I really enjoyed this book if not for the frustration that had me wanting to tear my hair out. But for once it didn’t so much have to do with Goodkind’s writing as the characters themselves. Before I started Chainfire, I felt that maybe the books were getting a tad predictable. But this changed the entire the ball game.
At the start of Chainfire, we meet Richard who has been seriously injured. He is immediately taken to Nicci who sets out trying to heal him. But his injuries are so serious that she has to use Subtractive Magic to heal him. He lives through the ordeal only to discover something gravely disturbing, Kahlan is missing. And not only is she missing but nobody remembers her. Richard tries to convince Cara and Nicci about who Kahlan is but the harder he tries the more convinced they become that she’s just a figment of his pain-addled mind. He tires of trying to convince them and instead sets out to find her. He meets Shota who gives him some clues in return for the Sword of Truth. He then turns to Zedd for his help only to find that Zedd too can’t help him because he doesn’t believe Richard. In other news, the Sword of Truth is now with Samuel (yes the same one who skulks around Shota)
Chainfire was probably one of the more linear books in the series with minimal POVs, we mostly stay with Richard and Nicci. There are a few others but they are fleeting. As far as progressing the plot, there isn’t a lot that happens in this book. Its primary focus is Richard’s quest for Kahlan. This was interesting because we saw all the ways in which Kahlan influenced the people around her and how they were somehow lesser for forgetting her. So that all the change she had affected on a personal level was undone. Chainfire also benefited from this more streamlined narrative because it gave the readers the chance to fully grasp the seriousness of the event in the broader scheme of things (the end of the world)
Interspersed with a lot of heartbreak and frustration, there was also some action, this time mostly centered around Nicci. We saw a glimpse of what she was capable of in Faith of the Fallen and in Chainfire we get a deeper sense of her awesome power. In the absence of Kahlan (the resident badass female character) it was refreshing to see another uber-powerful female character.
As far as characters go, Chainfire again limited the number of people involved. We concentrated on Richard, Cara, Nicci, Zedd, Nathan and Ann. This was a pleasant change. Richard was as dogged as ever. He was steadfast in his belief that Kahlan was indeed real and that there was something very seriously amiss with the world around him. This unflinching belief in the face of wide-spread denial of the very existence of the woman he loves is what makes him such a compelling character. Sure, there were moments of doubt and uncertainty, but he battled past those dark times.
Cara is always a joy to read and in Chainfire, there was a very subtle shift in their dynamic. Worry not, nothing romantic but a change nonetheless. I was most curious about Nicci, not that I was unsure of her bond to Richard (there could be no doubt about that) but about her as a character. She has certainly come a long way from her earlier beliefs and is a true ally to Richard. Even though she doesn’t believe him, when he despairs of finding Kahlan, it is Nicci who forces him to see beyond what everyone around him wants him to see. She also warned him of his uncle, Nathan and Ann’s idea of helping him while he was still in the Keep. She has become an indispensable part of the group.
As for the rest, they make up those that had me wanting to tear my hair out. Sure Nicci and Cara contributed to that as well, but these three, Nathan, Ann and Zedd(especially Ann) were the real culprits. Zedd is always a pleasure to come across and his interactions with Rikka were among the most entertaining in the entire book. But like the others in the book, he was happy to look at the simplest reason for the disappearing prophecies and not look beyond. Nathan and Ann also journey to the Keep after they discover the blank pages in the various books of prophecy to see if the ancient books at the Keep have escaped that fate. Nathan’s character in Chainfire was a little subdued since his customary wit and charm were absent. Ann was infuriating as always. She is a such busybody. Kahlan had the right measure where Ann was concerned and didn’t care for her meddling ways. With memories of Kahlan gone, the change she had affected was absent as well. Of all the characters, I find Ann most annoying. The Mord Sith are entertaining as always and it was nice to see more of Rikka and Berdine.
Kahlan was absent for most of the duration of the book and when we do meet her she is in a bad place. She too has no memory of who she really is and worse, she is in the clutches of the evil Sisters of the Dark. They need her to steal and open the Boxes of Orden and thus end the world of the living. Back when Richard used the Stone to Tears to close the rift to the Underworld, I thought that the problem of the Keeper had been handled a little too quickly and smoothly, clearly I was wrong. The Keeper is far from defeated and with what Sisters unleashed, the world is quite literally at the brink of destruction.
There is still that inner steel that was the core of Kahlan’s strength and I hope that she can somehow recover more of that inner strength that made her the Mother Confessor and a force to be reckoned with (independent of Richard)
Chainfire was an entertaining read but it most importantly, it sets up Phantom and Confessor beautifully. It was a pleasant change of pace and plot in the series and I can’t wait to see how it all concludes.