael’s HOUSE WAS a massive structure of white stone, set back quite a distance from the road. Slate roofs in a variety of angles and rakes came together in complicated junctures topped with a leaded-glass peak that let light into the central hall. The walkway to the house was shaded from the bright afternoon sun by towering white oaks as it passed through sweeping stretches of lawn before coming to formal gardens laid in symmetrical patterns to each side. The gardens were in full bloom. Since it was so late in the year, Richard knew the flowers had to have been raised in greenhouses just for the occasion.

The description of their father’s house made it sound like it was basically a fancy shack, and just from the general feel of what we’ve seen so far I had assumed the story was taking place in a fairly rustic frontier area, but Michael’s house sounds exceedingly refined. Is there a town or something nearby, or is it just sitting in the middle of the woods?

Richard decides, in that way that only people in novels ever do, not to press Kahlan for more information on the Earth-shattering revelation she just handed him about coming through the boundary, so instead they talk about his forest bachelor pad.

“Does your house have a fireplace?” she had asked.
“It does.”
“Do you use it?”
“Yes, I cook on it all the time,” he had told her. “Why?”
She had merely shrugged as she looked off to the countryside. “I just miss sitting in front of a fire, that’s all.”

Now I’m really starting to wonder what exactly Kahlan’s deal is.

“Invitation, sir?” someone called in a deep voice from the shade beside the entry.
Invitation? Richard spun around to see who had addressed him and was met by a mischievous grin. Richard broke into a grin of his own.

IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN NOOOOOOOOOO

The grinning dude is “Chase”, Richard’s mischievous comic relief friend who I’m already hoping is going to be killed off soon.

For some reason Chase is absolutely armed to the teeth with a sword, mace, multiple knives and a crossbow (this being one of those fantasy worlds where weapons don’t weigh anything unless it’s convenient for the plot that they do). I’m not even sure why one person would ever need to have that many weapons at hand unless they had six arms, but then I’m not a professional boundary warden so maybe he knows something I don’t.

Apparently he’s not there as a guest, hence all the weapons. I guess trouble must be afoot.

“Chase, this is my friend, Kahlan.” He gave her a smile. “This is Dell Brandstone. Everyone calls him Chase.

dell-logo1

10-Chase-Bank

The amount of product placement in fantasy novels these days is just appalling.

Michael called in the boundary wardens to be his bodyguards because strange things have been going on lately.

All I’m saying is you haven’t been around. Strange things have been going on, Richard. People coming and going in the night. Michael calls them `concerned citizens.’ He’s been talking some nonsense about plots against the government.

Citizens and government. So we’re in some kind of non-monarchyy set-up? I’m down with that. After all we’re also learning about the Way of Kings so it’s nice to change things up a bit.

They get to talking about the murder of the elder Cypher, who was a friend of Chase’s since before Richard was born.

“I’ve twisted a few fingers.” He shifted his weight, taking another look around before bringing his fierce expression back to Richard. “Twisted hard. Hard enough to cause their owners to spit out their own mother’s name if it had been the right one. No one knows a thing, and believe me, if they did they would have been happy to have shortened our conversation.

I think there may be a slightly darker side to this fantasy world.

They also tell him about the fight with the four dudes in the woods, leaving out the part about them being from across the boundary.

“And if you think there’s a need, you two come stay at my place. You’ll be safe enough there.”
Richard thought about all of Chase’s children and knew he didn’t want to endanger them, but he didn’t want to argue the point either, so he just nodded.

Richard is showing worrying signs of passivity. We had enough of that with You Know Who.

The interior of Michael’s house is almost entirely marble, which is even more super fancy than I thought. This guy must have more money than God.

Even with all the people around, Richard felt overwhelmingly lonely. He was confused and didn’t know what to do about it. He didn’t know who to turn to. Kahlan was the only one who made him feel better, but at the same time she frightened him. The encounter on the cliff frightened him. He wanted to take her and leave.

Richard acting like a robot is going to be a continuing feature of this book, isn’t it?

And then there was the unsettling feeling he had that all of this had something to do
with his father’s death, and his father’s death had something to do with his own secrets, the secrets his father had placed upon him and him alone.

I really hate it when authors have their character think about information that they’re aware of but word it in such a way that it obscures it from the readers. No one would actually think “I have a feeling this might have something to do with my terrible secret that must never be known“, they’d think “I have a feeling this might have something to do with that thing with the lobster in Brighton five years ago”, because clearly it’s not a secret to the person remembering it.

He guided her over to a long table with food piled in tiers. There were large steaming platters of sausages and meats, boiled potatoes, dried fish of several kinds, grilled fish, chicken, turkey, mounds of raw vegetables sliced into strips, big tureens of cabbage and sausage soup, onion soup, and spice soup, platters of breads, cheeses, fruits, pies, and cakes, and casks of wine and ale. Servants were constantly coming and going to keep the platters full.

brb have to eat now

I sure wonder how they keep all that meat fresh in this ye olde fantasy world. Micheal must have had all of those animals close at hand.

Kahlan is amazed that some of the serving girls have long hair because where she comes from women’s hair length has socially prescribed based on standing and blah blah blah more awkward fantasy world building.

Her smile brightened into the same tight-lipped one she had given him before. The smile of sharing. It made him grin.

Urgh eating all of that food a few paragraphs ago wasn’t a good idea. The glurge is making me retch.

Richard fetches food for Kahlan for a while so they can experience more of the smiles of sharing or whatever, then she notices there are two men across the room watching him. For all that I’m making fun of this I do like that the pacing is fairly good, especially compared to the Rothfuss books. When things happen in your book people will enjoy reading it, fancy that.

Richard reassures her that they’s just Michael’s aides wondering why Richard arrived late looking so filthy.

She shook her head. “More will follow. I should not be with you. I do not want to endanger your life any more than I already have. You are my friend.”

BEEP BOOP WHAT IS THIS EMOTION YOU CALL FRIENDSHIP BEEP

“There is no way another quad could track you now, not once you have come here, to Hartland. It’s impossible.” He knew enough about tracking to feel confident that he was telling her the truth.

…. Why would it be impossible, exactly? They couldn’t have traveled that far from where the first group of assassins found her, couldn’t another quad just start surveying the nearby houses and towns?

Her voice came in a slow, harsh whisper. “When I left my homeland, five wizards cast spells over my tracks so none could know where I went, or follow, and then they killed themselves so they could not be made to talk!”

Yikes. I guess they don’t joke around in the Midlands. She must be on a pretty important mission, although of course Richard doesn’t bother asking what it is.

“If you hadn’t been there today, you don’t know what would have happened to me.

No way, the assassin’s strategy seemed to be to confront her in broad daylight, with plenty of time to prepare a defense, and she ended up doing most of the work of killing them with her magic. Richard barely did shit.

Kehlan is still terrified since the quad shouldn’t have been able to cross the boundary without magic (bet they aren’t from Midland at all OH SNAP) but Richard reassures her that they’ll go see his quirky mentor Zedd and everything will be fine.

She gave a nod. “Thank you, Richard Cypher. My friend.

BEEP BOOP FRIEND LIFEFORM DETECTED WHIRR

Just then Michael comes out on stage to give a speech.

As Michael stepped up onto a platform, Richard realized why it had taken him so long to come out. He had been waiting for the sunlight to fall on that spot, so he could stand in the light and be lit in its glory for all to see.

This guy’s totally going to be evil, isn’t he?

Not only was he shorter than Richard, but heavier and softer. Sunlight lit his mop of unruly hair.

Yep, totally evil.

So I guess we should bring this up because it’s undoubtedly going to become relevant at some point: as I’m sure most people are aware, Terry Goodkind is a big ol’ Objectivist and these books are (more so later on, apparently) a big ol’ Objectivist screed.

Lately I’ve been reading a Let’s Read of Atlas Shrugged by this atheist blogger (whose opinions I don’t all necessarily agree with) and maybe it’s just because I know Goodkind’s background but I’m already starting to see certain similarities, such as the tendency for good people to be rugged and square-jawed if they’re male or strikingly beautiful if female and for bad people (which I’m guessing Michael is) to be weak and soft and ugly.

Anyway Michael starts giving his speech.

Too long we have chased old ghosts and been blind to new callings! Too long we have listened to those who would seek to drag us into war and ignored those who would guide us on a path to peace!” .

The crowd went wild. Richard was dumbfounded. What was Michael talking about? What war? There was no one to have a war with!

I was about to ask why everyone was cheering if the things Michael is saying make no sense, but, well.

20120819_southern-strategy_33

“Concerned citizens have come forward to identify these cowards, these traitors. At this very moment, as we join our hearts here today in a common goal, the boundary wardens protect us while the army is rounding up these conspirators who plot against the government. They are not the common criminals you might think, but respected men in high authority!”

Wait, wait. Hang on. According to Richard all of this is coming completely out of nowhere, and you can’t whip people up into a political frenzy in a vacuum. If a member of government in my country stepped in front of a camera tomorrow and started ranting about generic “traitors” no one would have any idea what the fuck he was talking about, nor would they likely care all that much. But frame the issue as Them Immigrants working to undermine whatever and you’d probably get some traction.

What I’m saying is there needs to be some pr-existing political substrate for Michael to draw on here, even just a society that’s been conditioned toward a paranoid mindset and the idea of internal or external threats, like a like of dictatorships historically have been. For this to hold water I would expect Richard to hear “traitors” and immediately identify them in his own mind, even if that identification was actually wrong, instead of thinking “wait, what?”

Michael states that the boundaries will vanish one day and they have to be prepared to make peace with the people on the other side. He dreams of uniting the Hartland (where they are) with the Midlands (the next one over, where Khelan came from) and D’Hara, which must be the furthest one.

We must look forward to a day when the boundary will no longer be there, for nothing lasts forever, does it? And when that day comes we must be ready to extend a hand of friendship and not a sword, as some would have us do. That only leads to the futility of war and needless dying.

This all sounds very innocuous, but keep in mind we’re reading the first book in a series which later features “evil pacifists” as the villains.

Richard saw men in tears, and women weeping openly.

Why are they reacting this way? The way Richard described it, it sounds like most people barely even think about the lands beyond to boundary except to warily regard them as scary and alien. Again, there would need to be some long-standing issue here that people feel extremely passionate about to generate this sort of reaction.

Why did he feel so uneasy?

Richard, being the protagonist, can sense that something is wrong. He must know all about Terry Goodkind as well.

After delivering this epic speech pleading for tolerance and friendship, Michael then moves on to the just as monumental issue of…… fire safety.

And now, to the other part,” Michael continued, “to the real suffering around us. While we have worried about the boundaries that have not harmed a single one of us, many of our families, friends, and neighborshave suffered, and died. Tragic and needless deaths, in accidents with fire. Yes, that is what I said. Fire.

His and Richard’s mother died in a fire, apparently.

Tears, glistening in the sunlight, ran down Michael’s cheeks.

[…]

Everyone was now solidly back with him. Their tears flowed freely. A woman put her arm around Richard’s shoulder as he stood numb. She whispered how sorry she was.

Seriously, no one would ever act like that.

So to summarize: a man got pissed with their dad and got into a fight with him, knocking over a lamp. Their mother rescued Michael and Richard, but then ran back into the house to try to save something (they don’t know what but it’s probably something mysterious) and burned to death.

After bringing all of this up Michael doesn’t actually suggest any way to stop fires happening, just says he’s forming a commission on it. I have no idea what the fuck the point of that scene was, except as a really clumsy way to let us know how their mother died.

Richard changed the subject. “What have you found out about Father’s murder? Have the trackers picked up anything?”
Michael took his arm back. “Grow up, Richard. George was an old fool. He was always picking up things that didn’t belong to him. He probably got caught with something that belonged to the wrong person. A person with a bad temper, and a big knife.”

Do you think Michael might turn out to actually be a villain? I think he might.

Michael insists that they’ll never ever know who killed their father and they better just stop thinking about it or talking about it right now omg why are you still going on about this he totally did it didn’t he? Richard of course completely buys this because he’s an idiot.

Then Michael starts molesting Kahlan.

Michael reached around her with both arms, cupped both hands to her bottom and pulled the lower half of her body hard against him. His leg pressed between her thighs.

Okay, we get it; the dude’s shady.

Refreshingly, Kahlan manages to thwart Michael by cutting him with one of her fingernails instead of needing to be rescued. Goodkind gets precisely one point for this, which I fully expect to be rescinded later on.

So that it, just one chapter this time because these things are really long. The writing is awful and all of the character act like idiots, but things are happening so that’s good I guess?

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17 thoughts on “Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch. 3

  1. Hitton

    I am getting a creeping feeling here. Somebody tell me if I’m wrong, but I can’t help suspecting… is the thing about fire a really, really weird metaphor for gun control?

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      You know what, it might actually be. I get the feeling it’s supposed to be a metaphor for *something*, I’m just not sure what.

      Reply
      1. Signatus

        Dragons? Seems like the most possible option. I’m not having high hopes about Goodkind’s originality, specially after he showed us what was obviously a dragon and tried to conceal it in mystery.

        Reply
  2. Signatus

    Oh, yeah. I keep forgetting to mention.

    CYPHER!

    Lool! I just can’t help picturing your typical old timey detective with a large duster coat, a hat, an office somewhere in a bad neighbourhood and a sign at a crystal door that reads;
    “Richard Cypher; Detective.”

    Reply
    1. braak

      My favorite part is how “cipher” is used, in literary criticism, to refer to a character to devoid of actual character that it’s easy for the audience (or author) to project themselves onto it. It’s like a substitution for an authorial insert; he could just as well ahve been named “Gerry Toodkind.”

      Reply
      1. grumpus

        Given that one Rachel Khalandt apparently appears in the acknowledgements and dedications to various books in this series, that doesn’t sound too far off :p

        Reply
  3. Signatus

    That was a huge chapter and, OMG, was it BAD.

    I totally hate when authors go their lengths to talk about food. I have a tendency to read by night, when I’m in bed, and, while reading Song of Ice and Fire, it would be very often the times I would just go to the kitchen to boil some eggs. I love boiled eggs and so does Martin, it seems.

    Anyways, is it just me? Or the book is a bit on the Disney universe? I mean, little, weak man is evil. Big, fat, gentle oaf with many weapons is an adorable brute. The lovable underdog gets more that he’s bargained for. The beautiful, mysterious princess, and then we have the wacky old mentor who knows more than he should for some mysterious past, or something.
    Totally Disney!

    Anyways, well, things seem to be happening, but veeeeryyy slowly, and most of them have no sense. I mean, the boundary, I know we weren’t told when it came to be, but suddenly it’s been there for, what? 30 years? And people are talking about those at the other side as if they were some total strangers?
    Makes no sense! Most of the town’s folk must have been alive when the boundary came to be. It shouldn’t be something strange at all. For goodness sake, people still have family in both Koreas, and the country has been sealed for way longer than that.

    Then Chase tells Richard the wacky old mentor is looking for him, and he just says; “Meh, I’ll do it tomorrow!”
    Really? I think normal people who are seeing strange things happening would go headfirst to see their mentor (considering he’s a wise man), cursed be the party and all. Richard seems as much a braindead idiot as in many of these cheap fantasy novels. He doesn’t show any personality, he’s just an element to move a story, like the cameraman of a news report, he records the story but is not part of the story.

    And the whole brother thing… like, everything. Are town’s folk in these books always so gullible? This whole political agenda made no sense, and lets not start about him molesting the woman just because (I sneaked peeked the next two pages and it seems it’s all because he’s jealous… oooook!).

    Reply
  4. shardbaenre

    Surprisingly, while Goodkind is not really good on female characters and some bullshit happens with Kahlan, she is probably more capable than many of the other female characters that litter this genre. I would rank her pretty high actually. That being said, it’s still not objectively good…just better relative to most of the other crap in this genre. I absolutely cannot wait for you to read all about Kahlan and her magic and her snowflake-ness. It’s a doozy.

    Also, Richard and his friend-making pretty much remains on this level as you’ll see shortly with the thing with the things that you noticed.

    If you continue the series, Richard’s snowflake-ness and how he learns to improve his snowflake-ness is gonna be so much of a magical cluster that I seriously cannot wait for it. But the end of this book is gonna make you pretty much hate all the things and just make your mind boggle at the things that you hate, I think.

    Reply
  5. rmric0

    “I really hate it when authors have their character think about information that they’re aware of but word it in such a way that it obscures it from the readers.”

    That is awfully annoying, and it could easily be solved by using a different kind of narrative. On a related note, another annoying thing is when a book withholds information that should be commonplace so it can pretend it’s all a big surprise later.

    For example ***SPOILER ALERT*** the boundary is only like 20 years old. You would think people would know a little bit more about what lays on the other side if they were only cut off 20 years ago.

    Reply
  6. Kitts

    I read the first five or six books in this series back when I was 15 and willing to read the crappiest stuff imaginable if it distracted me from my home life. I’d been half-heartedly considering pirating a copy and re-reading WFR, because I couldn’t remember much about it and I need a steady supply of vaguely-interesting-but-not-too-much-so stuff to read when I’m having insomnia. But 2/3 of the way through this second post suddenly all the suppressed memories came flooding back, and now I’m remembering all the cracktastic and kind of horrible stuff in these books that I was too distracted or too sheltered to notice. I think I’ll go pirate White Girl With Sword IV: Now There’s a Magic Cat instead.

    Reply
  7. Reveen

    This is going to be one of those books isn’t it? Y’know, one of them where sexually assaulting the heroine is a top priority for the bad guys? At least Rothfuss only pulled the “We are the knights who RAPE” shit precisely once.

    Reply
  8. Austin H. Williams

    This is how I wrote in junior high: informed attributes, contrived meetings, people reacting in hugely inappropriate ways in order to broadcast a false sense of gravity. Also, the ham-handed shifting of focuses so I could shoehorn as many Chekhov’s guns as possible in the first third of the book so the last third of the book would make sense.

    I look back at those writings, and I think, first, that they were utter shit, and second, they were completely unpublishable.

    Yet, lo, Terry Goodkind has had a New York Times best-selling, fifteen-book series, and a spinoff TV series come from his work. If only I knew…

    Reply
    1. braak

      The fact that it sounds like how I wrote in junior high is exactly why I couldn’t get past about Chapter 5 of this thing.

      And I mean, this is back when I was 16 and could read ANY dumb bullshit.

      Reply

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