Originally posted April 25, 2017
The Law of Nines by Terry Goodkind sets the stage as the author’s first dive into more realistic fiction. Goodkind is known most publicly for his Sword of Truth series, which spanned more than a decade and holding over seventeen books. Published in 2009 (I know, I’m getting to this late), the book brings us the mystery of Alex and Jax. Alex is a mid-twenties artist whose life is turned upside down by a visitor from another world. Jax just happens to be that visitor, a similarly aged young woman from a world of magic and mystery. Together the two undertake a journey to save this world of magic, and Alex’s life.
I want to begin with a small confession on this story. I cannot remain entirely impartial when I am personally a huge fan of The Sword of Truth series and Goodkind’s body of work as a whole. That being said, I understand why there is so much criticism surrounding this book in particular. Far from the fresh start, it seemed like it could be, the book quickly fell into the typical story you would find in the SoT series. Obviously, the new story is intrinsically linked to the old and even references as much. Yet it was difficult to not read this as simply a SoT book set in a contemporary setting. Now that wouldn’t be a terrible thing with this book, especially with a renowned fantasy author such as Goodkind. Instead, however, The Law of Nines was marketed as contemporary fiction and a thriller. Contemporary fantasy I’d give it. The book is, however, no thriller.
Very little of the story was truly exhilarating, and even less was a mystery. We are told from near the outset of the actual story who the bad guy is, and given his motivations (spoiler! It’s power) at the same time. The only mystery to it is how Alex fits into the narrative, which winds up being an underwhelming reveal by the end. Paranoia being justified by out of character assassination attempts that are never explained leave many decisions made by the characters to feel like they are made simply to advance the plot.
If you remove the ties to the SoT series, I would find this novel to fall a little flat. I wouldn’t be talking about it as I doubt the book would have come across my desk at any point. Yet despite Goodkind’s best attempts to pull the two apart The Law of Nines reads like and IS a Sword of Truth book. The two worlds are connected, that leads to interesting twists and references to how things were or could have been in the past. Alex is a Rahl (Spoiler, sorry.) which means he automatically carries the torch of free will and laughs in the face of prophecy. Jax is an Amnell, she’s destined to love a Rahl. Alex may be a descendant of Jensen, but damn-it he reminds me of Richard. A smaller, less confident Richard. Jax may as well have been Kahlan reborn. And so I wound up loving Alex and Jax like I had the two before them. And frankly, I’m forced to say that as a fantasy novel in the SoT series, this book works. I enjoyed it. I felt like I was along for the ride, every predictable step.
If you weren’t a fan of The Sword of Truth, don’t bother reading The Law of Nines. It won’t resonate with you the way that it will with a fan of the series. But if you liked the Richard and Kahlan novels, The Law of Nines is a good pickup to deal with your withdrawal after the end of the series. It gives us an after for the world and introduces a new leg of the adventure that we didn’t get to see before. The characters feel the same (Our big bad guy in LoN reminds one writer a lot of Jagang the Just, just saying) but that’s what we loved about them. They were who they were. We get little character progression in LoN because we got these same characters and their development fifteen books prior in SoT.
So this book will get two late reviews from me.
If you weren’t a fan of the original Sword of Truth series – 2/10 – You may enjoy whats there, but I think the slow progression and little character development will weigh you down in bogging through it. Unless your desperate, and want to punish yourself, skip The Law of Nines.
However, if you did like the Sword of Truth – 7/10 – The book passes. We’ve dealt with much worse from slower paced SoT novels with weaker characters (I’m looking at you, Blood of The Fold). If you’ve made it through that, you will be able to take Alex and Jax and enjoy the story they have to tell, in all it’s Goodkind glory.