Faith of the Fallen picks up where Soul of the Fire left off. It follows several characters while advancing the main storyline. The climax, which brings together major threads in the story, is done in the typical Goodkind fashion, action-filled and satisfying. On the flip side, with this and the previous installment, Goodkind seems to have departed from the usual sword- and sorcery-oriented storytelling. Sure, there are intense battles to whet our appetites, but the principal focus of the book was on the nature of human character and society. As such, while we follow Richard and Nicci’s “adventures” in the Old World, perhaps it can’t be help that the pace is plodding and the tone annoyingly didactic. Yes, the Order believes that man is inherently evil, yes, those with ability must help those without for the common good, yes, the Order brings equality to all; the point is made, but must it be repeated every chapter by every character? At times, the book reads like “1984” in the Middle Ages. And at times, the book stretches the limit of believability: that the Order is able to dominate a vast society with mind-numbing single-mindedness and unsophisticated fanaticism, that the great wizard and leader Richard would so easily give in to his fate even though he has faced much worse odds before, that in the end a work of art is able to convert the masses.
I’m also not happy with the way some characters are handled, or not handled at all. Nothing is mentioned of the major Ander characters from Soul of the Fire, nor of Nathan; Ann appears at the beginning and resurfaced at the end, her role adding nothing to the story; nothing comes up of Ulicia and the other Sisters of the Dark; albeit they’re minor characters, the way Harold and Cyrilla turned out are rather uncharacteristic. And, as he has done in the past, Goodkind terminate some important and sympathetic characters rather abruptly; it isn’t disappointing that they disappear, but that in doing so they don’t affect the plot at all. While, at long last, the vast D’Haran and Imperial Order armies clash, the description of the battles lack the scale, the fury, and the visceral excitement seen in the works of others like Robert Jordan. All of that said, Goodkind brought to life a remarkable character, Nicci, who is probably the most complex, conflicted and dramatic character in the series.
This book is a good read, but I yearn for the thrills and the sense of wonder of the previous installments that are conspicuously absent here.
Originally posted December 10, 2002 on Amazon.com