Sword of Truth (Book 7)
Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack
Faith of the Fallen is the seventh book in the Sword of Truth series, assuming you also count the prequel novella Debt of Bones. The previous novels, Wizard’s First Rule, Stone of Tears, Blood of the Fold, Temple of the Winds and Soul of the Fire, have been reviewed here.
Throughout the Sword of Truth series, Goodkind has tried to write novels that do two things at once: present a complete and enjoyable story, and also advance the story arc of an overarching plot that runs through the series. Initially, Faith of the Fallen looks as though it may meet the first criteria, but not the second. However, late in the novel it becomes clear that Goodkind has indeed made some significant moves in regard to the bigger story.
In the earlier novels (spoilers follow here), Richard Cypher met Kahlan Amnell, and discovered that he was far more than a simple woods guide. Richard became the ruler of the Midlands, supported by Kahlan, the Mother Confessor – a powerful woman in her own right, and now his wife. The overarching story is the continuing struggle against Emperor Jagang, the evil dream walker who wishes to conquer the New World with the Imperial Order and make it his.
As Faith of the Fallen opens, Richard and Kahlan have retreated from the fight. At the end of the previous novel, Kahlan had been grieviously injured, and needs many months to recover. At the same time, Richard has come to the conclusion that the only hope for the New World is if he doesn’t lead them in battle. So he abdicates his command and takes Kahlan to a remote place to recover. But even here trouble finds them; a Sister of the Dark known as “Death’s Mistress” steals Richard away from Kahlan and takes him under duress – and under cover – to the heart of the Old World. She intends to show him why the way of the Imperial Order is best. Bereft, Kahlan returns to lead the bitter and bloody battles against the Imperial Order’s armies.
Initially it appears that this will be an interesting novel of Richard’s struggles to survive, to escape Death’s Mistress, and to return to Kahlan. It seems there will be little to feed the advancement of the overall story arc. And there aren’t a lot of events that directly impact on that overall plot, but those there are come late in the novel – after quite a bit of subtle set-up – and have the potential to have a dramatic impact in future novels. This was welcome; I’m not a big fan of series that drag on forever because the author keeps following interesting but ultimately irrelevant byways.
I’m not sure how readers new to the series would fare with this novel. It would be easy enough to follow, and there is a self-contained story here. But a lot of the subtleties would be lost without the background of earlier novels, and a huge amount of characterisation has taken place in earlier novels. Goodkind doesn’t repeat or recap much from earlier novels (something of a relief to someone reading the whole series, as these aren’t short novels and there’d be a lot to recap by now) and so new readers might find some sections a little difficult to follow or appreciate fully.
This is also the novel (so far) which has the most obvious parallels with our world – for the first time it becomes clear that the Imperial Order is a version of communism. Not a very positive one, either. However, the New World isn’t a democracy, and Goodkind has had some negative things to say about democracy in past novels. This isn’t black and white, and the depiction of communism is a somewhat exaggerated one in some regards. Although unfortunately for some idealists, I believe less of it is exaggerated than they might hope.
In any case, continuing readers will find this a satisfying read. We see Richard and Kahlan continuing to grow as characters. The people around them are vivid characters and in many cases we care deeply about what happens to them. Goodkind manages a complex plot and long novel so that it’s never boring and will keep the reader interested to the very end. There is a self-contained plot with a lot to offer the reader; and as I said, by the end of the novel it becomes clear that with regard to the ongoing story, Goodkind has laid a couple of very significant landmines for the future.
This is highly recommended for readers already following the series. Goodkind continues to maintain the high standards set by earlier novels in the series, and appears to have a clear end point for the over-arching story in mind. We’re not retreading the same ground over and over again; we’re getting closer to something. The characterisations are strong, the prose makes a dense book straightforward to read, and the plotting is interesting. For new readers, however, it could be a struggle to follow in some areas despite the fact that the most significant part of the plot is self-contained to this novel. Readers truly interested in this series might do best to start with the first in the series.