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Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind: Made me weep

OK… deep breath. I confess, I didn’t finish the book – I simply couldn’t. The only other book I have done that too in recent memory (though there have probably been others) was Moby Dick! I came to four pages from the end and stopped. I think it was stupidly and meaninglessly to pay back a lecturer who would sit reading swathes of the book and scratching his balls in class, boring and horrifying us in equal measure. Between that and descriptions of whale killing, I’d had enough. 🙂

Back to this book. I thought I might be the only one who was unable to complete it and so, quickly scanned down some of the other reviews on Goodreads and online generally and noted that there were other people who felt the same way. I also thought I won’t review it because, having left the book unfinished (and with no intention of returning to it) I thought I had no right to offer an opinion. But then, dammit, I thought, it’s only fair to explain why I couldn’t finish it because I am a huge lover of the genre, adored the first book, Wizard’s First Rule (and the television series, Legend of the Seeker) and the fact that many, many people also enjoyed the book meant I couldn’t hurt either the author or put off future readers if I wrote a review. I also made it through about 400 pages – so a sizeable chunk. So here goes… and yes, it has spoilers – sort of…

The book opens with a bloody attack by a vicious eldritch creature in Rahl’s palace. Zed comes to the rescue. Told from the point of view of a child, it’s a bit repetitive, but nonetheless literally, a ripper of an opening. There’s so much blood and graphic descriptions of gore, I found myself questioning it. It seemed to be a little over the top. I’m all for guts and battle in high fantasy. Sure. But there was something about these descriptions that niggled at me in an unpleasant way. Aware this murderous creature was summoned or had escaped from the Underworld, Zed sets off to find Richard ‘before it’s too late’ (no-one says that… that’s just me explaining badly). From there, the story shifts, returning to Richard and Kahlan who, after defeating Darken Rahl in the first book, and learning they can be together despite the fact she’s the Mother Confessor, set off visit the Mud People and get hitched. Only, Richard has torn the veil between the world of the living and dead and creatures from the Underworld, including Rahl, return and life as Richard knows it is once more thrust into heartache and chaos… add to that the creepy Sisters of the Light/Dark, all of whom, for some reason, willingly serve the Keeper (some bloke who will bring about the end of the world and untold pain including, presumably, theirs, which means they’re a bunch of sadomasochists, doesn’t it?), and the stage is set for another saga…

Only, I couldn’t stomach it. There are some wonderful page-turning moments and I felt invested in Richard and Kahlan’s well-being and their romance…to a point. So, perhaps it was because I cared so much that I had to skip ahead, speed-read and basically move through the book faster than I would otherwise have wanted to – which I guess is testimony to Goodkind’s story-telling skills… but I’m not convinced it was due to this alone. Frankly, I found the graphic violence gratuitous and it often did nothing to advance the story – on the contrary, it dominated, adding no real value or depth. In the previous book, when Richard is captured and tortured by the Mord Sith, it’s for a purpose, to bend The Seeker to Rahl’s will, here the violence is simply sadistic and doesn’t serve the narrative and it left me cold and uncomfortable and unable to continue. I just didn’t believe in it – it was like a bad movie – staged for no other purpose than to shock. I was so disappointed.

My son and another friend have told me for years how good these books are and I am so glad they managed to get what I clearly cannot out of them. I feel sad that I will leave Kahlan and Richard’s world now and follow what happens through the reviews (yes, I still want to know what comes next… but the truncated from will do, rather than read the books.

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