Faith of the Fallen is by far the best book in the Sword of Truth series so far and one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a while. There is a bit of everything here, action, a beautiful love-story, redemption and all of it was in the right quantity.
This book picks up with Kahlan’s recovery and Richard’s disillusionment following the outcome of the people’s vote in Anderith. He has left his forces to live in Hartland while Kahlan heals and recovers her strength. While they are in Hartland, they live an almost idyllic life, it’s a paradise and everything is perfect. But it comes to an end all too soon when Nicci casts a spell that links her to Kahlan, wherein if Nicci is hurt then Kahlan suffers the pain as well. Her condition is that if Richard wants Kahlan to live, he must leave her and travel with Nicci. He leaves with her after a very bidding Kahlan a very touching farewell. He charges Cara to watch over her and protect her. Meanwhile, the D’Haran forces along with the Keltish and Galean forces are keeping an eye on the Order while trying to avoid a direct conflict.
There is simply too much going on in Faith of the Fallen and yet, this is perhaps the most balanced books in the series so far. We still have the POVs of other characters but for the most part, they are directly linked to the main plot of the book: the Midland forces trying to outfox the Order and Richard trying to get out of Nicci’s clutches. And for once, I found both plots extremely engaging. For too long, in the series, there have been parts that I wished I could skip because they were keeping me from the parts that I was really interested in (those usually revolved around Kahlan and Richard) But this time, it was hard for me to put the book down and close to the end I ended up reading till 4 in the morning and then I was so wound up that I couldn’t sleep for quite sometime.
One of the most problematic aspects of Goodkind’s writing is the unnecessary and unbearably long recaps. Perhaps, it wouldn’t be so painful if he wrote one long detailed recap right in the beginning that one could skip but no, every time something happens or we come across someone we already met in the past, he gives us a detailed blow-by-blow account and I cannot begin to tell you how taxing it is. It grates on my nerves because it immediately brings the flow of the narrative to a grinding halt. The pace comes to dead stop. This time around, I might have skimmed through those and I think the book benefited from this. The beginning of the book was a little slow but I didn’t mind that in the least because it was in keeping with the atmosphere Richard, Kahlan and Cara were in. The pace here reflected their lives in this tranquil place. And yet, as soon as Richard and Kahlan part ways, the pace picks up. It is certainly faster when we read Kahlan’s perspective and somewhat slower in Richard’s. Apart from those pesky recaps, Goodkind’s writing was superb and absolutely immersive.
My primary motivation behind reading this series are the characters. Rarely do you come across such well-realised and developed characters. What’s even more interesting is that, in their own way, they are also flawed. Even though there are many characters the series focuses on, the two main protagonists remain Richard and Kahlan and they are the real heart of the series.
Richard is a war wizard is perhaps the most powerful wizard in the world (with the possible exception of Nathan and Zedd) For most of his life, he was a simple woods guide and then suddenly he was thrust in the war against Darken Rahl and named the Seeker of truth. In a very short time, his entire worldview has turned on its head and through it all he has somehow maintained his humanity. He is a natural leader, wherever he goes, people can’t help but be drawn to him. But he is also a very relatable character. His doubts, motivations are easy to see and understand. What makes his so likeable is that his power hasn’t changed who he is at his very core. He is still the same woods guide and his ultimate goal is not rule D’Hara or the Midlands but rather to live a quiet, peaceful life in the woods with Kahlan by his side.
Kahlan is the Mother Confessor and also the last of her kind and now, one of my all time favourite female characters. She is an incredibly strong woman and does not apologise for it. Hers is the highest authority in all of the Midlands and she wears this power with responsibility and honour. Where Richard is new to power, Kahlan has grown up surrounded by it. What is also interesting is that between the two of them, Kahlan is the more ruthless of the two. Richard is still not always certain of his place, authority and power and can sometimes be reluctant to make harsh decisions (though he does eventually do what has to be done) whereas Kahlan is much more matter of fact and does what needs to be done, she is decisive and doesn’t waste time dilly-dallying. Moreover, she is an excellent war strategist and leads the Midland forces when Richard is unable to. She is fiercely independent and definitely someone who can take care of herself.
What is even more striking about her is that she has no other power apart from her powers of the Confessor (where she can bind people to her will) and using her power weakens her. Yet she still leads first the Galeans and then the Midland forces against the Order and gains victory in the former encounter and inflicts serious damage in the latter. But more than that, once committed to her cause, she lets nothing sway her. She is not merciful and perhaps that is what struck me most about her and I liked her even more for it.
Nicci is the other character whom I hated in the beginning for her misguided notions and then slowly came to like. She was difficult to pin down because her actions were not borne out of malice but rather curiosity. I found her to be very interesting and in true Goodkind fashion, she was a multi-layered and complex character. I look forward to seeing more of her in the future books.
We also saw Zedd, Verna, Warren, Ann and Cara (she’s another favourite) and I was happy that they were all connected to the broader plot. I have always had a problem with blind faith and that was Ann’s attitude with respect to the prophecies and the confrontation involving her and Kahlan was necessary. She needed to have her blind faith challenged although I’m not entirely certain as to whether she learned anything from that encounter.
Through the course of the last few books, Jagang has emerged as the main antagonist. He seems to be more lethal than Darken Rahl and the Keeper put together and truly a force to be reckoned with. He is not reckless and has infinite patience; in addition, his attack on the Midlands is something that he’s been planning for a very long time. All of this makes for a very lethal combination and I’m anxious to see how Richard, Kahlan and their allies will deal with the threat he poses. My only concern is that if it is just stretched too far then I might just lose interest…
This series is also exhaustive especially with regards to the main characters; they are always in peril and more often than not, find themselves in some very tight spots and a lot of trouble. All of this and the slightly slow pace of the books make for a fairly stressful reading experience. What little I know of the rest of the series doesn’t seem very different. Keeping all of that in mind, I don’t know how much longer I’ll stick with the series but for now, I am I shall continue.