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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

#Fantasy Review: Death's Mistress by Terry Goodkind

Let me be honest here. I've always had something of an awkward relationship with Terry Goodkind. I loved the first 3 Sword of Truth novels, and still count them among my favorite epic fantasy reads of all time. Sadly, I found the middle novels (with one notable exception) to be rather weak, increasingly repetitive, and weighed down with heavy-handed philosophy. While I did find that he redeemed himself exceptionally well with the final 2 books, I also found he got tirelessly repetitive again with the opening installment of the Richard and Kahlan series that followed.

That one notable exception I mentioned was The Pillars of Creation, a book that pushed Richard, Kahlan, and the Sword to the margins. It actually turned out to be one of my favorite books in the series, so when I heard Death's Mistress would do the same, telling a new story unencumbered by that core legacy, I was cautiously optimistic. Tentatively excited, even.

Let me just say, right now, that Death's Mistress more than delivered on that promise. This was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed, from the first page to the last. It's hardly anything new - in fact, it feels very much like a traditional 'quest' fantasy - but it breathes fresh life and real excitement into the world that Goodkind has created. Nicci and Nathan are allowed to carry the story here, taking us far beyond the known borders of the original books, and deep into lands never before mentioned.

Like I said, this is very much a traditional quest novel, with no overarching conflict or political upheaval against which we're to struggle. Instead, it's a rather simple tale, with Nicci sent off to spread the word Richard's triumph over Emperor Jagang. There is one last prophecy to give the quest purpose, but it's more of a roadmap than a defining aspect of the story. Along the way, we get to visit new lands, meet new characters, and enjoy some fantastic battles that mix a sense of wonder with genuine danger.

At the same time, we get some real character development - both for characters old (Nicci and Nathan) and new (Bannon and Thistle). Nicci has always been cold, harsh, and somewhat one-dimensional, but here she has a chance to breathe and grow emotionally. As for Nathan, I generally loathe it when characters are stripped of their powers, but here it actually frees him to be something more than just the dangerous mouth of prophecy. Bannon is perhaps the greatest surprise in the book, a nuisance side character who develops alongside Nicci and Nathan, and who ultimately becomes a genuinely heroic character about whom we'd be happy to read more.

It genuinely feels as if Goodkind has rediscovered his love for the genre with Death's Mistress, and that bodes well for future volumes in the series.

Hardcover, 512 pages
Published January 24th 2017 by Tor Books

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

5 comments:

  1. I ask in sincerity. Has Goodkind gotten over his rape fetish in Death's Mistress and left behind page long speeches? Because it was that which made some of his nearly unreadable.

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    1. Admittedly, there is one key scene involving the attempted rape of Nicci, but the men don't get far, and it does not end well for them at all. You don't mess with Death's Mistress.

      As for the long-winded speeches, they are thankfully absent here (I was worried about that too), along with the rambling politics and the heavy-handed philosophy. It's a stripped-down Goodkind, with the focus squarely on story and character.

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  2. I think sometimes pressing deadlines and such stifle authors when they're writing a series. Maybe that's why some of the books aren't as good as others. It's great to hear this one was good, though. I've been meaning to read some books by Terry Goodkind.

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  3. Love getting your thoughts on this, Bob! Sounds really promising, really looking forward to starting it now.

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

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  4. Alright, I'm sold. I was looking for a book and just bought book 12 of the Sword series. I almost bought this one instead. Guess I'll be making a second purchase today :)

    Thanks.

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