Review. Terry Goodkind, Naked Empire

I remember the time when reading Goodkind filled me with joy. It was when reading the first two books. I remember the time when reading Goodkind made me see the good in between the bad. It was when reading the fifth book. I remember the time when it all went to hell and failed to recover. It is now.
The previous installment, while focusing on all but the main characters, was a complete waste of trees and time. But because of the shift in focus, I had high hopes that it would all be worth the while and Goodkind would steer the series back to the great book that Faith Of The Fallen was. The thing with high hopes is that they can fall deep. And deep they went.

Ancient sorcerous barriers have been overthrown, freeing the sadistic Imperial Order to pillage the rest of the world. Far from the land he rules, his life and powers draining with each day, Richard Rahl must help a desperate people-and teach them the meaning of freedom.
And behind Richard’s troubles is a new force: a soul-stealer who rides the minds of birds and beasts to spy on Richard’s mind, anticipating his every move…

Funny how something so good can turn sour so fast. I used to be completely devoted to this series but in the years since, my faith in it has waned. Still, the first book remains brilliant. Unfortunately, the brilliance isn’t hereditary.
When we last saw our heroes at the end of the previous book, something had happened. When we meet up again in Naked Empire, they are on the road to somewhere in order to restore whatever mystical magical thing has gone wrong. Upon meeting a stranger, Richard is poisoned and lured into the land of the Bandakar, a land whose magical borders have been removed because of Richard and now they need his help.
stupidity keeps the plot going
If you’ve read the previous novels in this series, you pretty much know where this is going. Jagang is still a threat, but let’s not adress him like we did with Darken Rahl. Instead, let’s focus on the evil of the week. So as not to forget that we really have to worry about Jagang, we get some scenes of him raping and walking dreams. Another given by now is the imminent separation of Richard and Khalan. For a change, she gets kidnapped.. Oh, wait.. You’d think they have learned to be more cautious by now, but then again, stupidity keeps the plot going round again and again. While I didn’t like the previous book, at all, at least it made a new wind blow through the series – pity that it stank, but what can you do about it? – whereas here we get a blatant rehashing of all the previous books. I swear, some scenes might as well be a literal copy-paste. The Bandakar as a people are lame and do nothing but serve their purpose as sockpuppets for Richard’s beliefs. For the first half of the book they refuse to join his side, only to suddenly change their mind and take up arms – well, pitchforks and torches but it fits with Goodkind’s disregard for people who are not “on his side” of the moral spectrum, wherever that side may be.
Another thing that is passed down from previous novels is Richard’s brilliance. I swear, this guy is a magical progeny. You remember when his gift first manifested and he couldn’t eat meat and cheese because it started tasting funky and Zedd gave the ol’ balance explanation? Well, the Wizards of old were wrong and Richard can do what he wants because he Understands.
this guy is a magical progeny
I barely dare speak my mind on the characters, but they have become shadows of their former selves. Even worse, they’ve become caricatures amplifying one trait and neglecting everything else. Richard has become that he preaches against, a zealot. Much like Jagang, he beliefs he has the truth and only the truth. Despite him being the seeker, he seeks little but claims to know all. Kahlan is once again with Richard and thus a damsel in distress. It’s funny – or rather sad – to see how her strong personality is completely overshadowed by Richard and whenever they are together, she disappears completely behind his machismo. Her tendency to get separated from Richard every single book might give Freud something to ponder over. The Bandakar and the evil wizard Nicolas are nothing more but sockpuppets to strengthen Richard’s claims and beliefs, thank you very much. Luckily there is Cara and Nathan who actually seem to be able to think for themselves and act in a reasonable way. The fact that they don’t live up Richard’s ass does contribute to this abnormal behaviour.. And then there is Betty the goat. I don’t know why we spent so much time getting to know Jenssen in the previous book, but when your character gets outshined by her goat, there is a tiny little problem.
The writing, though, has more than one little problem. I have this issue with more than one series, but this one tops them all. I get that you want to refresh people’s memories about events from past installments, but I have yet to encounter a person who knowingly went into a series at book eight, so the ‘Previously on..’ can be kept brief. If you’d cut all the recaps from this book, you’d lose somewhere between a third and half of the pages. As far as I know, the characters are not psychic, so they don’t need to get flashbacks of the first time they did something, when they do something. This is a big book, but all the recaps and repetitiveness makes it drag. Not to mention the long speeches Richard tends to give about whatever ideology he’s got in his mind at the time. The boy can talk and talk and talk. It’s boring. All that is perfectly captured in convoluted writing posing as literary. Yes, indeed more than a tiny little problem.

I think I’ve read this book twice now, but my opinion on it stands. It’s a chore to get through and it adds little to none to the bigger story. What it does do, however, is confirm lingering suspicions that this series is definitely going down the drain.

★ ★

Naked is all the rage. Lose your clothes here.


2 thoughts on “Review. Terry Goodkind, Naked Empire

  1. I know what you feel, I also have some warm memories about this series, but somehow can’t seem to finish the last two books as I simply lost interest. There are some things that bother me in Goodkind’s style. It’s still a rather good fantasy, but there are better books out there.


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