By now, you probably know where I stand on Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. If not, you can backtrack and check out my reviews of the first two titles as I re-read these stories as an adult and—for the first time—as an author myself.
I also don’t want to spoil anything if you intend to give this series a first read, so I’ll do my best to talk about it in a spoiler-free way. If you’ve already read it, we can talk more about the details in the comments.
This was the entry in the story that always ranked as one of my least favorites. And now that I’m reading it from a different place, I know exactly why. I’ll get into that in a second, but first, let’s talk about what’s great about this story.
I really love how much Goodkind cares for his characters. They’re consistent, strong, and I always care about what happens to them. This has held up in my re-read of Blood of the Fold. In this story, we’re introduced to some characters that will become important players throughout the rest of the series, and each one has a personality and flavor.
At long last, Cara—my favorite character of the series—joins the cast. However, in this story, it’s not obvious that she will be as important she becomes in the following installments. I do wish that we got a bit more of who this character is in this installment, but I’m sure Goodkind himself didn’t know he’d be spending so much time with her in the following installments.
Tobias and Lunetta are also characters I really enjoy. Which brings me to my first disappointment. I really wish these characters played a stronger role in the story. The fact that they don’t make the title of the story misleading. Perhaps if the novel were renamed, it wouldn’t feel as disappointing, but the idea of the Blood of the Fold was one I could really run within my imagination (especially after learning Adie’s backstory in the previous installment).
And, once again, Gratch is just the best.
While I do have my issues with Goodkind’s thematic heavy-handedness, I think this is actually one of the more well-balanced stories for theme thus far. This is probably also a bit of my bias showing as Wizard’s Third Rule is one of my favorites, and despite your philosophical leanings, you’ll probably find it a complicated and interesting idea to ponder.
Unfortunately, now we get to the nasty bits. This book is a bit of a structural mess. I don’t usually talk about books from a story craft stand-point because it’s not usually relevant to the reader, but in this case, it explains why I had a hard time with it in my youth.
This book marks the beginning of Goodkind using an unfortunately high volume of words to re-explain things to me that I already know. I understand that he intended these stories to be read without prior knowledge of the previous stories (which, in today’s literary market, is not as valued as it was in the 90s), but I easily identified a number of ways that it could have been done with far more efficiency.
Because so much of the book is preoccupied with catching the reader up with the story and worldbuilding, the narrative drive in the story suffers. By the middle of the book, I don’t feel as though enough has happened to push me into the end of the novel. The only reason I stick around is because of the characters themselves. Which, luckily, has already won me over.
Another factor for the pacing and structural issues seem to stem from the fact that this is a transitional novel. The story is less about being a standalone adventure and more about setting up the series for another few novels. If memory serves, The Sword of Truth series was taken on as a trilogy. At this point, he may have been told that his publisher wanted more in the series after this book, and he needed to leave some doors open so that the series can continue. So, between reminding us of what happened in the previous two books and establishing a foundation for the following novels, the story gets a bit lost—almost taking a back seat while making sure the prerequisite knowledge is in place for the reader (which gets re-explained again anyway).
I also wasn’t a fan of the “nipple magic.” I’m usually okay with sex as a part of dark magic, but this one felt a bit silly.
On a much brighter note, I was happy to see the Wizard’s Keep, more action with Verna and Warren, and the Sisters of the Dark. While I don’t particularly love Jagang as a character, I like the threat that he presents. If anything, I wanted to hurry through this story so that I could get to the installments that I enjoy more.
I want to say this story was fun, but it feels to me like a necessary and less than optimal requirement for the story to continue. It’s far from the worst fantasy novel I’ve read, but I believe Goodkind could have handled it a bit better.