Book Review: The Omen Machine by Terry Goodkind
Richard and Kahlan - well Kahlan anyway...
Review: The Omen Machine
As a huge fan of the Sword of Truth novels and watcher of the Legend of the Seeker TV series, I'll review this as objectively as I can. There are some spoilers so please only read this if you don't mind seeing these before reading the book.
The Omen Machine - The Good:
Well it's about characters we know and love. Even if you've only watched the TV series, you'll instantly run into Richard, Kahlan, Cara and Zedd who you've seen extensively on the show. Richard the Seeker in the TV series is not readily identifiable as Richard, the Lord Rahl in the books, but you've been told (certainly by me) that this character was severely changed for the show.
It takes place right after Cara's wedding which is where we left them at the end of Confessor. So we haven't "missed" anything and Terry doesn't have to waste time explaining what they have all been doing.
No 20-page rants about Richard's belief system. I was expecting some explanation for the new readers who will pick this up after watching the show but there just isn't a whole lot of it (thankfully). In previous books, the explanations about Richard's beliefs, which are necessary, go on way too long. In this book, we get almost none of it.
A cool new bad guy is introduced, actually 3 of them. In relation to that, we are introduced to other magic-user types that we have not seen before so the creativity is still there.
The Omen Machine actually comes off rather well - it's a machine that's inundated with magic so it works.
The Bad: Be Forewarned - there is a bunch of it...
This book is very short (by Terry's standards at any rate) and the font is very large.
There are a large number of basic editing mistakes that make reading the book a bit more difficult. Not missing a comma type mistakes, wrong or misplaced word mistakes that actually make reading harder.
The story starts off painfully slow and doesn't really get moving for about 150 pages or so.
Every character seems to have become much dumber since we last saw them. Some of the events we see as readers we would have easily put together as characters long before they do in the story. Zedd and Nathan in particular seem immensely moronic at times. They never were before.
The timing of events really doesn't work. This event - Cara's Wedding - happens within a few days of defeating the Imperial Order in Confessor. The premise of this story however, makes it sound like the general populace has been discussing prophecy for months in peacetime (since they apparently have nothing better to do). It just doesn't work. Three days ago they were fighting for their lives and now they are all worried about prophecy?
All of the rulers of the various Midlands/D'Haran Empire are collected here and they act like a bunch of two-year olds. They also very quickly forget how much trust they have put in Richard who just WON the war, by the way. The reactions of these people just doesn't make sense - even if they are being manipulated (which they are), it still doesn't make sense.
Much of the story is based on prophecy, but Richard is the balance to prophecy as he represents free will. These rulers seem to have forgotten who and what Richard is, even though they were all absolutely terrified of him at the beginning. Someone makes the astonishing declaration that Richard is named in prophecy!!! Well duh... Don't they know that already? They may not know that he's named the "bringer of death" but lets face it, even if that was news to people, should they really be surprised?? He just eliminated half the population of their world - what the hell else would he be??
A major flaw in the story by Terry is that a character who obviously is magical in nature, Richard doesn't spot immediately. We already know that Richard can sense other magic-users, even if they aren't wizards (like the brothers of the Fellowship). This is a major mistake (there may be some explanation but we don't have one now).
The villain controls a Mord-Sith. I have to admit, this is an interesting twist but according to everything we know, this just should not happen. The Mord Sith don't even exist without the Lord Rahl - there really is no justification for turning one against him, not one we know of anyway. Even if they were mad at him, they still fiercely protect him. I find myself torn on whether I like this as a good twist or a bad lack of character focus on Terry's part, but I lean towards "bad" just because it doesn't fit with the previous storylines.
The ending just drops off a cliff. It isn't even a typical cliff-hanger. We get an extremely fast resolution as we hit the last few pages of the story, which continues into the next book, and then we are just done. It's weird.
As a fan of the whole thing (books and TV series) I waited with bated breath for this continuation and I find myself disappointed. I expect much better from Terry. The characters he created are still awesome, but Terry just doesn't use them as well as he normally does. He's added some very cool things here: the machine is very cool, Hannis Arc seems like another well conceived villain, Jit the Hedge Maid seemed like an interesting villain until it took Richard four and a half seconds to dispose of her, learning more about D'Hara (we really don't know much about the place) was also a new twist. No Midlands, no Old World, no problem for me - I like the Dark Lands and Kharga Trace..
All that aside, the odd behavior of the people questioning Richard within days of his triumph, the dumbing-down of the characters, the poor editing, short length of the book and the poorly contrived ending just don't sit well with me. I'll give it 2 and a half stars. One star for returning to Richard and Kahlan. Half star for completely limiting the philosphical speeches, half star for the cool Omen Machine, Half star for the cool new villains. Unfortunately, this book feels like a quickly thrown together, half-completed story that is presented to the paying public and they know we'll buy it since it's Richard and Kahlan but it just wasn't put together all that well.
That being said, I'll certainly buy the next book...