Betsy Speicher

The Law of Nines

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*********Possible Light Spoilers********

When reading The Law of Nines, I have to admit I felt a bit lied to. I was promised a “stand alone modern novel” and ended up getting a novel that was: 1) very much a fantasy story and, 2) completely connected to Terry Goodkind’s other works. In fact, it’s more then connected, its almost reflective. The book’s characters and plot so parallel Wizard’s First Rule that I have to believe that it was intentional.

The story follows Alex, an unsuccessful artist living in modern America who one night, saves a women’s life; after which some crazy stuff happens and he’s pulled into struggle that could decide the fate of humanity and blah blah blah.

I won’t ruin the story for anybody, because there’s some exiting stuff here, and a decent amount of peril (unclimatic ending notwithstanding.) The best part of the book, set in an insane asylum, works perfectly. Unfortunately, there’s a good deal of stuff that doesn’t work.

Alex is a painter, which should have come of well considering Goodkind is also a painter, but it simply falls flat. A good character should bring you into the mindset of their passions; like Howard Roark in The Fountainhead or Merthin in World Without End. Alex seems more like a retiree that took up painting as a hobby rather then a man who devoted his life to his craft.

The love story is fun, but I never felt myself getting overly involved.

While this is a fantasy novel at heart, it’s paced very much like a Lee Child novel. A thriller novel must be written differently then a fantasy novel; certain indulgences that work in fantasy stop thriller novels in their tracks (like multi-page speeches that are not integrated with a theme.) When writing a thriller story that only spans a few days, the writing must be tight and always purposeful, or else you risk losing the tension.

And that’s when the central flaw of this novel comes to light. Goodkind clearly wants to write a thriller novel in the vein of Vince Flynn or Lee Child (sprinkled with fantasy elements), but the story is too epic for the narrow focus of the novel. It’s like Lord of the Rings being turned into a cheap soup opera; it just leaves you unsatisfied because of the unfulfilled promises. This is a novel with grand scheming, epic wars, a coming dark age, and monstrous villains; most of which are only hinted at, and all of which are solved by a couple of bullets and a last minute trick that lacked any cleverness.

As I said above, the story is a shocking parallel to Wizard’s First Rule, so much so that I think there is meaning behind it. I have a few theories, and Goodkind does well to lay the foundation and hint at what is to come without distracting from the story. I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to this book; and this is just act 1 of a much wider story.

But as it stands, this is a very average modern thriller novel that was very clearly written by a fantasy writer with little experience in the genre. It interested me enough to read the whole thing; and despite my less-then-enthusiastic opinion of the novel, I’ll probably pick up the sequel, should there ever be one.

What can I say? I just can’t quit Goodkind.

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