What book would be the subject of your first book review? Of all the books you’ve read, is there one that stands out, one that is so good you’d recommend it to others in the hope they found similar enjoyment within its pages? For me, Terry Goodkind’s debut novel topped a short list. I first read Wizard’s First Rule a number of years ago, long enough that I don’t recall the exact catalyst; perhaps recommended by a friend, perhaps found in my local branch library, or perhaps referenced online somewhere. It left an indelible impression, and while there are few novels I will read more than once, this is one of them. Now, as the release of Terry Goodkind’s final novel featuring Richard and Kahlan looms, it seems like an appropriate time to revisit the beginning of the 17 volume series.
The title and cover will tell you that Wizard’s First Rule is a Fantasy novel, but it’s so much more than that. It’s an adventure, a love story, and a puzzle. Perhaps more important than that though, the novel stands out from the crowd because it is different. The pace is slower than a lot of Fantasy novels, but that’s because the author cares about more than just the characters and what they do. You won’t find the frenetic, non-stop action of The Blade Itself or Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim (although there is action). The author delves deep into the characters’ motivations, their thoughts and feelings, and devotes just as much effort into describing the world they inhabit as the characters themselves. The result is a long, sumptuous feast of a novel where the world is a character in its own right.
Wizard’s First Rule remains one my favourite novels, but there are moments when the progression of the story slows as the author fixes his eagle-eye on landscape, morality, or motivation, a long inhalation before the exhalation of action. Often this delivers more of an impact when we do return to the key characters but there are times when, for me, it goes on just a little too long. Even with this perceived weakness, I would recommend Wizard’s First Rule to anyone who loves Fantasy. It’s a novel filled with rich ideas, clearly formed ideas of what magic is and how it works, bold characters, and a truly great story.