Death’s Mistress: Sister of Darkness (The Nicci Chronicles, Volume 1), by Terry Goodkind
I read and reviewed Terry Goodkind’s Nest a few months ago and wasn’t all that pleased with it, but I hate to judge a writer by one book so I tried this series opener and learned that she’s just not my kind of writer. Somebody reads her, since all her books list her as a New York Times Bestselling Author. They say that of John Grisham, too, and I can’t get past the first page on most of his books. De gustibus non est disputandum: In matters of taste there can be no disputes.
The book rests on a weird basis: A powerful warrior witch named Nicci, also known as Death’s Mistress, travels with a wizard named Nathan who has been a captive for over 1000 years and has kind of lost his magical chops. Unbeknownst to me, this carries on an earlier Nicci story dealing with her capture of and falling in love with Richard Rahl, with whom she joined forces to fight the former emperor. She and Nathan are scouting the now-stabilized empire and doing sort of a PR tour for Rahl.
The blurb on Amazon says Nicci is one of the “best loved” characters from an earlier series called Sword of Truth. I’ll take their word for it. In this book she’s damaged and angry from years of killing and being raped or pimped out by previous emperor Jagang. Goodkind’s dialogues for her make her seem generally hard and unlikeable. The two also pick up a sailor with the last name Farmer, as clearly damaged as Nicci by being raised by an abusive father and now wandering the world. Both have lots of painfully long stories to tell about their abusive past lives.
The three find a wizardy library that has been extracted from melted stone that covered it during the recent war. There they try to learn the best magical spell to overcome an area of death that continues to grow, accidentally created by one of those tending the magical books.
There will be a weird masturbatory sacrifice to try to fight the spell and, ultimately, a sacrifice of one of the few nearly likeable characters in the book because someone forgot to read the fine print on a counter-measure.
There are so many books I’ve read where the ending pained me because leaving the author’s imaginary world was like leaving a well-loved home. This book kept me counting pages wondering when it would end so I could move on to something else.