A handful of years back, Terry Goodkind wound up his lengthy Sword of Truth series, saying it was time to move on. A little while later, he gave us THE LAW OF NINES, a novel set in our world where readers could see hints and homages to Richard and Kahlan inside. So he never truly left. He then reversed course and delivered THE OMEN MACHINE, a full-on Richard and Kahlan novel, before presenting us with his newest installment, THE THIRD KINGDOM.
Beginning shortly after the events of THE OMEN MACHINE, THE THIRD KINGDOM plunges Richard and Kahlan into some very dark and terrible dangers. Both have been infected by Death and need healing. That's if they can avoid the flesh-eating psychos who have the two of them thrown in the back of a cart. Yet flesh-eating soulless psychos are not nearly enough to stop our heroes.
"The story of THE THIRD KINGDOM is dark and gruesome. Goodkind has never shied away from the explicit violence in his works, and he almost seems to amp it up here."
Richard appeals for help from Samantha, a young sorceress who is struggling to come to terms with the power she holds. He also realizes that he will die unless he can get Zedd, who is being held in the Third Kingdom. Resigned to his fate, Richard sets off for the dark and terrible Third Kingdom, a place where life and death are intertwined, and where an evil of a bygone era has been imprisoned. Once he is there, he will come face to face with Hannis Arc, hater of the House of Rahl, and commander of the flesh-eating soulless army that now walks the world.
One of the upsides to THE THIRD KINGDOM is that Richard has to rely on others and their skills as he has been stripped of his magic. No longer able to just call upon his well of power, Richard must ultimately make a very serious leap of faith, but one that is not without a terrible cost. As such, it makes for a far more compelling and powerful experience as the book winds down.
One of the downsides is that Kahlan spends essentially the entire novel unconscious, so we do not get to spend much time with her. And Goodkind does fall into his “Richard and Kahlan are split up” device as a tension builder that falls flat after so much use in prior works.
The story of THE THIRD KINGDOM is dark and gruesome. Goodkind has never shied away from the explicit violence in his works, and he almost seems to amp it up here. Getting through the first third is a tad tedious given the prolonged recap and info dump, but on the whole, it is an improvement on his more recent efforts. It is a better book than THE OMEN MACHINE, getting back to more of his epic style and tone. As an aside, an eBook-only story called THE FIRST CONFESSOR is available and does help lay some groundwork for THE THIRD KINGDOM. It is not essential but does offer some background.
Fans of Terry Goodkind's work will find much to enjoy about THE THIRD KINGDOM. It does not harken back to his more impressive days when the Sword of Truth series was new, but it is a bit of a turnaround and starts to move in the right direction. Fans wants Richard and Kahlan to have a quiet, peaceful end. Thus far, Goodkind seems to have no inclination to oblige them. Where they will go after the trials and tribulations of THE THIRD KINGDOM is anyone's guess.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on September 13, 2013