You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Stone of Tears

Stone of Tears is the sequel to Wizard's First Rule. It is the second book in Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. The book begins where the first book ends. Richard Rahl, the wizard Zedd, and Kahlan are in the People's Palace, having defeated Darken Rahl. Yet they are not able to rest because they are soon attacked by an evil creature called a skrin, a powerful creature from the underworld. In defeating Darken Rahl, they have left open a rift to the underworld. Richard comes to understand that only he has the power to close the rift and save the world.

Richard and Kahlan travel to the Mud People to return one of their children, and there Richard insists on doing the ritual to speak with the ancestors, in order to get advice on how to close the rift. However, he falls victim to the wizard's second rule, which says that in deciding on an action, one may make the situation worse through unintended consequences. Too late, Richard realizes that his father Darken Rahl is his direct ancestor, so he has called him from beyond the veil. Darken Rahl marks Richard with a black handprint on his chest, which Richard bears as a constand reminder of his father's evil.

The plot starts to take shape when Richard and Kahlan are visited by three women who are from the Sisters of the Light. The Sisters claim that the headaches that Richard is suffering will kill him unless they put a collar on him and take him away to teach him how to control his magic. Kahlan, convinced by Denna's ghost that only this can save his life, persuades Richard to take the collar and go away with Sister Verna. Richard, though he complies, is bitter about Kahlan sending him away and is convinced that she no longer loves him. This break affects him for the rest of the book. It will take most of the novel for him to realize that Kahlan acted out of love. The way he realizes this is by adopting a gar after killing its mother, and being forced to send it away to keep it from being killed by civilized people. However this whole subplot feels a little forced, and Richard comes to his epiphany too easily.

With Richard being taken away, Kahlan takes three escorts with her to Aydindril, the seat of power for the Midlands. There she intends to help maintain peace in the land in her duties as the highest leader and peacemaker. However they do not get far before they encounter a city that has been laid waste and all its inhabitants killed. Here the author provides gruesome scenes of the viciousness of the attackers. We gain insight in Kahlan as she witnesses the devastation and must make a decision whether to continue to Aydindril to see to her duties, or help a small army of young men pursue vengeance against a stronger force. The overwhelming nature of the slaughter provokes her into action, and so the story takes another turn. Kahlan becomes a cunning leader, but also faces personal challenges, including a sudden betrayal. The betrayal is a true plot twist that changes the arc of the story.

The middle third of the book follows Richard as Sister Verna leads him to the palace where the Sisters of the Light train young wizards. Suspense builds as we we learn more about the Sisters, particularly with scenes of intrigue at the palace they are approaching. The contrast between the scenes of Kahlan's action and Richard's slow acculumation of knowledge and power blend together well. As Richard grows in knowledge he still has trouble controling his magic, and we wonder if he will be able to deal with whatever is in store for him. At their destination, Richard is still unhappy without Kahlan and determined to leave. This determination drives his actions in the last third of the story, where he becomes more confident and slowly starts to master his power. He learns that he has a power that has not been seen in three thousand years, making him a powerful and dangerous wizard. As he has accepted his role as the Seeker, he must accept the gift of magic.

Unfortunately after several hundred pages, the last few chapters feel rushed. Whereas the first novel was slow in the beginning and grew slowly to a crescendo, this installment is a little more spotty. There is a lot packed into the novel, and it's nice to see more of the world Goodkind has created. The resolution feels a little to easy after all the work building up to it. There is a nice twist at the end regarding Kahlan's fate, a prophecy that Richard tries to prevent.

The story revolves around the two main characters, their love for each other, and their attempts to reunite after forcing to be separated. They are drawn each other and this drives the story, each wanting to make the other's love worthwhile. Kahlan is the destination that Richard is always seeking, and he is her drive to succeed. The trope of the young wizard coming to accept his power is a little overdone, but I think the author does a pretty good job of building on it. It can be tiring to hear Richard deny his power or refuse to come to terms with it, yet in the end it makes a nice story. B+

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