A contrast in styles
The last two books I have read are A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin and Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind.
For someone who hasn’t read either series, there are some interesting parallels. Both are epic, multi-volume fantasies. Both have been on the New York Times Bestseller List, and both have had television shows based on them.
Anyone who has read both series can tell you just how far apart they are.
Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series is a gritty, realistic walk through the sewer that is humanity. Anyone who aspires to higher ideals is raped and killed, after having their point of view hideously and very grittily disabused. A twisted dwarf, a lord’s bastard, and an orphan who nearly married her brother are the main characters. Back-stabbing, political intrigue, and scenes of a graphic nature are thrown in the face of the reader in an unapologetic orgy of… well, gritty realism.
Goodkind’s Sword of Truth has graphic violence, graphic scenes of sexuality and brutality as well, but there the similarities end. Goodkind writes toward the nobility of heroes. Richard, the main character, is right. His supporting cast of characters are sometimes right. The bad guys are twisted. They believe wrongly, they are misguided, and they are evil, and they espouse communist ideals.
Ice and Fire is beautifully written. Time is taken to set up a world whose scope is only surpassed by the Malazan series and the Wheel of Time. Martin’s prose is a wonder to behold.
Goodkind’s writing is clunky. It gets the job done, but too much is explicit, repeated, and dumbed down.
Martin’s action scenes are interesting, even if they push the limits of realism.
Goodkind’s action scenes are riveting, even if they’re mostly impossible.
Martin’s message is unanimous. The world is shit. People are assholes. If you don’t believe it, I will personally disabuse you before you are raped and murdered.
Goodkind’s message tends to be a little self-contradictory. Life is yours. Rise up. Don’t let anyone rule you. Do what you want. Unless you don’t do what I want. Then I’ll kill you.
It’s hard to cheer for anyone on Martin’s cast list. They’re all jerks or dead. Conversely, there’s no real bad guys, except for the Big Bad who’s looming on the horizon (and who everyone is ignoring).
Goodkind has Real Heroes (TM) you can root for, and cardboard cut-out deliciously eeeeeevil bad guys to throw proverbial popcorn at.
Which do I prefer? I think I appreciate the series that Martin is writing more, even if I have been disappointed at the pacing of the last two books to a certain measure. I’m sure that the pacing of the writing and release of the books has more to do with it than the pacing of the story, but that’s a different complaint. On the other hand, the Sword of Truth has something to it that I enjoy reading. Good action, quick pacing, a definite target for my ire. The clunky writing can be endured. The shaky morals make for interesting philosophical discussions. The action scenes are definitely a draw.
I don’t think I can actually pick a favourite from these two, even if the memory of Naked Empire and Confessor make me want to change my mind and start this post over much less positively for Mr. Goodkind.
Until later on,