Thursday, December 13, 2007
Terry Goodkind’s “Confessor” accomplishes the rarest of feats in any narrative medium. As the 11th volume in his renowned Sword of Truth series of novels, this final installment not only brings the story to a satisfying close, it manages to exceed all reasonable expectations.
In preparation for the highly anticipated “Confessor,” I reread “Phantom,” the preceding novel in the series; I probably should have gone back to No. 1, too. One of the most amazing aspects of “Confessor” is the way Goodkind revisits and resolves elements that track all the way back through his world to “Wizard’s First Rule,” first published way back in 1994. I don’t know for sure if Goodkind knew his endpoint when he began this saga or if he just flowed and worked it out as he went; either way, the author’s ability to weave multiple plotlines together in “Confessor” without their connections coming off as forced is stunning. And what a spectacularly gratifying experience this book is, as nearly every character we’ve come to know and love through these novels gets a victory lap—including several we haven’t heard from in years.
If “Confessor” was simply a Sword of Truth family reunion, though, it wouldn’t work. No, with this volume Goodkind delivers some of the most intense passages of the entire series. Though it does drag a bit for about a hundred early pages, upon finishing the book it seems Goodkind was merely building tension to an almost unbearable level before letting it explode and explode and explode some more over the course of the novel’s second half. Several times at the end of a chapter I went back and reread what I’d just gone through, it’s that gripping. My heart pounded, my breath got a little tight, and I broke out into sweats as my eyes scoured the pages. Other times I broke into wide grins, laughed out loud, and even wanted to release an occasional cheer.
I’d like nothing better than to go on and on for hundreds or thousands of words about all the scenes and sections I loved, but that would certainly spoil the experience for others. What I can say, however, is that Goodkind—in true Richard fashion—remained true to himself with this novel, and nothing about “Confessor” besmirches the narrative and philosophical integrity he’s built over the course of 11 books. Not everyone will like the ending, but in this fan’s opinion, I can’t imagine the series concluding in a better way.
Now that the Sword of Truth has reached its conclusion, the true majesty and scope of Goodkind’s work can be fully appreciated. As a whole, these novels never floundered. Sure, different readers will have different entries that didn’t speak to them (mine is “Pillars of Creation”), and his writing is far from the most polished you’ll ever read, but Goodkind’s overall quality is unassailable. The fact that he was able to sustain such intensity over the course of so many thousands of pages is downright remarkable.
But that really comes back to the beginning, and the reason Goodkind became a writer in the first place: The story of Richard and Kahlan. Though he can be longwinded and repeats certain phrases too many times, Goodkind took his time in letting us get to know these two fabulous and singular characters, and this book is the ultimate payoff. Though Goodkind has hinted in the past at writing about Richard and Kahlan beyond the Sword of Truth series, “Confessor” ends so perfectly, I don’t know where he could go from here. I may not even want him to try.
The journey was exemplary. The conclusion is extraordinary. What a wonderful series of books.