Book 4, Sword of Truth
Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack, April 2010
Temple of the Winds is the fourth in the Sword of Truth series, preceded by Blood of the Fold, Wizard’s First Rule, and Stone of Tears, and the prequel novella Debt of Bones. Previous reviews of these books can be found here.
As with earlier novels in the series, Goodkind appears to have made an effort to ensure this novel is sufficiently self-contained to be able to be read by those new to the series. He’s been less successful than with earlier books; to a large extent this is due to the sheer weight of both the character development and the overarching plot of the series, both of which are well advanced by this point. He’s engaged in some recapping in the early chapters of this novel, which he generally hasn’t done before, but even so, new readers are likely to have some trouble with aspects of the novel. For ongoing readers, however, this strategy continues to work well. The partially self contained plot means that you get some closure and a sense of achievement with each novel, rather than having to get through three or more novels to reach a payoff.
In some ways this is the most predictable of the series to date, and in fact I was quite surprised by how clearly some critical plot points were telegraphed, given the subtlety Goodkind has shown in earlier novels. For example, early in the novel I found myself wondering why on earth certain characters (Kahlan and Nadine) were having a particular discussion in front of a prisoner, effectively revealing many secrets that they wouldn’t want their enemy to know. And sure enough, before too long this was revealed as a plot device to ensure that their enemy did indeed gain all this useful information. Similarly, despite some token efforts to disguise the identity of the sadistic murderer, it was pretty obvious early on who he was. There are a number of other examples, but delineating them would reveal too much of the plot for intending readers. However, despite the unusual lack of subtlety, this was still a strong and enjoyable novel.
As with other novels in the series, Temple of the Winds opens more or less at the point that the last novel concluded. Richard Cypher and Kahlan have been reunited after many trials and misadventures. Their love is strong and they plan to marry as soon as possible. However, the wedding keeps being deferred by their new responsibilities; Richard has somewhat unwillingly become the ruler of both D’Hara and the Midlands. He has taken on that role only because he believes it is the only way to save the world from the Imperial Order and their evil Emperor Jagang. Kahlan is not only the Mother Confessor, she is the only Confessor still living, and as such she has responsibilities to the people of the Midlands which fill most of her waking hours.
As the novel opens, Kahlan and Richard find themselves dealing with a great many surprises at once. A man arrives in the middle of the palace, having somehow bypassed all the guards, and politely asks directions to Richard so that he can kill him. Another man arrives, claiming to be Richard’s half brother, and with a physical resemblance that makes that part of his story irrefutable. A girl named Nadine, from Richard’s home town, arrives announcing she has come to marry him. And then Jagang unleashes a terrible new weapon – plague.
There is of course a solution to the problem of the plague, but it’s locked in the Temple of the Winds. And the Temple of the Winds was long ago severed from this world – it exists on a different plane of reality and in fact is barely remembered today. Even if Richard and Kahlan can find it, it’s been designed to protect itself – they may not be able to get in.
There’s less action in this novel than in the previous ones in the series, but there’s a lot of character development and a lot of focus on Richard and Kahlan’s relationship. As I said earlier, I found some of the important plot points were more blatantly telegraphed than is usual for Goodkind. I couldn’t help feeling, too, that the overarching story wasn’t advanced that far in this volume. It felt almost like a placeholder; the focus on Richard and Kahlan rather than events around them was so intense.
Despite these weaknesses, though, it was still an enjoyable novel. Readers who have followed the series to date will enjoy finding out more about Richard and Kahlan, and seeing their relationship tested in new ways. And despite the strong focus on them and not events, there were enough subplots about other characters and other events for it not to feel as though the story had gotten bogged down. It was a darker novel, too. This is partly because of the seriousness of the problems Richard and Kahlan face, but also because there was less focus on Zed (a wizard and Richard’s grandfather), who has tended to provide some of the lighter and more amusing moments throughout the series. However, it feels very much as though the novel is part of the series and still on the same continuum; but Goodkind isn’t rewriting the same novel. He’s advancing his characters (even if the story only inched forward in this volume).
Temple of the Winds is certainly recommended for readers who have read earlier books in the series. It maintains Goodkind’s high standard of writing, is entertaining, and provides some further insights into the characters we have been following. I’m less confident of recommending it to new readers; the story is a little less accessible than some of the earlier ones, and it’s probably a touch less balanced than earlier volumes. New readers may do better to start with an earlier novel in the series.