14 September, 2009

Review: The Law of Nines, by Terry Goodkind


(review of The Omen Machine is now up)

The Law of Nines (2009), by Terry Goodkind, is a blatant continuation of the Sword of Truth series, where the philosophy, plot, and action are copied quasi-verbatim from the pervious installments. The clipped prose, shorter sentences, and more abundant dialogue are a definite change for Mr. Goodkind, but the ideological sermons - of which there are admittedly fewer - abound nonetheless. Save yourselves the money, get a black marker, and blot out all the scenes involving magic in Wizard’s First Rule, and you will essentially have the same book.

The Setup

On his 27th birthday, the age at which his mother had a psychotic break, Alex, a painter, mysteriously inherits a large swath of wilderness and meets the beautiful Jax, who claims she is from another world. Drawn into the clutches of an ancient prophecy, the Law of Nines, Alex is left to struggle with the revelation that he is the descendant of Lord Rahl, and fated to save a parallel world where magic is real. The adventure is set in a distant future from the Sword of Truth series, where earth is apparently the world to which Richard banished the followers of the Order, and where technology has replace magic.

Armed with a Glock, some spontaneously acquired fighting skills, and a remarkably familiar understanding of good and evil, Alex must confront both the truth and implications of his heritage, as well as an army of goons in his quest to save earth from the machinations of an evil villain. Rife with factual and ideological references to the Sword of Truth series, The Law of Nines reads more like a rehashed summary of Wizard's First Rule, torture included, than an original fantasy – sorry, thriller.

My Take in Brief

Reading The Law of Nines after faithfully following the Sword of Truth series, I cannot shake the feeling that Mr. Goodkind has somehow violated a code of ethics that forbids authors from recycling their work. The number of parallels between the two works is so staggering that I would honestly be surprised if some scenes were not deliberately plagiarized. That said, a simple, honest foreword warning readers to expect a very similar Goodkind would have gone a long way towards appeasing my criticism of the book. Instead, the dust-jacket disingenuously expounds:
In an electrifying new direction, he brings all his skills to bear on the most exciting and stunningly original thriller of the year.
To a certain extent, my criticism is overstated, having read the book as someone with intimate knowledge of the Sword of Truth. Brian, on the official Terry Goodkind forums, offers some wise words spoken by Mr. Goodkind during a private gathering in Vegas last month:
I'll reiterate what Terry said at the gathering: he said that The Law Of Nines is Alex and Jax's story. It is not Richard and Kahlan's or Zedd's. As such, it really doesn't matter at all where Jax is from - that's not the point of the story. The only reason Jax comes from Sword of Truth land is because Terry wanted to pay tribute to his fans, who would understand the dozens of inside jokes that relate the story's text to Terry's previous work. There is enjoyment in that, in being on the inside of the joke, such as when Alex checks to make sure that his Glock is clear in its holster or how Alex has gray eyes. Those are fun little details.
To be fair, I did get a chuckle out of Alex checking his holster, but drawing a dagger across his forearm before battle went a little too far for my tastes; the joke seemed to be on me for buying the hardcover. Generally, I was left expecting Richard Rahl to pop out from a magical time vortex and give Alex some cryptic insight into the future - and for that matter, the past as well.

The thriller tone of The Law of Nines seems attributable to ruthless editing rather than any significant shift in Goodkind's style. However, the short sentences, direct dialogue, and marked reduction in descriptive verbosity do tend to set a rather exciting pace, capturing the right mix of mystery and adventure that is characteristic of the thriller genre. What the novel lacks in depth it makes up for with a strong mix of no-holds-barred action, intriguing characters, and a captivatingly twisted take on torture. While the ending leaves one slightly confused, it also strongly hints at a sequel; whether Terry intends a return to Sword of Truth land is doubtful given his recent comments, but I guarantee you will be asking yourself the question when you finish the Law of Nines.

Resources

In conjunction with the Law of Nines release, Terry launched a new website that boasts some pretty creative flash functionality. What I found most interesting, though, is an article in which he expounds on his worldview and its relationship to his writing:
I am an Objectivist. Let me say right here, though, that my books are not intended to explain, advance, or promote Objectivism. My intent with my novels is simply to tell a good story. My Objectivist beliefs, however, guide what I think is a good story and how I tell it, just as every writer, whether they realize it or not, is guided by their philosophy.
There is also a neat clip of a scene from The Law of Nines which, to be fair, was pretty well done. Sadly, the vanishing blood is more a metaphor for what should be in the novel but isn't - magic - than a convincing and innovative plot twist. The novel's quick hop off of the Times Bestseller list and the generally poor reviews (try Elitist Book Reviews for a particularly rough critique) say to me that Terry is going to have to work a bit harder at convincing mainstream America that he writes thrillers now, and not urban fantasy sequels to high fantasy.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow. I was expecting a completely different story and I would have gone in to the book with that mindset. I'll give it a try anyways. Nice review.

ediFanoB said...

Hey, this review has punch! I read Wizard's First rule and liked it. The rest of The Sword of Truth series is on my shelf - unread. Anyway it seems I should read the series instead of The Law of Nines.

TJ said...

*crosses that one off the wishlist*

Kevin said...

I strongly suspected this book was a sword of truth knock off. I bought it anyway on the premise that I don't always need originality to enjoy a story. On the other hand, I haven't exactly been in a hurry to read it.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm gonna have to disagree with you on just about everything. I've read all of Mr. Goodkind's other works and I was incredibly pleased to read even the first hint of a connection to the SoT series I had invested so much time and thought into previously. I was enthralled with this change-of-pace style from the get go and actually finished the whole book in 2 days. How does that not qualify as a thriller? I also enjoyed the little inside jokes for previous readers but didn't feel that there was too much to alienate a "virgin" reader either. I actually do agree on one bit: the missing magic part. Goodkind specializes in the stuff of magic and I did find that I missed it sorely. Bottom line: I thoroughly enjoyed the plot and its pace, could have gotten a little more involved with the characters but it didn't seem like the editor wanted too much to take away from the nonstop surprises, fights, chases, killing, torture, last minute getaways, etc.. I am definitely looking forward to a sequel but am hoping it will take place in Jax's SoT world so we can have our descriptions, character development and of course, our MAGIC back! Thanks for letting me vent on your site!

Rachael said...

I am reluctant to say that I partially agree with this review. It was a little disorienting that Alex and Jax had the same characteristics of Richard and Kahlan. It was a nice reminder of my favorite characters of all time, but at the same time kinda disappointing that Terry couldn't make up two more different characters that we could all love as much as the others. (Unless of course they are reincarnated, which I'm not sure if I really like that idea.)Other than the too close similarities of the characters, I think it was a fabulous book that will be read over and over again.

Anonymous said...

that was really amazing....

just finished the book myself.


Took me completely by surprise.


I was very happy with the book, and at the end i am expecting a sequel also, i would go nuts if there wasn't one.

susan said...

I'm thrilled to read from someone who doesn't think Terry Goodkind is the God of fantasy. I really enjoyed "Wizard's First Rule," but was mind-numbingly bored by all the rest of his books. I'm not sure where that leaves me with this one; if it's a copy of WFR but without as many obnoxious sermons, maybe I'll like it? Anyway, great review.

Anonymous said...

For those people with a brain, SoT is a very enjoyable series to ready and is of a far higher quality than most books in terms of descriptive writing; when people say they read Wizard's first rule but not the rest, I immediately question their sanity. If you read the first one and enjoy it, why not..umm.. read the rest of the series? Unparalleled series (in my opinion). Havent read Law of Nines as yet but looking forward to it.

Alec said...

Word on the street is that TGs new publishers are not happy with him or his numbers. So, we might not see a continuation of the 'new' series from them, if at all.

Vlastokov said...

It was a great read. I loved the change of pace. As a strong fan of the previous series, I find it very interesting how (are spoilers needed? you seemed to give a lot away) our world turned out to be the world created by Richard. Makes your imagination wander, "Maybe I'm a direct decendant of the Rahl line . . .with a different last name." lol[/spoiler]
The fighting skills came from his grandfather who served in special ops forces. convenient? yes, but not out of the blue like you said it was.

Sammie said...

OMG what was terry thinking?
I read it in 3 hours, and I am could not be more dissapointed.
The storyline is litteraly the same as the sword of truth
Guy lives in a land without magic, girl comes from a land of magic.
Some bad people don't want magic anymore, so of course the guy feels obligated to help the poor woman.

The thing that bugged me most, was the ending, all of the sudden Alex knows exactly what to do, how to open the gate, how to use the trap on the gate...like he used magic all his live.
I heard someone say they were half expecting Richard to pop up from the past and give advice.
But that just silly, cant you see this guy is omnipotent? He doesn't need any help.

Now I have to say that i'm a big fan of the sword of truth, I find it a bit simple and maybe a bit preachy but for the most part it's a great series.
So I read this book with real positive expectations, I gave it every chance in the world, but the ugly truth remains.

THIS BOOK SUCKS!

Joe said...

I read this without readinganything Goodkind has done before. I have one question. I may have missed something, but how did Alex know how to activate the Gateway ???

Alec said...

@ Sammy

I agree 100% and feel pretty much the same about SoT series. Alex is similar to Richard in that the principles of art are similar to those of magic in tSoT so all you need is good aesthetic sense and you are an instant wizard!

@ Joe and Vlastokov

Yes, I know he learned the fighting skills from his grand father, but they are just not foreshadowed enough to make it not seem like a throwaway. Same goes with Alex's use of magic (read above answer).

WTF? said...

I don't typically read fantasy; my husband does. Until recently, I was not familiar with Goodkind; he is.

I just started listening to the audiobook of this novel on the radio, and I really enjoy it. I am not familiar with Goodkind's works, have no clue about the Sword of Truth saga, etc. Therefore, I am able to judge this story without any previous baggage.

I have to say, I'm really liking it.

Note: I am a woman. So of course I like a) the energy between Alex and Jax (like, above and beyond the story, I hope it 'works out' for them--typical chick), b) the element of fantasy introduced into the "regular" world (not a total fantasy world), c) Jax's soapboxing about how the lazy/ undeserving/ handout-loving could ruin our society.

I think this novel is a great way to attract mainstream readers into the fantasy genre. In fact, I am now considering reading the Sword of Truth saga because I'm enjoying the audiobook of The Law of Nines so much. Really good stuff--for those of us without prejudice about Goodkind's work.

The little symbolism about all the 9s and such is a little obvious, but I don't care; the story is still enjoyable.

Anonymous said...

Are you reviewing the same book? i too have followed Sword of Truth religiously, but calling this book "a rehashed version of Wizard's First Rule" is overboard. I'd suggest that you either A) take this book for what it is, or B) step up to the plate and write a better novel.

Alec said...

@ WTF Goodkind's Ayn Rand philosophical slant is what attracts a lot of readers to his series. You should check out his blog where he has a brief essay about his views. It is quite informative.
I am also glad that you might now transition to fantasy in general. If the book got even one convert then it was a job well done. Welcome to the dark side, and if you need a couple good title make sure to send me an email.

@ Ano

I am pretty sure I can criticize a movie without having acted/directed one, so why not books? As for the similarities between WFR and Lo9s, if you can't name at least five off the top of your head then you haven't really read the SoT.

I honestly was not exaggerating when I said that with a little black marker I am pretty sure you could get the same story... might even be worth trying.

Anonymous said...

@ SAMMIE
Wow you say you blew threw this book in 3 hours. I cannot see how anyone could give a book a chance at all reading through it in that amount of time. I know some very fast readers and I don't know of anyone who could read this book that fast and catch everything that is in it.

Yes there are similarities between this and SOT, but IMO that is what makes this great. It is like a continuation on the best fantasy series ever written. He does take the story line very close to WFR and yes the ending was weak in the sense that it was almost exactly the same as WFR, but I thought the book showed a lot of good things that could continue on a great series. I liked the way he connected the new world with his old fantasy series world, and perhaps he will find some way in a hopeful next one to explain more about a possible way for Alex to know about magic. I liked the characters and the general story line with the secret society and the travel between worlds and I hope he continues to write this series.

Rachel said...

I have read the SOT more than once and very much enjoyed them. I fell in love with the characters, laughed and cried along with everyone else. Although they are great books, I do not particularly like Terry's writing style. He can create fabulous characters but he emotionally bulldozes, is overly descriptive, preaches and is very repetitive. I was disappointed however to find out how similar his work was to that of the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.(I am not sure but I think Terry was mentored by Jordan at one point)
As for the Law of Nines, the plot was good, but all too failure! I was so hoping for something original. The writing was absolutely atrocious in my opinion! It was like reading a middle schooler's work! The dialog was short and was not believable. It was entertaining but not fabulousness.

Anonymous said...

How does this garbage get published? I wouldn't insult the intelligence of an eight year old by asking him/her to read it. This guy makes a living from writing!!!!????

Anonymous said...

pathetic, puerile, poorly written poop.

nikkita said...

I agree with the review here. While there are similarities to SoT is pales in comparison. These characters are just watered down versions of Richard and Kahlan with no real depth of their own. Even taken independently, there are so many loose ends and little satisfaction. The "action scenes" go on too long with their gorey descriptions. Where in SoT the prose is richer and more interesting, this new "style" is dry and basic. I don't think this book would have been published had TG not the name to put behind it.

Anonymous said...

Sword of truth was great until faith of the fallen. After that, good plot and dialogue are replaced by constant boring preaching. All the characters in the book lost their individual personalities. Turned into Richard worshipping, preach machines. YAWN!

Anonymous said...

I just finished this book and was SOOO pleased with it!!! I recently finished the Wizards 1st rule book and was half way throught, the stone of tears, book when I picked this one up. I could not put it down! It was not a rip off by anymeans. It was a great story of fantasy in our own world and wonderful from the beginning to end. If you are a true Rahl fan please dont listen to all these other people and pick up a copy, you will love it as much as I! Cant wait for the sequel!!

Anonymous said...

hmmmm interesting. I have yet to read this, I have it, but I haven't started it yet. I am suggesting this book to read for my book club and was looking for a review to link it too.

I actually just finished Confessor, and I am actually surprised at some of you that are followers of the series and upset about the links, and the "blatant continuation of SoT".

All I can say is......of course it is, and how could you expect anything else? At the end of Confessor, after Richard dispatches the followers of the Order to this new world Nathan says this...."Now I also understand that other prophecy. You remember:'Someday, someone not of this world will have to save it' now it makes more sense". It seems pretty obvious to me that he clearly left open the possibly for a contuation. I actually find it interesting that the world he created turned out to our world. I appreciate that twist, and can see why it couldn't be slated as high fantasy.

Now I am not sure if the book should have been categorized as a "thriller", I haven't read it yet. Maybe urban fantasy would have been a better choice. Personally though, however they list the genre doesn't particularly matter to me, it is not going to effect how much I like the book. But I imagine if there is considerably less preaching I'll probably enjoy it immensely. I am going to keep an open mind, maybe if I find the plots too close to WFR I will be put off, maybe I won't.

But regardless I look forward to reading this book, if only to find out which side of this I fall on....love it or hate it.

Anonymous said...

This book was outstanding. A fantastic read that kept me on the edge of my chair and awake until 7am the following day just to finish it. If you're sore about the connection and similarities to 2 of the best characters to ever grace the pages of a book, then I feel pity for you. My eyes lit up like a Christmas tree when I first heard Alex's last name mentioned. I am a fan of the entire SoT series and of LoTS as well. They were both great in their own rights, and this book just adds to the wonders of the epic storyline. If you don't like the way he writes books perhaps you should find a new author to read. This review is a sad example of a serious lack of imagination and a pathetic attempt to deface something that is clearly beyond your sheepish grasp. Final notes, yes he learned his skills from his grandfather like was stated in an earlier comment. And that last scene, perfect, to the point and precise. In a world with no magic on a cliff top, outnumbered and desperate with no cover but other people, that fight would be over in an instant no matter what side won. Read the book, it's this review that you've wasted your time on.

Adam said...

I just finished the 9s and I have to say, I couldn't wait to get home from work to finish reading it. It does have a lot in common with WFR but I have been missing that series so much I appreciated a return to familiar territory. [I also hate texting and drive a jeep cherokee with a faulty starter so that was amusing]. I find myself wanting a sequel but I wonder if there is any way of telling a story that doesn't jump back to D'Hara. If Terry must write about his beloved creation, I've always wished he would go back to the time of the great wars and fill that all in. Anywho, I guess what I'm saying is that I am always happy to be reminded of these characters and places I grew up learning about.

Anonymous said...

Well you are certainly carving your niche as an edgy book reviewer. Bravo! In the mean time I really am enjoying this book, as I have enjoyed every one of TG's books. I will make sure to print copies of your review to put next to my commode for the next time I am out of toilet paper.

Anonymous said...

I hope that Terry himself reads this, as I have often wanted to write to him. Ive read many books but none so enjoyed as this, I originally was skeptical of fantasy books but was quickly swept into the world he so painted. I have not yet read his new work but really can't wait , in fact I have been hopeing for just such a thing as I'm sure many fans have.
His books are unsurpassed , they not only provide one with a fantastic getaway but real world prenciples, as I often refer back to them. So for all those bad reviews please disregard them because you will never read anything better.

Anonymous said...

If anyone who doesn't think these are amongst the best books then Please can you recommend better

Anonymous said...

I agree with alot of the comments that have been said about TLO9s being very similar to WFR but it still has many outstanding quailities that make it a great read. Yes the ending wasnt the best but I am hoping (if there is a sequal) that the storyline will become more clear and maybe begin its own unique vision of the fantasy world that is D'Hara etc.
One thing that does bother me though is aren't Alex and Jax in a way related because Alex is a decendent of Jensens who was obviously related to Richard, and since Jax is a Confessor that means she is obviously a decendent of Kahlans and Richards... Incest much??? Someone please explain that one to me!

pumpjack said...

Have to say I was dissapointed with this book...The Law of Nines = Nine trees...it was all about the trees...unreal.

Anonymous said...

What I am reading here is that people who agree with what he "preaches" likes it and those that don't hate it. Maybe those who don't like what he "preaches" should take a better look at where the US is going and read TG's SOT series again. He has some great sayings that should be applied to today's world. Live life for yourself!! Don't give all that you have to the government! Everyone should support themselves. I can't wait to read The Law of Nines if it was like the SOT series.

Anonymous said...

Chewing my way through the novel I'll have to admitt I was ever so keen to dive into something not Wizards first rule, which might I add are some of the best novels I've had the joy to feast my imagination upon. As I'm always happy to let terry take my mind of the day to day with colourful expressions and vivid pictures of action and worlds this or other... but really It's too bad he's dusting off the old to make a new (as they say in thailand) Same same but different...

Anonymous said...

With many questions surrounding how Alex knew how to work the gateway it would be sligtly obvious that TG wanted to explain these events but is unable to as the publishers are unwilling to put more of his work out.

Miss Awkward said...

First I'd like to say that I read a lot of fantasy. Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, George R. R. Martin, Elizabeth Haydon, Sara Douglas - just to name a small, but probably more well-known few. I have not read anything by Terry Goodkind until this book, my mom bought it for me for Christmas since there wasn't anything in particular that I was needing for my collection. Spoilers below.
So I gave it a shot. From an unbiased point of view, the story line wasn't actually that bad for me, however it felt like a very dirty, unpolished gem. Things like "He suddenly realized" (or, to switch things up, "He realized suddenly) a million times a chapter left me feeling like this couldn't possibly be THE Terry Goodkind, well-known fantasy author. The repetition of words and feelings, the unneeded dialog that doesn't make sense to the reader (yes, we know he's drugged up and can't feel, why would you be telling him so 50 times? He/we get it already!), and other things left completely unexplained and unaddressed (the least of the faults, if there is indeed any intention of a sequel) like the mysterious lady figurine in the fantasy shop. I get that maybe it's a throw back to his prior books, but why would it shaken Jax so very much?
I'll read anything with words, but I'm left quite unsure if I even want to bother with his older series if this is his 'experienced' work.

elder2cool said...

i just got done reading this book and i loved it. from reading what it was about at the store i had no clue that it had anything to do with his other books. when it said hes last name i was beyond happy and i don't see how you guys keep saying he did magic at the end all he did was see a pattern and then he used what was already there to his advantage. the only thing he did at all was use his blood on it.

Amber said...

I think that you guys who hated this book are all crazy. I am a die hard Goodkind/Sword of Truth fan and I LOVED The Law of Nines! The plot was great, the little jokes and mentions toward the SOT series was enjoyable. I only part I was dissapointed in was the magic. I missed some of the magic. But it was still great. And what's this crap about it not being a thriller?! It was definitely a thriller by my definition!
If you're thinking of reading it though, my advice is; if you started the SOT series finish it first. This book might give away the ending.
I think some of you guys are just over analyzing things...so what if Alex has some characteristics of Richard! That was probably the best part! The only thing that would've made this book better would be Richard coming in at some point and helping save the day!

Anonymous said...

As a highly successful writer myself (no name,no plugs needed!) I was a bit sad to find such a fascinating (Hardcover) book in a remainder bin, brand new, never cracked open for a lowly buck.I was totally unaware of the previous series folks chat about on this site,BUT the JAX Character in ''Law Of Nines'' reminded me so much of my new love, soon to become my fifth wife that I loved the book. - HA!

Harriette said...

Pretty effective material, much thanks for your article.

Grant Sandberg said...

This is the worst waste of money I have ever spent on a book. Fortunately it was in a discount bin and I am very thankful for that. Now I know why it was there! I couldn't get past page 160 before throwing my hands up in despair and the book into the recycling box. This is,in my opinion, tedium to the N'th degree! I have struggled through a few others of the same ilk but this one did me in. save your money.