Wizard’s First Rule [1994]

I should have known better than to buy a book based on the eye-candy in a TV show. So I’m going to cop to that straight-up: I did this to myself.

This is a long, long, long fantasy novel. About 3/4 of the way through I started to get the literary equivalent of Stockholm syndrome, but I fortunately shook that off before parting company with money for the first of nine sequels.

This is one of the most convoluted, contrived, hackneyed and lacklustre fantasy novels I’ve ever read, populated by banal stereotypes who all score highly on the “Mary Sue” scale. There is not a single original thought, situation or story element, and as a consequence I felt not one solitary moment of empathy, concern or surprise. Go tell your friends: this is the pinnacle of high fantasy writing in the modern age.

Very little in the novel stands up to close inspection. Almost every plot and story element contradicts some other element, and absolutely everything is over-thought and over-wrought: the simplest answer is just never sufficient for Mr Goodkind.

That this novel even got published is astonishing. The editing staff must really never have heard of another fantasy writer – they must have believed they were on to the Hot Newness that would blow peoples’ mind with its zany disregard for the real world. To be fair, it is substantially better than early Terry Brooks, or my other recent brush with a first-time author The Hickory Staff. I suppose that’s probably why this book was published – you’ve got to start somewhere.

I think the worst thing about this novel is that given a free reign to create any kind of wondrous and bizarre world, the freedom to re-write the very rules of the universe, that this derivative work is the best he could manage.

Sadly, and perhaps for the only time in my life, I’m going back to the TV show. At least it’s easy on the eyes.

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15 Responses to Wizard’s First Rule [1994]

  1. jenni_talula says:

    The Ill-Made mute is the worst book I’ve (tried to) read and I still wonder how it got published. It’s by Cecilia Dart-Thornton. You should check it out ;p

    • Anonymous says:

      CDT Got a huge advance for ‘Ill Made Mute’ which I seem to recall was touted as one of the brightest new things at the time. It was a case of editor-love, where the comissioning editor fell hard for (what many regard as) an ugly duckling.

      IMHO ‘The Court of the Air’ by Stephen Hunt was the same thing; supposed to be the big HarperCollins release of 2008, so much so that JJ (Hunt’s Agent) was able to secure a bidding war for the series.

      But then a number of recent debut novels have (IMHO) lived up to their hype (e.g. The Blade Itself by Abercombie, The Name of the Wind by Rothfuss, and The Lies of Locke Lamora by Lynch) so sometimes editor love pays off…


  2. nishatalitha says:

    The worst book I’ve ever tried to read is Touched By Venom by Janine Cross – and then the other two books in the trilogy were published!

    They should all be burned.

  3. I read it some time ago.. I didn’t know there was a TV series involved.

    There are sequels, but I haven’t felt the need to seek them out. I’ve heard Terry Goodkind uses the later books as a soapbox from which to preach the virtues of libertarianism.

  4. Totally agree with Jenny about IMM – it was like a car crash that you got horribly fascinated by. But IMO the later Goodkind books are worse. So much Richard and Kahlan wankery.

  5. house_monkey says:

    I couldn’t finish wizard’s first rule. Along with “battleaxe” by Sara Douglas and some piece of shit that I can’t remember the title of by a guy called Anselm Audley (a teenage prodigy the blurb proudly proclaimed) it’s the worst fantasy I’ve read.
    I haven’t read any fantasy for a while now, even the Erikson series got tedious after a while. Thinking about re-reading Hugh Cook’s Age of Darkness books again though because I’m hoping to run a campaign based loosely on them.

    • mashugenah says:

      It’s been a good long while – I seem to recall they were crammed with interesting ideas, but can’t recall how the stories went.

  6. I tried to read Cecilia Dart-Thornton’s Iron Tree (don’t ask me why) and it was probably the worst book I ever read too.

  7. I agree with your comments on Wizard’s First Rule. I strongly disagree with your comments on Terry Brooks. Sword of Shannara is not godd, but Elfstones is a fabulous fantasy novel IMO

    • mashugenah says:

      It’s been a while, I must admit, but I recall even as a child thinking the first three novels were a bit tired. I think the patience kinda paid off with the Scions of Shannarra and sequels, which I think were quite good. But I don’t have any really positive recollections of that first trilogy.

      • Fair enough. I recently re-read Elfstones and WishSong and think they both held up very well. Sword is another story and suffers from a lack of experience and expectation that a fantasy novel had to be 1000 pages to be any good at the time.

        As you say, Brooks has gotten better. His latest stuff, particular the Modern (Knight of the Word) and Post Apocalyptic (Children of Armageddon) Shannara trilogies, are very good, really departing from the “fat fantasy fiction” model and being fast paced and action packed. The Voyage of Jerle Shannara has a shaky start but ended well.

  8. wyldcard says:

    I read Wizards First Rule (and at least 2 sequels) probably about 10 years ago. I thought it was okay, but did play on a lot of fantasy cliches. But the subsequent books all came down to the same thing – Richard and Kahlan trying to be together but they can’t. Meh.

  9. wyldcard says:

    FWIW I like the TV series too. It’s not brilliant, but it hits the notes.

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