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Book Review: Severed Souls by Terry Goodkind

Updated on August 12, 2014

Severed Souls

Just Too Many Things Happening

Wow. Just wow.

It's not a good wow, by the way, and not necessarily a bad wow, it's just ... WOW.

This review will have many spoilers so please do not read until after you have read the book.

So we pick up the story from The Third Kingdom. Richard and Kahlan are poisoned with Death from the destruction of Jit the Hedge Maid. They are trying to get back to the People's Palace to get to a containment field so that Zedd and Nicci can cure them of the poison, which keeps either of them from using their abilities. With them are Zed and Nicci, Samantha and Irena and a host of soldiers from the First File. Lord Arc and emperor Sulachan are heading towards the People's Palace trying to further their own ends. We see very little of these two in this book - which may seem odd to you, BECAUSE IT IS.

Lord Drier has taken the citadel at Saavedra as his own knowing Lord Arc will not return there. With him is Erika, his Mord Sith, and there are several other Mord Sith at the citadel who belonged to Lord Arc and now serve Lord Drier. There is a very cool scene where we learn more about Lord Drier's motivations and his issues as he takes control of the citadel. We don't come back to him for a long time and that may also seem odd to you, BECAUSE IT IS.

See, most of this book revolves around our band of adventurers getting away from half-people and Shun-tuk. There is a very long period of time where that's all that's happening and Richard proves again how selfless he is. This is great. We already know this about Richard but it's good to see him in character. When his plans essentially fails, Samantha shows she is a very powerful sorceress when she blows the walls of the gorge apart, right off the surrounding mountains, destroying the half-people army. This was a great scene and it shows a great deal about Samantha and Kahlan (who suddenly remembers how to use a sword properly).

That part was well done but then they go back to trying to figure out how to save Richard and Kahlan. It's necessary but boring and we're already through a great deal of this book. They figured out a few things along the way:

  • They don't have the time to get to the People's Palace so they turn for the Citadel where Irena claims there is a containment field.
  • Nicci and Kahlan do not trust Irena as her story doesn't make sense.
  • Samantha is very strong and she has a very bad temper (important for later)
  • Zedd figures out that Richard and Kahlan need to stop fighting for everyone and lead their own life together
  • Kahlan still doesn't listen to Richard about naming wild animals

Zeddicus Zul Zorander No More

Problems So Far

So here I am, a long-time fan of the books and even a fan (and reviewer) of the TV show. I know me my Richard and Kahlan. I've explored quite it bit, throughout all of my hubs, of their relationship and the events that happen during their time together and apart.

I admittedly found the Omen Machine to be completely absurd. Events in the book didn't make sense and two books later, make even less sense. The Omen Machine itself has been completely forgotten. At the end of that book, I was under the impression we had come across new magic users and kept it in the fantasy realm. Now we know those were occult users which takes us out of that realm and into horror stories (which is what this has become).

I absolutely like Magda Searus: The First Confessor which was written as a prequel to this series. I didn't think of that at the time, but that's definitely what it is. I did not like, at the time, the foreshadowing of an undead storyline in the coming books when we were introduced to half-people in Magda Searus. I have to say that now that the arc of the story is completed, I like it even less. It smacks of pandering to an audience that is really into zombie shows and movies which, by themselves are fine. I just had no desire to see it in my favorite fantasy story. Not to this degree anyway. I also don't believe regular readers were looking for this either. Let the Walking Dead and World War Z handle those types of stories.

Then I read The Third Kingdom and I wasn't impressed with that either. The story took forever to move and I realized at the time that the most deadly female fighter in the world who wasn't a Mord Sith, was essentially just a damsel in distress. Kahlan who had spent so much time in the earlier books kicking ass had become nothing more than bait to move Richard around the story. That was terrible. At least in this book, Kahlan gets the chance to let loose with the Sword of Truth in her hands.

But this book has a host of issues and this is where we get to spoilers. As soon as Nicci explains how off Irene's story is, someone should have told Richard and gotten to the bottom of it. These characters are not supposed to be this stupid. The fact that Samantha is in love with Richard and has a terrible temper was also pointed out but summarily dismissed. While it didn't happen in the story, that could have been a huge warning to never, ever let that girl near the Sword of Truth - but that was never explored.

Along the trail we meet Red, a witch-woman who warns Kahlan to kill Nicci before she kills Richard. This would happen after Kahlan herself would be killed. We've seen this kind of warning before, Kahlan completely ignores it and we are left thinking the entire side trip and story that includes Red is pointless. As Kahlan does nothing with the information and Red doesn't join the battle, despite their success being in her self-interest, her introduction becomes pointless.

So Zedd is killed off in pointless fashion. We learn that Irena is a bad guy (NO SURPRISE - BY THE WAY) and that she killed Zedd when he discovered her writing in her journey book.


Sorry, no way is the First Wizard killed by this non-essential character. I wasn't thrilled when Warren was killed by an assassin (who knew Richard) and I'm mortified that Zedd's death would happen at the hands of this ridiculous character and that it would serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever. It does lead to Richard doing something crazy.

No, not just crazy, COMPLETELY OUT OF CHARACTER!!!!!!

Richard reads Irena's journey book and finds out she killed Zedd and just loses it. He goes wild and in a fit of anger and rage he completely smashes Irena apart against the wall leaving a bloody mess all over the place. Richard has been put through every kind of torture you can imagine and he is perhaps, the most thoughtful and controlled hero we have ever seen. In Wizards First Rule we learn about Richard's amazing emotional control before he ever takes up the Sword of Truth. How can we believe that he would go crazy in anger and utterly destroy this woman? It makes little sense.

Then Samantha, remember her? She of the terrible anger, gets incredibly angry over her mother's death and starts giving a rationale excuse for her actions while they try to explain what happened. She then grabs a knife and kills Kahlan with it before running away. I'm shaking my head reading it thinking, that's her response? After destroying the forest and then a mountain, bringing down the citadel would have made a lot more sense.

The resolution where Richard has Nicci save Kahlan's body and then asks her to essentially kill him so he can save Kahlan's soul is in character and his death, while I don't like it, at least serves a purpose.

And then the book ends....

Richard and Kahlan

I Still Miss the Show!!
I Still Miss the Show!!

Really That's It?

So, no resolution, in fact, nowhere even close to a resolution and I don't know if Terry has another contract to sign to write any more books but leaving us with this was just awful. Totally unacceptable when we, as fans, all know there is a three book arc and we expect a complete story. This was ridiculous. We spent almost no time with the villains, we haven't checked in with anyone at the People's Palace (you mean to tell me Nathan didn't know this was all coming??)

The resolution for Lord Dreier is death, perfectly fine by me. His part of the story seemed completely superfluous. His Mord Sith Erika dies at the hands of the Mother Confessor in a slow agonizing Mord Sith death. Samantha is on the run after attacking Kahlan. Cara is still gone (which I didn't expect), Nicci stands beside Kalhan, Zedd is dead as is Richard.

But Richard has been dead before and the fact that he was already poisoned with death, means that he can move freely in the underworld. He can also heal himself, as he healed Kahlan, And Richard likely has a lot of friends in the underworld including Zedd. So there can certainly be more to this story. Richard can still be brought back in certain ways (Mud People anyone?)


Well, with no resolution and Zedd's useless death I'm pretty disgusted with this effort. There are lots of other general issues that bother me as well but I'll hold that to myself for now. 2 Stars for being a story in the Richard and Kahlan universe but no stars for anything else. I keep thinking I can't be more annoyed and then I get the next book and I was wrong (I do keep buying them though - I just love the characters too much).

(He's the rarest of the rare, a War Wizard, there hasn't been one in three thousand years. He's married to the Mother Confessor, he's visited the underworld, traveled to the Temple of the Winds, created an entire new world with the Boxes of Orden, he's the Lord Rahl, the bringer of death and the Seeker and he somehow manages to lose his powers more than anyone else in creation. He should be able to level armies by himself and yet he's confused and powerless a lot of the time. When it happened in the beginning we could blame it on the fact that he didn't know how to use his powers, but now there is no excuse. The next time Richard goes to war, it shouldn't be too much trouble - know what I mean??)


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    • dblyn profile image

      dblyn 3 years ago from Staten Island, NY


      I read about this the other day - one more Richard and Kahlan book called Warheart where everything should get tied up. Should be available in late November, 2015.

    • dblyn profile image

      dblyn 3 years ago from Staten Island, NY

      Hmm. Not sure how to reply to this one. The Legend of the Seeker tv show has almost no direct resemblance to the books. The show uses the same characters and situations but they are handled very differently. I've done several hubs explaining the differences so don't try to reconcile them - it won't work. The show was fun but it only lasted two seasons (it's been off the air for several years). All of the books are still available in book stores and if you skipped Wizard's First Rule (the first book in the series), you should read it because it's absolutely amazing. Totally blows away this book...

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      Marcela 3 years ago

      Along with the same comments of Ron, John, and Allen. I sattred first exposed to the book, Blood of the Fold , which I purchased at a yard sale. I then ran around like a crazy person, trying to find the next book, then the next which as I was reading saying to myself, Wow what a great movie this would make . Was cooking one Saturday and the television was on and what do I hear Khalan and Richard ??? I completely stopped what I was doing and watch the program, I was sooooo excited. But as I watched the programs from one week to the next, it was what the hect? Night and Day from the book, the story line is hard to follow for they have you all over the place. I don't get it? I mean why the major deviation from the story lines of the book? But I must say I will continue to watch for in my opinion at the moment it the best on at the time beside Merlin on Sundays. Let watch and see if it stick more to the story line in season 2, if not maybe season 3. A big Terry Goodkind fan, even though I can't see how he's handling this one.

    • dblyn profile image

      dblyn 3 years ago from Staten Island, NY

      Finally! Someone with an opinion!! Thank you for your insight. I obviously don't agree but thank you for your intelligent reasoning. You may be right, that I'm putting these characters on a pedestal, but since they are the focus of the story, I think that's the correct thing to do. As an author, if you feel like killing off characters, that is your right, but certain characters you should have good reasons for killing off and I just don't see one for killing off Zedd. He's integral to the story, or he has been for 14 books so I say this: If Zedd is forgotten after this book, I will always believe his death was handled in a crappy way. IF, as I suspect, Zedd is used in future books as a Good Spirit or in some way as they try to fight off the undead, then his death will have served a purpose - but given how this book was constructed, we have no way of knowing that right now.

      In terms of using the undead in fantasy, we need look no further than the grand-daddy of medieval fantasy "Lord of the Rings", to see that the undead can indeed be used in fantasy. But not to this degree. Fantasy is built on the experience of the living, horror is built on the experience of the dead (or undead). Even the length of time the "Men of the Cursed Mountain" are written about or even seen in the movies is very limited.

      I also still think the zombie-centric story was pandering to an audience that loves the stuff. Terry didn't need to do that - he's got a legion of fans who enjoying watching Richard and Kahlan struggle to be together, zombies weren't really necessary. What's next? Does he give the next book a reality TV twist?

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      Luxfieros 3 years ago

      I have to respectfully disagree with the thrust of a lot of your fixation on the book's problems.

      First, Zedd dying to Irena is perfectly rational. The fact that occulted have powers beyond what any gifted can sense or defend against is covered ad nauseum throughout the Richard and Kahlan series.

      An author does not inherently owe it to the reader that their major character's death be epic. Zedd's death was depressingly realistic. Furthermore, it generates a possible dangerous antagonist of nearly unparalleled potential, a wrathful immature girl lost to her own bitterness and anger.

      Secondly, the person Richard loves most in the world after Kahlan was murdered, by a conniving traitor, lower than a worm. He discovers this directly after reading the account of her murdering her family and consigning her own daughter to the same. Richard has always had a temper, a temper worsened by the influence of the Sword of Truth. In that moment of revelation that a person worthy of nothing but revulsion cut down someone beloved to him like so much more wheat, he lost his temper. Nobody's perfect. And in the end, Richard pays for that momentary lack of grace with his life.

      Finally, I don't know where the angle that the zombie stuff is out of play comes from. Zombies and flesh eating ghouls and the like have long been a hallmark of high fantasy. They are a terrifying and inscrutable evil. The horror and brutality visited by the halfmen is in many ways less horrifying than the torment inflicted by the Imperial Order, described in detail by characters witnessing the sacking of cities.

      The rest of your concerns are more spot on, but on a few of the points, I think you are letting your fandom of the characters put them on a pedestal. Sometimes people are killed in a hopeless way that leaves nothing but despair. Just because a novel is fantasy doesn't mean that the heroes always win - or survive.

    • dblyn profile image

      dblyn 3 years ago from Staten Island, NY

      You make many valid observations about the future of this story arc - the problem I have is that this was supposed to be a three book arc and we have no resolutions, nothing. I still don't know if Terry has a contract to even write the next book which is a huge problem. If we had initially thought there were going to be more books, well, this book would still be terrible, but at least we'd all look forward to the next book in 18 months or so and hope the story moves forward. Right now I have no answers.....

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      lms1981 3 years ago

      I agree that there was a lot lacking from the last three books but if another deal happens I'm all in. There are so many possibilities. Like others have said... Mud people can commune with spirits and Richard has been through the Vail before. But also... Hello!!!! The spirit king exists in both plains also. I can't wait for the next book to take place in the underworld! As well as in the world of the living. We still have this new war to go through, Cara's future, and there is still a living Rahl, Nathan. Meaning if Richard is "dead" then the bond still exists with Nathan. Kahlan has her power back as well Richard if he is brought back. No way are we gonna be left hanging with all these loose ends. That's not his writing style! Oh and I almost forgot. What about when zedd had everyone think they saw kahlan get beheaded. Odd that he was killed in the same way. As someone said how could a wizard of the first order die like that... Maybe he didn't really die. And with Nathan still being at the house of rahl when the spirit king and arc get there their powers will be lessened in the people palace rent remember?

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      Ben 3 years ago

      "seriuosly..." is right... um... yeah. I COMPLETELY AGREE with this post. I enjoyed the first few books, but as I got into even the newer books at the end of the Emperor Jagang story-line, the story started to get ridiculous. The last few books have been crap.

    • dblyn profile image

      dblyn 3 years ago from Staten Island, NY

      This hub has been read over 500 times - only 2 comments? Anybody want to rant, please do...

    • dblyn profile image

      dblyn 3 years ago from Staten Island, NY

      I have to say, I'm no fan of this particular story arc. I've always loved the characters and the older books show quite a bit more thought than these do. The older books flow with some real forethought put into the story but these don't seem to. Without a resolution or anything to even move the story ahead, this book really falls flat on its face.

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      Salvador Pilates 3 years ago

      Thank you for your review. Already read the one on The Omen Machine and agree totally. Terry should have stopped after part 11. After that it's horror, another genre. I still regret having read the last books, will not go for Severed souls after this.

    • dblyn profile image

      dblyn 3 years ago from Staten Island, NY

      I know that Zedd had felt particularly defeated at the end, but I believe his death didn't serve a purpose to further the storyline. I'm ok agreeing to disagree about Richard's reaction. I think he reacted the way we would all react, but that's the problem - that isn't how he has reacted to anything in the previous books. Sure he gets mad, but he's never lost his mind so unless that's the way the character will be taken going forward, I didn't think his reaction was handled correctly. It's a moot point anyway unless and until we find out if there is more story coming from Terry to begin with

    • profile image

      Stephen 3 years ago

      There was a reason Zedd's death was portrayed the way it was. And as for Richard's reaction to finding out Irena was the killer - I happen to think it was perfectly IN character.