Fantastic Reviews - Fantasy Book Review
Chainfire USA cover Chainfire by Terry Goodkind

Tor Books USA hardcover - Copyright 2005
Cover Art by Keith Parkinson

Book reviewed June 2005

Rating: 9/10  (Very Highly Recommended)

Review by Gary Romero

          Chainfire is the latest entry in Terry Goodkind's best selling fantasy series, "The Sword of Truth."  With this amazing entry, he begins a trilogy meant to complete the undeniably popular series.  This is the ninth book in the series including; Wizard's First Rule, Stone of Tears, Blood of the Fold, Temple of the Winds, Soul of the Fire, Faith of the Fallen, The Pillars of Creation, and Naked Empire.  Terry Goodkind also wrote Debt of Bones, a novella based just a few years before Wizard's First Rule.

Richard Rahl is Lord and Ruler of the D'Haran Empire.  He has come a long way from his life as a simple woods guide.  Born in Heartwood, a land without magic, Richard's friend and mentor Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander has taught him to love and cherish life.  However, events have taken him on a journey past the borders of his Heartland home and into lands of magic and war.  Richard has found and, eventually, killed his evil father, and led his inherited D'Haran army against rogue empires.

Richard's belief that each person has a right to live their own life however they want, as long as it doesn't interfere with someone else's right to live, has been his driving force in fighting the evils that have besieged his home in the New World.  However, when Richard is kidnapped and taken into the Old World by the Sisters of Light, their supposedly good act accidentally unleashes Emperor Jagang and his evil army into the new world.

Prior wars between the Old and New Worlds had led the wizards of the past to build weapons out of themselves and to be changed with magic into creatures of pure evil.  The Dreamwalkers are just one such evil.  Their ability to ruthlessly enter and control people's minds made them a great danger during the wars.  Richard's ancestors found a way to protect themselves and their subjects by bonding themselves to each other but the wizards of Midland refused to swear themselves to the Rahl family.  Now, Emperor Jagang, a dreamwalker, and his army of ruthless barbarians have marched into the New World unhindered after the Sisters of the Light misread prophecy and allowed the ancient barrier between Old and New Worlds to fall.  Jagang's men are raping and plundering all who oppose his allegedly noble cause and most fall in fear before him.

In Chainfire, Richard is badly injured after an assassination attempt by Jagang's troops and is healed by Nicci, a friend and former Sister of the Dark.  When Richard awakes he finds his wife Kahlan missing; even worse, it appears that nobody with Richard even remembers Kahlan.  Nicci, thinking that perhaps the severity of his injury and the unique way she used Dark Magic to heal him has caused hallucinations, seeks to help Richard see his delusions for what they really are.  When Richard goes searching for Kahlan, his closest friends in the fight against Jagang fear the worst, for prophecy states that Richard "must lead the final battle" or all hope is lost.

Jagang, using his power to enter the minds of any person not sworn to Richard, has forced his army of wizards, sorcerers, Sisters of the Light and Sisters of the Dark to create a beast that would hunt and kill Richard so that he may take over the New World unopposed.  This beast is a thing of magic, a thing without rules.  It does not have any constant form and attacks at random times in random ways.

Terry Goodkind has an incredible talent for creating characters that feel real and are easy to connect with, and places them in an enjoyable, page turning story.  His character, Richard, has common sense and his views on life and leadership make him a person we all hope to parallel.  Those who are already familiar with the "Sword of Truth" series will be ecstatic to find that all (with one important exception: more on that later) of the characters from past books - Zed, Nicci, Carla and even some of the other Mord-Sith - are all back in this more than worthy sequel.

Terry Goodkind's writing skills have grown since his first book,Wizard's First Rule.  This book flows more smoothly from scene to scene and the inconsistencies between books have been completely corrected or explained.  Goodkind has always been said to be a character writer, but his ability to bring his world to light has gotten much stronger in Chainfire.

For those who haven't read all of Goodkind's earlier "Sword of Truth" novels, and are daunted by the idea of trying to catch up, have no fear.  Chainfire is an excellent place to start or, if you got lost along the way, to return to the series.  Goodkind has done a great job fleshing out his characters and bringing the reader up to speed without taking away from the story of this book.  Some of the fans of his earlier books will no doubt complain that Goodkind takes too much time on back history, but given that I haven't re-read any of his books since they where originally published, the recap of history was more a blessing than curse.  Either way, both seasoned Goodkind fans and new readers will enjoy the book.

Goodkind ends matters differently in this book than he has in his past books; Chainfire has a cliffhanger ending.  It's a good thing, honestly, as his other books end completely enough that many readers feared he may not continue the story any further, while this book ends with a clear indication that there will be much more to come.  Some Goodkind fans may feel cheated out of their proper ending, but this book is the first in a trilogy, not a stand alone book, and the reader will eventually realize that Goodkind is setting the stage for a story that is much too complicated for just one book.

Another thing past readers of the series are going to notice is the increase in philosophy and the decrease in action.  This, to me, is another improvement over his previous books, bringing a better balance between the two to create a much more suspenseful book.

Chainfire shows that Goodkind is a great story writer, his characters are the stuff of legend, and this story is one that will not be easily forgotten.  Chainfire is an excellent beginning to a trilogy that may prove to be an exciting conclusion to the "Sword of Truth" series.  Waiting for the next book will not be easy for any Terry Goodkind fan after reading Chainfire.

          *** Spoiler Warning ***
If you haven't read the rest of the "Sword of Truth" series, I highly recommend stopping here.
Kahlan's disappearance in this book is a huge driving force for the characters.  Goodkind has done such a good job building his characters that someone who is familiar with Kahlan is going to say that everyone around Richard acts weird.  This is simply because they all have forgotten the lessons Kahlan had thought them.  New readers to this series on the other hand, are going to wonder if Richard really is crazy or is there something so seriously wrong that these "normal" characters could forget her.  This viewpoint change from familiar to unfamiliar really speaks well for Goodkind's talent for writing great characters.

Chainfire trilogy, book two -> Phantom
Chainfire trilogy, book three -> Confessor

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Copyright 2005 Gary Romero
Chainfire by Terry Goodkind
Voyager UK hardcover
672 pages (right)
Chainfire UK cover

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Our book club's web pages for Terry Goodkind books (includes bibliography):
Wizard's First Rule

Links to other Terry Goodkind reviews, articles, and websites:
Prophets Inc - Official Terry Goodkind website
Terry Goodkind - Wikipedia
BookLoons Reviews - Chainfire by Terry Goodkind
The SF Site Featured Review: Chainfire

For information on more science fiction and fantasy books:
Denver Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club

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