I am a fan of Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. I thought it was original and mostly well written. Unfortunately, The Law of Nines is an odd thriller-fantasy hybrid that does not live up to its hype. This was the first book of his that I struggled to finish.
Warning: Some spoilers in the review
Themes explored: destiny, prophecy, fate, magic, hatred, political unrest, populism, doomed romance
Synopsis: Turning twenty-seven is terrifying for some, but for Alex, an artist living in the Midwest United States, it is cataclysmic. His mother experienced a psychotic break on her 27th birthday. On his birthday, Alex inherits an extensive expanse of land in Orden, Nebraska. Shortly afterwards, he rescues a mysterious woman from a parallel universe. Suddenly Alex finds himself embroiled in a multi-world conspiracy and everyone he loves is now a target.
Review: The Sword of Truth series is one of my favorite fantasy series. So I picked up The Law of Nines expecting a similarly paced and well-written novel. I was highly disappointed. Terry Goodkind set out to write a thriller based around the magic-less world Richard Rahl created in The Sword of Truth of series. One of the major plot points in that series was an uprising among people without magic; they wanted to eradicate magic entirely. In an effort to appease everyone, Richard sent all the non-magic people to a world devoid of magic (Earth). This event occurred in Confessor (book #11 Sword of Truth). In The Law of Nines Alex Rahl is the last member of the House of Rahl on Earth. Instead of magic, Earth has technology, which is supposedly the same thing.
One major problem with this novel is its close resemblance to Wizard’s First Rule (book #1 of Sword of Truth). Remove all the parts about magic, and the two books are practically the same. While I enjoy it when authors include in-jokes for their readers, Goodkind went overboard. He drew so many parallels between Alex and Richard that they might as well have been the same character. Actually including magic would have improved the narrative.
Jax, the heroine, was more obtuse than mysterious. I had a difficult time taking her seriously. On one had she says that magic does not exist on Earth. Then she does something that in any other fantasy series would be considered magic. Also, she keeps hinting that her world has some serious political problems and different factions are trying to take control. But we never hear the full story or why only Alex can save D’Hara. The novel would have been much more compelling if Jax and Alex travelled to D’Hara and dealt with everyone there. According to Jax, she is a sorceress, but the descriptions of her powers hint that she is actually a Mother Confessor. Which is fine, but the parallels to Kahlan Amnell are incredibly blatant.
The secondary subplot, about the unrest in Jax’s homeland, is the same plot used in the Chainfire Trilogy (the last three books in The Sword of Truth series). Radell Cain and Emperor Jagang are practically the same character, except Jagang had magical ability. Also Orden, Nebraska is clearly a reference to the Boxes of Orden. Anyways, these parallels really bothered me. I felt like I was reading a poorly written imitation of the original Sword of Truth books. I think Goodkind is a good storyteller. However, his writing in Law of Nines does not live up to the standards of his other books. The dialogue was choppy and the characters underdeveloped.
Law of Nines is ostensibly a thriller, but it is really a pseudo-fantasy book. All it needs is the magic and an otherworldly setting, and voila it is a fantasy novel. To people unfamiliar with The Sword of Truth series, the book will probably be an enjoyable read. The storyline is interesting and the narrative moves as a decent pace. However, as a fan of the original series, I struggled to enjoy the book. Alex and Jax are not as compelling as Richard and Kahlan.
The Law of Nines, Putnam Adult, 2009, ISBN: 9780399156045