Wizard's First Rule
by Terry Goodkind
Recommended Age: 16+
This thick book – 820 pages in the Tor paperback edition – is the beginning of a fantasy series called "The Sword of Truth." It is a thrilling, fast-paced, complex, emotionally powerful story about goodness confronting evil, courage in the face of overwhelming odds, and the pain of being in love with someone who can never be with you.
It is the tale of Richard Cypher, a woods guide who is forced to progress from boyhood to manhood in an awful hurry. His father has fallen victim to a gruesome murder. His brother has become the leader of the Westlands, yet all does not seem well. Then comes a mysterious, beautiful woman named Kahlan from across the boundary that supposedly seals off the Westlands from the magic-ridden Midlands. In befriending Kahlan, Richard finds himself swept up in a huge adventure, in a strange country full of magical surprises, racing to stop a cruel warlord from gaining the power to rule the entire world.
There are many elements in this story that should appeal to the Harry Potter fan: A young hero who knows nothing of magic until he is thrust into the role of savior of a whole magical world. A funny, fatherly, and sometimes dangerous wizard who lets the young hero find things out for himself, rather than telling him what to expect. A dark lord who can be deceptively charming and even inspiring, but who lives “without the burden of conscience.” Prophecies that could have more than one meaning, but that plant poisonous doubts in one’s mind. A dragon. A talking wolf. A stone of darkness. A sword of power. Vicious monsters. Deadly spells. Bloodcurdling rituals. Innocent children. Betrayal. Torture. Vengeance. And three magical boxes whose fate could determine the future of the world.
Only, be advised: this is very much a grown-up book. I would not recommend this for children. Though it is not graphically erotic, it has some potentially disturbing content of a sexual nature. The bad guys do some unspeakably atrocious things, some of them definitely falling within the realm of the occult. And what happens to the good guy in the last third of the book will not only shock you; it will rip your heart out.
On the other hand, no grown-up Harry Potter fan will be amazed to find that an 800-page book can keep you turning the pages right to the end. Multiple plot lines gather tension toward a tremendous climax. Hope is tested to the very point of despair. Grief, love, and horror are pushed to painful limits. Mysteries are revealed. Moments of exhilirating beauty come and go. And the “Wizard’s First Rule,” when it is finally revealed, actually provokes some serious thought. Be prepared, though. You may find yourself hooked on the series, which continues in Stone of Tears and at least six further books.
EDIT: For the record, though, I did not feel "hooked." I won't be reading a book by this author again.