Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Wizard's First Rule
by Terry Goodkind

Wizard's First Rule hardback

Wizard's First Rule (1994)
Book One of The Sword of Truth series

1994 Tor hardback 573 pages
(Tor paperback 848 pages)
Cover art by Doug Beekman (left)

2001 Tor trade paperback 573 pages
Cover art by Keith Parkinson (right)

Wizard's First Rule trade pb

This book completes an adventure.  The commentary and ratings on this page only relate to Wizard's First Rule, not to the entire Sword of Truth series.
Cover art for all Sword of Truth books
Gary's book review of Chainfire on Fantastic Reviews

Wizard's First Rule
"People are stupid. They will believe anything they want to be true or fear to be true."
Amy's short summary :  Terry Goodkind - Wizard's First Rule

The magical boundaries between the lands are crumbling.  Richard Cypher, a modest woodsman, armed with the Sword of Truth, is the only one who can stop the evil designs of the mage Darken Rahl.  Along the way, Richard saves Kahlan Amnell, a young woman with Rahl's assassins on her trail and a secret of her own, who is seeking the aid of a great wizard.  Together, accompanied by Richard's friend and mentor Zedd, they need to find the last of the three boxes of Orden to prevent the evil Rahl from having the ultimate magical power and letting the realm of the dead into the world.

summary written by

From the cover of the trade paperback:
       In the aftermath of the brutal murder of his father, a mysterious woman, Kahlan Amnell, appears in Richard Cypher's forest sanctuary seeking help...and more.  His world, his very beliefs, are shattered when ancient debts come due with thundering violence.
       In a dark age when it takes courage to live, and more than mere courage to challenge those who hold dominion, Richard and Kahlan must take up that challenge or become the next victims.  Beyond awaits a bewitching land where even the beat of their hearts could betray them.  Yet, Richard fears nothing so much as what secrets his sword might reveal about his own soul. Falling in love would destroy them -- for reasons Richard can't imagine and Kahlan dare not tell him.
       In their darkest hour, hunted relentlessly, tormented by treachery and loss, Kahlan calls upon Richard to reach beyond his sword -- to invoke within himself something more noble.  Neither knows that the rules of battle have just changed...or that their time has run out...

From the inside cover of the hardback:
       Wizard's First the story of Richard Cypher...Though a mere woodsman, he is the one destined to battle the ultimate adversary---Darken Rahl, an evil mage who bids to destroy all that Richard holds good and beautiful, dooming him and the rest of the Westland to a living Hell of subjugation and degradation.
       Richard's life is changed utterly when he saves Kahlan, a beautiful woman who is desperately fleeing Rahl's assassins as she tries to find Zedd, the last great Wizard.  Only Zedd can anoint a Seeker of Truth, one pure of heart and strong of purpose, who must wield the terrible power of the legendary Sword of Truth.  Only the Seeker can prevent Rahl from acquiring the three Boxes of Orden, which grant their possessor power over all things.  As Rahl's plan nears its fateful culmination, Zedd calls upon Richard to become the Seeker.  At first reluctant to take up the Sword and dare the perils that lie ahead, Richard accepts the challenge when he realizes that his new-found love for Kahlan would wither under the lash of Rahl's dark dominion.
       Rahl, a mage for whom no atrocity is too foul, has gained two of the three Boxes.  Should he complete the set and unlock its magic, not even Richard, whose father long ago taught him the Boxes' secrets, will be able to keep Rahl from fulfilling his destiny.

Read for group discussion on January 13, 1999

Characters - Wizard's First Rule
Richard Cypher, woodsman from Westland, Seeker, Richard With The Temper
Kahlan Amnell, Mother Confessor, a woman from the Midlands
Zedd, a.k.a. Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander, Richard's friend and mentor, a wizard
Michael, Richard's older brother, First Councilor of Westland
Chase, a.k.a Dell Brandstone, Boundary Warden
Darken Rahl, a.k.a. Father Rahl and Master Rahl, evil wizard
Demmin Nass, the right hand of Darken Rahl, has a weakness for boys
Adie, old bone woman, giver of night stone
Rachel, a young girl, Princess Violet's playmate
Giller, a wizard
Shota, witch woman in Agaden Reach
Queen Milena of Tamarang
Mud People
Mistress Denna, a Mord-Sith
Scarlet, a dragon
Things and places
The Book of Counted Shadows
Three boxes of Orden
People's Palace of D'Hara

How we each rated this book
Dan 6 Amy 7 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
stack of books
Cheri 6 Barb 0 flames
Aaron - Cynthia 0
Lars 3 Jackie 7
Kerry 7 Lindsey 7

Amy's Commentary  Terry Goodkind - Wizard's First Rule

Wizard's First Rule has generated a considerable amount of email, mostly complaining about our "low" ratings.  It also generated a considerable amount of discussion among our book group.  As you can tell from the ratings, our opinions on this book widely differed.

Personally, I liked Wizard's First Rule - I rated it 7 out of 10.  I haven't yet gone on to read more of the Sword of Truth series, due to stacks of other books to read, but someday I'd like to read more of Goodkind's books.  I found this book worthwhile entertainment, and even defended it in our group discussion.

Goodkind's Sword of Truth series has many loyal fans.  The popularity of these books is what inspired me to suggest that our group read Wizard's First Rule in the first place.  I've received emails from a number of people telling me it's their all-time favorite, and I'm happy that they found books they so profoundly enjoyed.

Does it truly lessen one's enjoyment of a book if someone else doesn't like it?  It's nice when others share our views, it tends to reinforce our confidence in our own good taste.  But if someone doesn't agree, it doesn't mean they're necessarily wrong, or worse, stupid.  People have different likes and dislikes, and can see things in different ways.

Why did several people in the book group strongly dislike Wizard's First Rule?  One reason given was that they felt this book was not well written (or poorly edited), that there were too many misspellings and too much bad grammar.  Another felt parts were needlessly crude.  There was also the complaint that the story was too derivative of other fantasy books, not very original.  The reason discussed most, however, was an episode three quarters of the way into the book - the long torture scene involving Richard Cypher and Mistress Denna, the Mord-Sith.  Richard suffers at the hands of leather clad Denna and her rod- like Agiel.  The S&M aspects of their "relationship" didn't appeal to me, and several group members found it extremely disagreeable, enough so to sour them on the entire book.  This scene was unexpected and intense, but not - in my opinion - gratuitous.  They didn't agree.  One person was extremely uncomfortable reading this scene and could only skim it.  Richard's encounter with the Mord-Sith may be important in later books, but I think such a traumatic scene should've been better foreshadowed.

I'd recommend Wizard's First Rule, but perhaps not for younger readers.  The plot moved well and I thought the main characters - Richard and Kahlan - were interesting and showed emotional depth.  I liked the magic of the Sword of Truth.  Yet the fantasy setting, the world building, was way too sketchy for my tastes. I thought the name Richard too mundane a name for a sword wielding hero.  Fantasy books usually have more fancifully named heroes, such as Aragorn, Frodo, Rand, Conan, or even Zedd.  But I'll concede that by giving his protagonist a common name like Richard, Goodkind made him seem a common man, more like you and me.

Many Goodkind fans have written to tell me that they think Goodkind is better than Tolkien. Well, no!  In my opinion, comparing Goodkind to Tolkien is a bit like comparing apples and oranges, or comparing fast food to filet mignon, their fantasy books are very different.  I'll grant that Goodkind's books are probably more accessible, and hence less boring, to the modern reader.  The Sword of Truth books are easier to read and more action packed than Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, but does that truly make them better?

Tolkien's prose at times can be overly descriptive, but I think Tolkien's writing is far more skillful and more poetic than Goodkind's.  His story is sophisticated, and often profound.  Tolkien excelled at world-building; he created Middle Earth, a complete fantasy setting which has become the blueprint for the Dungeons & Dragons game and a large proportion of the fantasy field.  Many modern fantasies have a setting similar to Tolkien's, but Tolkien did it first, he was an originator.

Goodkind, on the other hand, is focused on character-building.  His writing, especially in his first book Wizard's First Rule, is adequate at best, and clumsy at worst, and parts of his Sword of Truth series seem overly derivative of other fantasy books, such as those by Robert Jordan.  Goodkind created a story for his characters, and world-building was a secondary concern.  Goodkind is a talented storyteller and his characters are compelling, but I didn't connect to his stories as strongly as some of you obviously did.  Reading Terry Goodkind was not a life-changing experience for me.

In my opinion, Goodkind's books are not as well-done or as outstandingly original as Tolkien's.  You're welcome to disagree with me, but I'm standing by my opinion.

What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to

Terry Goodkind (1948-    ) is a best-selling, epic fantasy writer living in the western United States.

--Wizard's First Rule (1994)
--Stone of Tears (1995)
--Blood of the Fold (1996)
--Temple of the Winds (1997)
--Soul of the Fire (1999)
--Faith of the Fallen (2000)
--The Pillars of Creation (2001)
--Naked Empire (2003)

Sword of Truth Chainfire trilogy
--Chainfire (2005)
--Phantom (2006)
--Confessor (2007)

Sword of Truth prequel short novel
"Debt of Bones" which takes place prior to the events in Wizard's First Rule, is featured in the fantasy anthology Legends (1998). The book Debt of Bones (2001) contains the same short novel, or novella.

Debt of Bones was published in an affordable paperback edition in November 2004. The first edition of which has a doozy of an error -- it wrongly says that the book is copyrighted by Robert Jordan, instead of Terry Goodkind!

-- The Law of Nines (2009), a thriller

Cover art for all Sword of Truth books Prophets Inc. - Official Goodkind Web Site
The Rang' Shada Fortress
Goodkind HQ
Terry Goodkind: The Sword of Truth books 1-4 - an infinity plus review - Wizard's First Rule Review
Galactic Outpost - Wizard's First Rule Review (critical of book)
The Christian Guide to Fantasy - Terry Goodkind (critical)

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This page was last updated November 27, 2009