I have to admit that I approached this book with mixed feelings. Would I love it? Or would I hate it? Goodkind has always provoked heated debate. In one corner are the rabid fans for whom he can do no wrong. In the other corner are the disenchanted and scornful who have never understood why he became as successful as he did. I tend to sit on the fence when it comes to Goodkind and his work. At times I am blown away, and other times I am let down. Severed Souls follows what I would say was Goodkind's worst work, so I was hesitant in starting this. Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed this latest instalment from him.
Severed Souls takes us on a roller coaster ride of action and emotional distress as Goodkind attempts to up the ante on his previous book. Richard, Kahlan, and their merry band are caught up fighting unseen and powerful occult powers, and all of the characters we know and love are facing annihilation at its hands.
The story itself was solid without being amazing, and I thought it was a major improvement on Goodkind's previous few releases. The action scenes were well executed, and I enjoyed the long chase at the start of the book. The pacing of Severed Souls was up and down. At times the story flowed brilliantly and at other times it became bogged down as Goodkind recapped previous events from other books. The characters were also a mixed bag (I've come to expect this of Goodkind), with some enthralling me and others boring me. Characterisation has never been Goodkind's strongest point , but I really liked how Ludwig Dreier was depicted and positioned throughout the story. He was a strong villain with clear and understandable goals and motives that I could relate to. I especially enjoyed how he wasn't as one dimensional as some of Goodkind's other characters. Richard also had moments of brilliance, and the ending took me back to the golden age of Goodkind in the nineties, but overall Goodkind did struggle to get my emotional involvement throughout stages of the story until the end.
The magic, as always, was interesting and enjoyable, but I found myself getting frustrated with the author's explanation of 'occult powers' for every single thing that happened that didn't make sense. I wanted more detail, hoping for some new amazing magical system that Richard and Kahlan would have to combat, but there was none coming. I can handle enemies breaking the laws Goodkind himself has established in previous books as long as it is explained. Sadly however 'occult power's' turned out to be about as far as Goodkind was willing to go in his detail most of the time.
What made this book for me was its ending. It almost felt like Goodkind was cruising at until the end. The finale of the story was gripping and incredibly tragic, and it took me back to how I felt when I first read Wizard's First Rule. The question for me then is why Goodkind couldn't replicate this throughout the rest of the book? The ending alone lifted this book from an average read to a solidly enjoyable one. Things fell into place, and I found myself wanting more. This was the Goodkind that I loved as a teenager, the writer who could blow my mind and tear out my heart.
All in all I found Severed Souls to be an enjoyable read, albeit with many frustrating facets that could have been improved prior to release. If you are a Goodkind fan then you will love Severed Souls and be willing to ignore the weaknesses it has. If you aren't, then you will probably not be able to get past the flaws. A major improvement over previous works, I hope Goodkind continues to write and get back to producing works similar to his early books.
3 out of 5 stars.
A review copy was provided.