Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch. 4-5

wizard's first rule header

Chapter 4

More fun times with Richard and Kahlan.

Do not apologize. What your brother did, he was not doing to me, he was doing to you.”

[…]

“That’s no excuse. He’s First Councilor; he has all anyone could want. I’m sorry I didn’t put a stop to it.”
“I did not want you to. It was for me to do.

[…]

“No, that was not for you to do.”

More fascinating dialogue from Terry Goodkind.

Earlier I asked if Michael’s house was just in the middle of the forest or what, which I naturally assumed given that our heroes weren’t mentioned entering a town, but apparently they are indeed in one. It has buildings. The buildings are of different sizes. That’s more or less everything we know about them. Oh, except that they have gardens.

The white-fenced yards gave way to larger garden plots in front of small cottages set farther back from the road

This is starting to sound very much like your average 21st century suburb, which is a bit odd.

Richard asks why there are assassins after Kahlan. That’s frankly the first thing I’d have asked if I was getting involved with someone under active threat of being hunted down and killed, but whatever.

She looked over as they walked, and when his eyes came to her, she answered. “They hunt me because they fear truth. One reason I trust you is because you do not.”

This is usually the sort of thing people only say when they’re irrational zealots for some sort of cause or philosophy. On an entirely unrelated note here is a photo of noted fantasy author Terry Goodkind wearing sunglasses:

Terry Goodkind

Rock that Chuck Norris beard, Terry.

I am sorry, Richard, but for now you must trust me. The more I tell you, the greater the danger, to both of us.

This is the laziest method of withholding plot information in the world. How does it put them in danger for Richard not to know what’s going on? If he doesn’t actually know who’s after Kahlan or why he could end up missing important signs of danger or blundering straight into a trap. If you’re going to let someone into your struggle for survival you kind of have to go all the way with it.

She nodded. “If I can, I promise I will.”
“Good,” he said cheerfully. “After all, I am a `seeker of truth.’ “

Richard is such a weenie.

Kahlan is for some reason very surprised about this statement and demands to know why he said that. He replies that that’s what Zedd always called him since he was young and gosh do you think Richard is super special for some reason.

“They are the followers of a very wicked man. His name is Darken Rahl.

Darken Rahl. The hero is named Richard Cypher and the villain is named Darken Rahl. God, this book.

(I’m already aware of the plot twist regarding Mr. Rahl’s identity, but please avoid mentioning it in comments in case other people don’t want to be spoiled)

His father had made him the guardian of a secret, made him the keeper of a secret book, and had given Richard something to keep always, as proof to the true owner of the book, that it was not stolen, but rescued for safekeeping. It was a triangular shaped tooth, three fingers wide.

The narration has been awkwardly hinting that Richard has some sort of exciting secret. I guess this is it.

As they’re approaching Richard’s forest bachelor pad he realizes that someone has been there recently. I wonder if they stole the secret tooth???? Things are still happening I guess, even if they are highly predictable.

Richard’s house has been ransacked by nefarious forces. He’s about to go inside until Kahlan points out this sounds an awful lot like the way his father was killed and it may not be the smartest idea.

Richard would have preferred not to take her, but he didn’t want to leave her waiting on the trail, alone. They made their way through the woods, through the tangle of brush, skirting the house, giving it a wide
berth. When he reached the place where he would have to approach the back of the house, he motioned her to wait. She didn’t like the idea, but he would take no argument. If there was anyone in there, he didn’t want them getting her as well

He may be entirely lacking in personality but I do like that Richard is being relatively sensible about things.

Richard manages to reach through a back window and retrieve his magic tooth (I bet it’s a dragon tooth) and his pack, both of which are completely untouched despite everything else being ransacked, and hears the familiar squeak of a chair in the front room which means someone is in there waiting for him. Good thing Kahlan is here, huh?

After this they head off to see Zedd. For all is dickery I think Michael would be the safer bet here, given that he has an army at his command and is surrounded by bodyguards.

Richard is extremely confused about what just happenws and fails to come to the most obvious conclusion.

Why would someone tear his house apart, as his father’s had been torn apart? What if it was the same person?

I wonder if it could possibly have something to do with that mysterious book your dad gave you? Nah, probably totally unrelated.

She turned to face him with both hands on her hips and a scowl on her face. “Richard Cypher, you expect me to believe you risked your life to get your backpack?”
“Kahlan, you are coming close to getting kicked.” He couldn’t manage a smile.

God damn this dialogue is awful. How did this ever get published?

Just as they’re about to find a clearing to spend the night another thing happens! Hooray for stuff happening! Yay for events occurring in sequential order!

From across the clearing, fading evening light reflected in two glowing green eyes as their gaze swept in his direction. It stood on two feet, like a man, and was about a head taller than him. He guessed it weighed three times as much. Flies bit his neck, but he tried to ignore them.

Bet you wish you had gone back to Michael now, huh?

The beast cocked its head to the side and pricked its short, rounded ears ahead, listening. Fur covered the great body everywhere except its chest and stomach, which were covered with a smooth, glossy, pinkish skin
that rippled with corded muscles underneath.

Stick a pair of jeans and a tattered Metallica T-shirt on it and this would make a great fursona.

The whatever gorily eats a rabbit and then flies off in the direction of the boundary, so maybe this was the thing Richard saw and not a dragon. Well, close enough.

Sweat covered her, too; around her neck it was tinted red. He felt an overwhelming sense of sadness for her, for the terrors in her life.

He wished she didn’t have to face the monsters she seemed to know all too well.

This is not a sensible or realistic reaction to coming with a hair’s breadth of being eaten by a flying deviantArt monster.

“It was a long-tailed gar.”

Alligator Gar images

Doesn’t look that tough to me.

(According to Google image search these things also come in terrifying jumbo size. I am never entering a river in the US as long as I live)

Kahlan, I’m your friend

We know shut the fuck up

Richard politely asks if Kalhlan will please tell him what’s going on now, please? They decide to make a fire (great way to stay hidden, guys) for story time.

CHAPTER 5

They find a thickly branched tree called a “wayward pine” to make a fire under and Kahlan tells him that the gar was from D’hara, which sounds like a super scary place.

“Richard-” She paused as if afraid to tell him the rest. “-there is no longer a second boundary. The boundary between the Midlands and D’Hara is down. Since the spring.”

Well, shit. Now all the gar and the var and the jabberwoozits will be all over everything.

That shock made him feel as if the shadowy D’Hara had just taken a frightening, giant leap closer.

Such deathless prose.

Richard speculates that Michael already knew about this somehow, hence the speech about the boundaries vanishing. He’s apparently willing to listen to anyone, even “farmers with a tale” in order to make sure he has accurate information, even about things that other people consider unlikely. I know he’s being set up as an asshole, but he sounds like a pretty capable leader.

Richard says that he knows nothing about the boundaries except that they’ll kill you if you try to cross them, because no one would ever tell him anything growing up.

Older people seem suspicious when I ask, and tell me it was too long ago to remember, or give some other excuse.

But Chase and Richard’s dad were both alive before the boundary appeared; given that Richard is fairly young and they both seem to have been adults at the time is can’t have been very long ago at all. Why wouldn’t people talk about it?

Kalhan launches into a short fantasy history. The disparate kingdoms that once made up D’hara were united after being conquered by Panis Rahl, who then turned his attention to Midland.

They knew that signing a peace treaty with him was as good as
signing an invitation to invasion. Instead, they chose to remain free, and joined together, through the council of the Midlands, in a common defense

Define “free”. What kind of government are we talking about here? if it’s a traditional monarchy or a feudal set up than they’re not really “free” in any sense. Richard’s society sounds like it’s some sort of democracy, but Michael appears to be controlling everything with more or less autocratic power after being elected and no one is batting an eyelid, so that must be how things are usually done. That doesn’t sound particularly free either.

As his legions were finally slowed and then halted, Rahl turned to magic. There is magic in D’Hara, too, not just in the Midlands. Back then there was magic everywhere. There were no separate lands, no boundaries

Penis Panis Rahl used floaty “shadow people” who could survive and physical attack and make people burst from the inside out, so the Midlands kingdoms employed a “great and honourable wizard” to help them. We don’t learn his name right away, which means it’s totally either Richard’s dad or Zedd.

Once Panis’ forces had been driven back it was decided that invading D’hara would be too costly, and a lot of people were like “enough of this war and magic business” and they moved to Westland to get away from it all. The boundaries were created to keep everything contained.

Wait I just had an idea, couldn’t someone sail around them? Do they stretch all the way around the planet?

The boundaries are part of the underworld: the dominion of the dead. They were conjured into our world by magic, to separate the three lands. They are like a curtain drawn across our world. A rift in the world of the living

That sounds pretty metal.

Anyway Kahlan got some wizards to conjure up a spell to let her cross but no one was really sure it would work and it was super scary.

You may have noticed that Kahlan has been pretty awesome lately- even more awesome than Richard in fact- and we can’t have that so she remembers meeting her dead sister Dennee and her mother in the undeworld and breaks down in tears.

To get introspective for a moment, my immediate reaction upon seeing this is to roll my eyes and complain about stereotypical women in fantasy; but on the other hand I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with any character, of any gender, displaying vulnerability. These two mindsets would seem to contradict each other, and yet this scene still bugs me and I’m not entirely sure why.

Part of it might have to do with context; a woman in a fantasy novel getting all weepy and needing to be comforted would feel very different if the person doing the comforting was another women (this almost never seems to happen in genre fiction) and especially if the author was a woman as well. As it is all I can see here is Kahlan getting wobbly so our big strong hero can show how manly he is.

Style: "Wizards"

Check out how manly he looks standing against that obvious photo background!

(Note to self watch Sword of Truth TV series)

Anyway Richard does something that is clearly him using magic without realizing it to pull her back from the Underworld or whatever (the hero of the Wheel of Time books does something similar as well).

He would be the spark of light and life in that blackness that would lead her back to this world, to him.

This would be a lot more dramatic if it wasn’t happening on chapter 5, after these character have known each other for all of six hours.

He held her and stroked her hair and rocked her gently for a long time.
Something in the way she clung to him made him realize that no one had held her and comforted her for a very long time.

Okay I take back everything I said earlier, this is clearly bullshit.

“It’s all right, Kahlan. It is the first responsibility of a friend to provide a shoulder to cry on.”

BEEP BOOP FRIEND PROTOCOL ENGAGED BEEP LOOK AT MY ROBOT ABS BOOP

“How do you ask questions that fill my mind with pictures and make me answer, even when I have no intention to?”

What?

“Zedd asks me that too. I guess it’s just something I was born with.
Sometimes I think it’s a curse.”

I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Back to the story, the Midland wizard got pissed because the rest of the government made a political appointment that should have been his to make and decided to leave them all to rot. I think we’re supposed to agree with him instead of viewing this as selfish petulance.

Richard smiled. That sounded like something Zedd would say.

This better not be awkward foreshadowing.

As he left, he cast a wizard’s web over everyone, making them forget his
name, even what he looked like. So that is why no one knows what his name is or who he is.

This is the most contrived plot twist I’ve ever seen.

People in Midland have mysteriously started becoming followers of Darken Rahl, referring to him as “the greatest man of peace that ever lived” (are these the famous evil pacifists?) and this has obviously got Kahlan and her associates worried.

Then the People’s Peace Army, Darken Rahl’s army, marched right into the bigger cities. Instead of fighting him, crowds of Midlanders threw flowers at them wherever they went. People who didn’t throw flowers were hung.

Terry Goodkind, your weird ideological biases are showing.

After a time, the army stepped in and stopped the killing. Instead, the dissenters were sent to the schools of enlightenment to learn about the greatness of Father Rahl, about what a man of peace he is.

So they’re evil fantasy communists, in other words. I’m getting kind of a Maoist vibe from the language being used.

Then he outlawed fire.

HMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.

Hay guyz didn’t we see someone else talking about fire like a chapter ago oh well I’m sure it doesn’t mean anything

To have a fire in the wrong place in the Midlands, without the approval of Darken Rahl or his followers, is to invite death.” She pushed at the dirt with a stick. “Maybe in Westland, too. Your brother seems close to outlawing fire. Maybe . . .”

Amazingly, Richard doesn’t get the hint and starts defending Michael. Which I guess is fair enough, they are brothers, but it’s extremely frustrating when the author telegraphs something clearly to the readers but then has the characters fail to figure it out.

(Also this just supports my assertion that Kahlan is way more cut out to be the protagonist of this thing).

Richard tells her a story about a time Michael got lots of money through illicit means and acted like a pompous jackass about it, but then used most of it to pay off their families’ debts. Not buying it Terry, the dude’s clearly shady. This is not a nuanced character.

Richard smiled and gave her a nod

[…]

She nodded her agreement

psyduck

Darken Rahl’s armies now control the major cities of Midland and he’s searching for some sort of magic that will let him take over the whole world.

There were seven: the great wizard and his six students. The old one has vanished; one of the others sold his services to a queen, a very dishonorable thing for a wizard to do.” She paused, considering that a moment. “And as I told you before, the five others are dead. Before they died they had the whole of the Midlands searched, but the great one was not to be found. He is not in the Midlands.”

Jesus, there’s a lot of exposition in this.

Okay basically, Kahlan is looking for the great wizard (Zedd) so she can use her magicks to force him to make the appointment that he was originally supposed to make before (which will involve Richard in some way) and stop Darken Rahl. Glad we have the plot for the rest of the book cleared up.

God damn how long is this chapter? So Richard’s hand still hurts from where the thorn went into him which I guess will be relevant later and also Kahlan has a “night wisp” in a bottle who guided her across the boundary but she has to let it out of the bottle now where it will die because it can’t go back and naturally this makes her sad and the wisp is all like “if you need wisp help just say my name and there’ll be more wisps than you can shake a stick at”  and also says that if Richard doesn’t find the power within himself (seriously) by the first day of winter than Darken Rahl will kill him and Kahlan and then the wisp dies and it’s all very melodramatic even though it’s only been introduced like three pages ago

*deep breath*

holy shit it’s still going okay viewpoint switch to Kahlan and it turns out she’s a “Confessor” and she won’t tell Richard because I don’t know and also there’s dialogue like “he makes my heart smile” and Kahlan has to choose a “mate” for some reason and she cries more.

Kahlan turned on her side, away from him, and pushed her shoulders back against him the way a child would put its back to a parent when peril approached

And then the chapter ends.

This is some of the most amateurish writing I’ve ever seen in a published novel. It’s that deadly combination of simultaneously really simplistic but also super over-complicated, and the characterization is quickly liding right off a cliff.

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24 thoughts on “Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch. 4-5

  1. Jane Pinckard

    I also admit to having enjoyed watching the first season of Legend of the Seeker, in the same way I enjoyed the cheesiness of Xena: Warrior Princess. Although Xena was of course a way better show because Lucy Lawless!

    Reply
  2. rmric0

    The thing I hate about pointless world building is that authors often throw out little gems like “he outlawed fire” and then they never really follow up. Maybe it’s because I’m too much of a nerd, but I want to know how that works in a psuedo-medieval society where they don’t have microwaves or electric stoves. Does everyone just have to get a permit? Do you have to get a special kind of stove made by Rahl Foundries? What about candles?

    Reply
    1. Fibinachi

      Ah! But they do follow up. It’s a plot point. Darken Rahl has Secret Fire Police Officers, who watch towns and villages for Fires and put them out and hang the people who make them.

      It’s not mere pointless world building, it’s an important facet in underlining the Evil of Darken Rahl so our heroes can be showcased against that.

      Reply
  3. Austin H. Williams

    Then he outlawed fire.

    I watched The Legend of the Seeker a while back. It’s decent in that, “Well, at least it’s not a reality show” sort of way. People had told me that it wasn’t as mind-bogglingly stupid as the novel was, and I took them at their word, wondering just how you got any dumber than the most basic Campbellian plot imaginable.

    And now, I’m reading about this, and yes, I see exactly what they mean.

    Reply
    1. Signatus

      The Legend of the Seeker was based on this book? I couldn’t get past the first episode, I found everything about it so stupid!

      Reply
      1. Austin H. Williams

        Don’t get me wrong: it was stupid, just that when compared to everything else on TV, it just made me sort of shrug. And my wife enjoyed it. (Hm…)

        But, yeah. I don’t recall any subplot that involved outlawing a basic and necessary element of survival for a temperate climate for teh evulz.

        Reply
  4. Signatus

    “Kahlan, I’m your friend”

    No, you’re not!
    For goodness sake! This guy has known the girl for like, what? 4 hours? You can’t reach the level of trust and emotional links friendship involve in 4 friggin hours. Takes weeks to do that with dogs, we are not any different in that aspect.

    This book is terrible!

    The moment when the Wisp said Richard could fall in love with Kahlan, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to burn the book, or burst out laughing. I would not burn the book because it is in my kindle, but I couldn’t laugh much either because that’s just bullshit quota romance sidequest going on in there. Really? Where did that come from? Is every man I meen a potential love interest? COME ON!

    Lets not mention the dialogues. Those are just horrible overcomplicated bullshit of a dialogue. I know dialogue is one of the hardest things to do, but that… really, it doesn’t need an editor, it needs a full rewrite.

    It’s so predictable it hurts.

    Reply
    1. Signatus

      Forgot to add, wtf was that thing with the wisp? Was there something sexually implied in the thing that Kahlan touched it?

      And… this is going to be another Chose One Hero Journey, isn’t it? Oh, well. There are several archetypes I totally hate. The one I despise the most is the Quota Girl, as being a female character inserted in the book or movie (usually a movie) with the sole purpose for her to be the main character’s love interest (as seen in Blade).
      The archetype that follows is the Chosen One. The super talented wannabe-farmer who has some hidden power and is the only one who can defeat the bad guy. Thats outright stupid.
      The bad guy, no matter how powerful, is just one person. Get enough people with swords and arrows and he’ll be mince meat before he can call up the powers of darkness or whatever.

      Reply
    1. Signatus

      If I understand correctly, he wants to destroy al magic, and wizards use fire (apparently, the rest of the population don’t have a use for it, and heat their homes with natural gas and cook with microwaves). That’s about it.

      Reply
  5. Bloop

    “He guessed it weighed three times as much.”

    This is the most blatant example of something that’s been brought up a few times; a character responding to something (a presumably terrifying/monstrous/unknown creature) in a way that has nothing to do with how any person would actually respond. In this case, his first thought is to estimate its’ weight. It gives the impression that Goodkind isn’t considering what the characters he’s constructed would actually do in a situation, but instead he just lists a few facts, like the weight, and moves on with his story. Really shoddy. I’d consider it an author’s duty in order to have well-realised characters to be constantly thinking about how their characters would behave in regards to the world around them, and it doesn’t seem like Goodkind is even trying.

    I also strongly disagree – at least from the snippet given – that Richard is being sensible. Surely you bring the provenly effective fighter to your possibly dangerous house rather than going in alone, with only the skills of an innocent young farm boy (admittedly brave, smart, handsome, kind, and perfect in every way but not trained) beginning their hero’s journey.

    Reply
    1. Austin H. Williams

      “It gives the impression that Goodkind isn’t considering what the characters he’s constructed would actually do in a situation, but instead he just lists a few facts, like the weight, and moves on with his story.”

      Another amateurish giveaway, too. Beginning writers, i.e. writers who don’t have a grip on POV, characterisation, etc., often wind up writing their story like a technical manual. The whole “It weighed such and such,” as well as the mechanical description of the “friendship” (which Our Host has harped on at length) all reek of inexperience.

      And yet, again, it’s sold millions of copies… evidently fanboys want their fantasy to read like stereo instructions…

      Reply
      1. Jane Pinckard

        I don’t know, I think you could argue that if you were anticipating combat with said monster you might automatically make such calculations and size, weight, reach, if you were able to.

        Reply
      2. Austin H. Williams

        I’m imagining most higher functions would be replaced by “shitting one’s pants” in all but the most experienced fighters with regard to something like this.

        I’m still not buying Richard’s response, and something that should instill fear in readers still, again, feels mechanical.

        Reply
      3. Signatus

        Emotions don’t work like that. Either you’re a robot (in which case you pass all information through the cognitive part of your brain), or you’re a living being in which case you also have emotions. When emotions are high enough (rapture), thinking is impossible. That’s why when people stampede, many die due to suffocation.
        On the imediate next lower level of emotion, you can think, but all your thinking is focused on solving the problem that has you in that situation. That is, when you see a rabid monster, you’re not thinking about its weight, but whether you can flee it or, if you can’t, how to better fight it.

        Reply
  6. Reveen

    I don’t know about you, but I generally take a author doing photoshoots like he’s some badassed political rock star or something to be a bad sign.

    From what I’ve read of this series, Kahlan actually being kind of cool is going to be a recurring theme. And Goodkind ramping up the rapeyness and general fantasy gender bullshit exponentially to compensate will also be a recurring theme.

    Actually, that’s recurring for the entire genre huh? It seems the more competent and cool the women seem to be, the more likely the author is going to swerve into icksville.

    Reply
  7. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

    Does the heavy handed foreshadowing mean that Goodkind thinks Richard is an idiot who can’t figure out something completely obvious, or does Goodkind think he’s a much subtler writer than he actually is, and none of his readers was supposed to figure it out?

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      The way this is written it’s almost like it’s a remake of something and he expects everyone to already know what’s going to happen.

      Reply

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