Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Law of Nines by Terry Goodkind

book cover

The Law of Nines
by Terry Goodkind

Mass Market Paperback: 576 pages
Publisher: Jove Books
Released: August 2010

Source: Unrequested review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover, slightly added to:
Turning twenty-seven may be terrifying for some, but for Alex Rahl, a struggling artist living in the mid-western United States, it is cataclysmic. Something about this birthday, his name, and the beautiful woman whose life he just saved, has suddenly made him — and everyone he loves — into a target. A target for extreme and uncompromising violence by people who can appear or vanish before his very eyes. The woman claims that she--and his enemies--are from another world where magic exists. Their conflict has spilled over into this world because, a long time ago, his family also came from her world. He unknowingly has something the enemy wants which he inherited on his birthday. Can they stop the enemy before both worlds are destroyed by their greed and cruelty?

The Law of Nines is a thriller with some fantasy elements. The action was non-stop except for 30 pages of dialogue stuck in at 193 pages into the story to explain who these mysterious killers were, where they're from, and why Jax didn't like them. The story was fast-paced and exciting, but it wasn't very pleasant. It involved torture, attempted rape, brutal mass murder of children, and a great deal of other violence. The world-building was done well, bringing the story alive in my imagination--even the violence.

While Alex and Jax were interesting enough characters, we never really learned much about them. The bad guys were flat, generic characters. They were angry and cruel with little motive given beyond greed and little difference between them beyond their names and jobs.

There were a few inconsistent or implausible elements, like Jax being able to successfully and completely hide three knifes (one of them large) under skin-tight or form-fitting clothing. And many important things were never explained, like how the bad guy intended to use what it turned out he so deeply wanted. [SPOILER] The suggestion given was that he wanted to bring superior weapon technology into his world through the gateway so that he could stay in control after he beat the other side. But he wouldn't be able to make that technology himself, so he'd always be dependent on the gateway. The other side of the gateway was currently controlled by powerful enemy magic users, so he wouldn't be able to safely use the gateway until the magic users were defeated. But the bad guy definitely wanted the gateway open now. It just didn't add up.[END SPOILER]

The end was also wrapped up pretty quickly, with Alex only needing one glance at the desired object to go from ignorance to sudden and complete understanding of how it worked. But at least it was a happy ending.

There was a minor amount of bad language. There was one non-explicit sex scene and two vaguely explicit attempted rape scenes. There was a lot of violence (some of it fairly graphic and gory), and it was often against innocent or helpless people. I only read the first few books of Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, but this book reminded me of that plot in some ways (Alex is a lot like Richard, and so on). I suspect that Goodkind fans who can't get enough of his books will probably enjoy this one.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
It was the pirate flag flying atop the plumbing truck that first caught his attention. The white skull and crossbones seemed to be straining to keep from being blown off the flapping black flag as the flatbed truck, apparently trying to beat the light, cannonballed through the intersection. The truck heeled over as it cut an arc around the corner. White PVC pipe rolled across the diamond plate of the truck bed, sounding like the sharp rattle of bones. At the speed it was traveling the truck looked to be in danger of capsizing.

Alex glanced to the only other person waiting at the curb with him. With his mind adrift in distracted thoughts he hadn’t before noticed the lone woman standing just in front of him and to the right. He didn’t even remember seeing where she’d come from. He thought that he saw just a hint of vapor rising from the sides of her arms into the chill air.

Since he wasn’t able to see the woman’s face, Alex didn’t know if she saw the truck bearing down on them, but he found it difficult to believe that she wouldn’t at least hear the diesel engine roaring at full throttle.

Seeing by the truck’s trajectory that it wasn’t going to make the corner, Alex snatched the woman’s upper arm and yanked her back with him.

Tires screeched as the great white truck bounced up over the curb right where Alex and the woman had been standing. The front bumper swept past, missing them by inches. Rusty dust billowed out behind the truck. Chunks of sod and dirt flew by.

Had Alex hesitated they both would have been dead.

On the white door just above the name “Jolly Roger Plumbing” was a picture of a jovial pirate with a jaunty black patch over one eye and a sparkle painted in the corner of his smile. Alex glared back as the pirate sailed past.

When he looked up to see what kind of maniac was driving he instead met the direct, dark glare of a burly passenger. The man’s curly beard and thick mat of dark hair made him look like he really could have been a pirate. His eyes, peering out of narrow slits above plump, pockmarked cheeks, were filled with a kind of vulgar rage.

The big man appeared infuriated that Alex and the woman would dare to be in the way of their off-road excursion. As the door popped open there was no doubt as to his combative intent.

Read the rest of chapter one.

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