Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch. 42

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Last time on Wizard’s First Rule: Richard got tortured (but in kind of a sexy way) by an evil dominatrix, and he maimed a little girl.

This time: more torturing.

Denna tells Richard to get dressed, since they’re going on some sort of trip.

A closed carriage stood waiting for them in the dark

“Closed carriage” makes me immediately think of a victorian style carriage, which would be massively out of place. That’s probably not what Goodkind had in mind, but the lack of any other description makes to difficult to formulate a more suitable mental image.

Queen Evil accosts them as they’re about to leave, because she wants Richard executed for maiming her daughter (this is an entirely reasonable thing to want). We’re informed that they’re not sure if the Princess will live; since Queen Evil is evil she doesn’t appear to be at all bent out of shape about this, and her demand to have Richard executed comes off more as petulant than driven by rage or sorrow.

Anyway the queen lunges at him with a knife, Denna kills her, the same mysterious power that let Richard kick the princess comes back and he kills her remaining bodyguard.

They set off on their carriage adventure, with Denna allowing Richard to sleep and acting all fake-nice to induce Stockholm syndrome. Occassionaly the MYSTERIOUS POWER comes back and Richard realizes that it’s his sword The Magic.

It was like the power he had called forth when he was going to kill with the sword, but different in a way he couldn’t understand. The power he had known before, he could no longer feel. Denna had that power now, but this she didn’t.

This is a mildly interesting concept. You have my attention again after all that dull wandering.

They come to a gigantic fancy palace somewhere and Richard manages to grasp this new The Magic more fully, but not enough to actually help him escape. Do you think his resolve will awaken at a dramatic climactic moment???

The big fancy building turns out to be some sort of Rahl-worshipping monastery place where people chant in front of sand zen-garden things.

A woman’s husky voice spoke. “Sister Denna, how good to see you’ve returned. D’Hara has been lonely without you.”


Denna smiled smugly. “He only killed two of my men, before he turned his magic on me.” The look of shock on Constance’s face made Denna laugh. “He’s from Westland.”


Then it’s time for yet more torture (but in kind of a sexy way) with Constance assisting. Have I mentioned how long these scenes go on for? It’s only been like a chapter and a half but it feels like they’ve been going on for half the book.

After that they go to the dining room (which looks all nice and pleasent) for lunch.

There was no meat served.

Seriously what is it with the vegetarians? Did a carrot murder Terry Goodkind’s parents or something?

You should be afraid of her. She hates men. Every time she kills one, she cries out the name of
the man who first broke her, Rastin. Remember I told you about the man who broke me, took me for his mate, and that later I killed him? Before he broke me, he was Constance’s trainer. His name was Rastin. It was he who broke her. Constance is the one who told me how I could kill him. I would do anything for her. And because I killed the man she hated so, she would do anything for me.


Wait, I’ve figured it out. Any old hack can write sleazy torture scenes, but this books forces the reader to experience the misery and anguish along with its protagonist. Terry Goodkind is a literary genius.

There’s some bullshit where using her magic torture thing to torture Richard (but in kind of a sexy way) also hurts Denna because of her Strong Female Character back story and Richard is like “no let Constance train me so you won’t be in pain” and I don’t care anymore whether this indicates he’s been completely brainwashed or if it’s some sort of ruse or if he’s just supposed to have that much moral clarity or what the fuck. If he manages to win Denna over to his side somehow I’m going to punch the internet.

After a time, he heard the bell, calling them to the evening devotion. Denna came back in, squatted down next to him, put her arm gently around him, and helped him to his feet.
“We are not allowed to miss a devotion,” she explained in a quiet voice, hooking the chain to her belt.


“Very bad, it would appear. How delightful.” Her hungry eyes turned to Denna. “I’m free. Let’s go teach him what two Mord-Sith can really do.”

“No, not tonight, Constance.”


When they were back in Denna’s quarters, she gave him the bucket. He almost collapsed at the thought of filling her tub.

Her voice was quiet. “Go and get one bucket of hot water.”


“I brought this back from dinner. I find I am no longer hungry. You had no dinner; you eat it.”

“Be quiet,” she said gently. “I want to sleep on something hard, for my back. I will sleep on the floor. Since I will sleep on the floor, you will have to sleep in my bed, and I don’t want your blood in it.”


Denna took the Agiel from him and returned it to the table. “Not tonight. I told you, I have a backache.

She blew out the lamp. “Go to sleep.’.”


Her voice was hardly more than a whisper. “Tell me you think I’m ugly.”

I can see the germ of an interesting story here, if not for how cartoonishly over the top Denna is and how this entire section feels like a completely different plot got spliced into the middle of the book.

Anyway Denna starts going easier on Richard and letting him use her bed and they go for walks and shit, yipee. One day she gets called away by Darken Rahl himself and comes back hours later, after having been tortured by Rahl for being lax with Richard. Richard uses his herb knowledge to soothe her pain, because of course you see what going on here: she’s evil and sadistic because she was hurt by men, and now Richard (THE BEST MAN) is going to mend her broken heart.

“You, don’t understand about the Mord-Sith, my love. We are carefully selected, as young girls. Those chosen to be Mord-Sith are the most gentle, the most kindhearted, that can be found. It is said that the deepest cruelty comes from the deepest caring. All of D’Hara is searched, and each year only about a half dozen are chosen. A Mord-Sith is broken three times.”


Her wet eyes shone in the lamplight. “I have done things to hurt you that 1 have done to no other, yet you are the first person since I was chosen who has done anything to stop my pain.”


Then they have sex.

“Tonight, I want you without the Agiel. Please? Teach me what it’s like without the pain?”

Jesus fucking christ.

So let’s talk about Denna and Constance. The difference between them is that Denna claims to do what she does out of a twisted kind of affection- she apparently loves her “pets”, she just expresses that through torture and murder because of grimdark. But even while torturing Richard she gives him breaks and tries to pace it so that the pain doesn’t completely overwhelm him. She regularly makes men her “mates” and all it takes is a man showing her affection to begin melting her cruel heart.

Then there’s Constance, who (we are explicitly told) hates men. Her torture sessions are far more vicious and brutal and crucially aren’t done in kind of a sexy way- the element of sensuality and BDSM titillation that pervades most of the Denna scenes isn’t present. Unlike Denna, she never takes a mate.

The interesting (and gross) point here is that Denna and Constance are both victims of the same man, the dude who turned them into Mord-Sith as children. It is made explicitly clear that Constance’s raging bloodlust is due to her past experiences with this guy, as she screams his name whenever she kills a man.

Basically what I’m getting at here is that the book seems to be setting the two women up as opposite reactions to sexual abuse. Constance is the “bad” victim because she hates men due to her experiences; Denna, by, contrast is the “good” victim because she claims to love men. The only negative effect of her abuse is that it’s made her incapable of expressing that love in any way that doesn’t involve torture and pain, and all she really needs is to do sex with a caring man for her trauma to start to heal.

At least, that’s the only real way I can interpret these two characters. I am reminded of Kvothe’s NOT ALL MEN moment in The Wise Man’s Fear, another example of a male author going out of his way to lecture to us all that yes, rape and sexual abuse are bad but it’s terribly important that women who have experienced it don’t turn into sexless man-haters as a result.

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12 thoughts on “Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch. 42

  1. Signatus

    I’m not sure what is going on right now and I’m not sure I want to know. The premise of the “beauty and the beast” where the Beauty’s gentle forms change he Beast’s brutality and awaken a friendly soul that was lurking beneath all that violence and hathred, has been overdone to death. This approach is the pornographic version of the classic but I see nothing original or compelling about it. Actually, I’m struggling to get through all of this.

    I would like to know what Goodkind has against vegetarians and women alike. It’s been several times in these past two chapters where it has been implied that the mating ritual with a Mord Sith is likely fatal. At the same time we know Confessors can’t mate without hurting the male. I never knew we were so deadly in bed. It’s a wonder we reproduce at all.

    Anyways, the whole premise for the Mord Siths is a bunch of bullshit.

  2. Pingback: Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch. 43 | Doing In The Wizard

  3. Austin H. Williams

    …since Queen Evil is evil she doesn’t appear to be at all bent out of shape about this, and her demand to have Richard executed comes off more as petulant than driven by rage or sorrow.

    Which sounds about right for what Goodkind wants. Maybe this even indicates that on some level he realises Richard is a bleeding psychopath, and in order to turn him “good” again he has to make Queen Evil’s indignation not be based on how this grown man kicked the shit out of a child, but more about how she just doesn’t like him, period, regardless of justifications.


    And this whole Mord Sith thing…….. I’m at a loss for words. I keep finding myself just shaking my head in disbelief. Then, I remember all the people I’ve met who have heaped praise on this book. All the people who have lined up at conventions for Goodkind’s autograph. All the people who made this easier to find at a bookstore than, say, Michael Swanwick or Nnedi Okorafor.

    And my dismay turns to anger which turns to despair. I look at my WIP, and I start to think, “What’s the point?”

  4. UBM

    Damn, I had forgotten all about that horrible part (as well as about many of the others…).
    These books were actually among the first fantasy books I read, along with A Wheel of Time.
    I faintly remember disliking (or rather ignoring) Goodkind’s shoddy world-/characterbuilding even then.

    1. UBM

      I just read the summary of the final book in the series on wikipedia (I stopped somewhere around book 5 back then) – words fail me.
      Money quote:
      “With that power, he [Richard] not only restores Kahlan’s memories and others’ memories of her, he also creates an identical world or parallel universe to the one they’re living in to which he banishes all of the people from the old world who are unable to see the benefit of individuality and prosperity […]”

      1. Reveen

        Jesus wept.

        Remember when these books were about the tribe of swamp people who liked to say hi by punching eachother in the face? Good times. Relatively.

  5. Pingback: Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch. 41 | Doing In The Wizard

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