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Book Review: Naked Empire by Terry Goodkind

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Wizard's First Rule was, at one time, one of my favorite fantasy novels. The Sword of Truth series was reasonably entertaining, but lost steam as author Terry Goodkind gravitated toward philosophy and de-emphasized storytelling. I took a long break after volume seven, The Pillars of Creation, but finally decided to pick up the series again with Naked Empire.

The plot centers around Richard's dual quests to heal himself from poisoning and help a pacifist empire learn to defend itself from the Imperial Order. There are subplots involving Zedd and Adie's defense of the Wizard's Keep, and Emperor Jagang's creation of a soul-stealing creature whom Richard must face down in the end. The story moves along at a reasonable pace, but for the second consecutive book, the overall story arc of the Sword of Truth series barely moves forward in this installment.

The positives are the characters of Zedd and Ann, who are reflective, entertaining, and carry serious depth. Nicholas, the "soul-stealer", is pleasantly evil. Some of the ideas presented are thought-provoking, and Goodkind almost makes it through an entire novel without the requisite "Richard and Kahlan are separated" plotline.

On the negative side of the ledger is the disproportionately high number of pages devoted to Richard making speeches or holding forth on philosophy. The character of Jennsen seems to exist solely for the purpose of asking questions so that Richard will have an excuse to launch into another lengthy explanation.

The character of Richard has also become unlikeable. No longer the dedicated woodsman who is trying to deal with a major change in his life, Richard is now an expert in objectionist philosophy. He is always right, and does everything will. He frequently comes across as annoyed with those around him, and condescending in his communication.

Naked Empire is an entertaining read if you can get past all the speeches. Highly recommended for devoted Goodkind fans and Libertarians who enjoy speculative fiction.

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  • Daniel

    I agree completely. Love the whole series, but this was a definite low point in the plot. I recently read Atlas Shrugged to try and completely understand Objectivism… It seems like a good idea but I really don’t wanna read about it for 300 pages in a fantasy book. What happened to the Richard we know and loved from Wizard’s First Rule? This series has been great in that it’s about people and not *just* “oh, we must return this magical item to these magical people or darkness will envelop the world”, but the fantasy aspect from the first few books has certainly gone south. Same complaint with Pillars of Creation. Yes, it was a good read, but I don’t feel like it warranted the 800 some pages it took up. When I let friends borrow the series to read, I am going to offer them the choice of just summing up this book and the last one for them so they don’t invest hours to just feel let down in the end. At the very least, they could skip a few of Richard’s chapter-long speeches.