The Omen Machine is actually the second most recent in a very long series; a pretty famous one called The Sword of Truth, by Terry Goodkind. Just to put it into perspective, the Sword of Truth series started in 1994 with Wizard’s First Rule (more on that later), and ending with Confessor (2007), so eleven* other books precede this one, and they resolve the major story arc of the entire series. The Omen Machine is a new adventure set inside the old familiar world of Richard Cybher (later Richard Rahl) and Kahlan Amnell (the primary protagonists) but explores a part of the world it never really had before, the D’Haran empire, which was ruled with an iron fist first when Darken Rahl, Richard’s psychopathic and incredibly powerful father was the Lord Rahl, and later, it became the last bastion of resistance when Richard ( Darken Rahl’s gifted heir, the War Wizard and the Seeker of the Truth), Kahlan (the Mother Confessor and the love of Richard’s life), Cara (the senior most of the Mord-Sith, personal bodyguards to the Lord Rahl), Nathan Rahl (the thousand year old prophet), Zedd (the First Wizard and Richard’s grandfather) and all the rest were fighting the war against the emperor Jagang and the evil Imperial Order in the last eight of the eleven books that precede The Omen Machine. There is a more recent book – The First Confessor -, but that pre-dates the events of the Sword of Truth considerably, although the characters involved have a big role in Confessor, the twelfth and concluding book of the Rahl and co. versus the Imperial Order books. It should be obvious how that ends, but the how of it is more than a little captivating, and well worth the read.There’s a lot to Goodkind’s world that hasn’t really been explored yet. The Sword of Truth series was set in a different geographical area, mostly the Midlands and the Old World. With The Omen Machine, focus now switches to the People’s Palace (one of the greater creative imaginations in architecture of a talented fantasy author), the ruling seat of the Rahl dynasty of the D’Haran empire. I don’t want to give too much of the Sword of Truth away, so I’ll not go into much detail. Incidentally, the Sword of Truth saga was also made into a TV series called Legend of the Seeker, which is a fairly loose interpretation of Wizard’s First Rule, the first book, although it merges plots from several different books while leaving a great deal of the original out. Which is perhaps why it got canned after its first series.
Goodkind isn’t for everyone, there’s a bit too much undisguised pseudo-moralism cloaked with sincerity and truthfulness. Richard in particular, as First Wizard, Lord Rahl, and Seeker of the Truth, is naturally prone to it the most, which gets might annoying after a while.So if you get upto Faith of the Fallen (part six), you get a pretty decent idea of the kind of ideology that Goodkind tries so very hard to condemn, and you begin to get the idea of what philosophy Goodkind ascribes to the Imperial Order (static thinking) versus Rahl rule under Richard (free will). It’s bit more complex than that, but its the best generalization one can make without giving anything away. It’s irnoic though, because a lot of the contradictions condemed in the ideology of the Imperial Order crop up in the pragmatic yet unfettered realism so passionately advocated by the good guys.
As the war progresses, Richard and Kahlan find themselves becoming more and more ruthless, bloodthirsty even, but there’s reason behind it, so that makes it okay. If I start explaining the wars, or the barrier between the Old World (where the Imperial Order comes from) and New World (the Midlands and D’Hara), or the role of the Sisters of the Light and their prelates…we’d be here quite a while. And I haven’t even touched on the various other significant protagonists – Cara, Zedd, Nicci, Nathan, Verna, Berdine, and antagonists - Drefan Rahl, Nicholas the Slide, Oba Rahl – and the others. So, long, well populated and character defined, complicated and occasionally dense and more than oftenly sententious are good ways to describe The Sword of Truth epic. The politics though, can get very interesting, especially as the Order continues its annexation of the Midlands and Richard and Kahlan are repeatedly faced with a lot of unpleasant political choices by the exigency of circumstance. How they evolve politically is a big part of what makes this series worth reading, along with the detailed and complex military strategies and scenarios. There is a strong element of ‘clash of civilizations’ in The Sword of Truth series, but that is more or less a given in most fantasy epics begun in the 1990′s. Still, it’s entertaining, and while perhaps not in the same class as say, George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, it certainly matches up well against The Wheel of Time, or Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar saga. Worth a try at least. Then decide for yourself.
*The books are, in order: Wizard’s First Rule, Stone of Tears, Blood of the Fold, Temple of the Winds, Soul of the Fire, Faith of the Fallen, Pillars of Creation, Naked Empire, Chainfire, Phantom, and finally Confessor. There is a prequel as well now, The First Confessor.
From Bangalore but based primarily in New Delhi, India, Samir has variously been and continues to be a professional musician, a pub quiz host, a political campaign aide, and a student of the guitar, as well as history and international relations. He is currently Research Director for the Global Security Centre in India. He is also a freelance editor and research consultant, having worked for the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, the Public Health Foundation of India, and a McKinsey-IBM KPO, as well as Random House and Oxford University Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org