Book Reviews

Death’s Mistress (Sister of Darkness: The Nicci Chronicles #1) Book Review

  • Death’s Mistress (Sister of Darkness: The Chronicles of Nicci #1).
  • Terry Goodkind.
  • 512 pages.
  • Fantasy / Epic Fantasy / Traditional Fantasy.
  • My Rating: 4 stars out of 5.


Book Blurb:

Onetime lieutenant of the evil Emperor Jagang, known as “Death’s Mistress” and the “Slave Queen”, the deadly Nicci captured Richard Rahl in order to convince him that the Imperial Order stood for the greater good. But it was Richard who converted Nicci instead, and for years thereafter she served Richard and Kahlan as one of their closest friends–and one of their most lethal defenders.

Now, with the reign of Richard and Kahlan finally stablized, Nicci has set out on her own for new adventures. Her first job being to keep the unworldly prophet Nathan out of trouble…

Book Review:

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Death’s Mistress is a new series set in the Sword of Truth world. I’ve seen it mentioned that you don’t need to have prior knowledge of the series to read it and I can attest to that as my own knowledge was very lacking. However, I found both the magic system, names and past events very easy to pick up and enough information is given during the book to enlighten you on what’s gone on before.

Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series ran for 17 books. My only previous foray into the series being from watching the rather cheesy but fun TV series based on the actual books that aired quite a few years ago.

Death’s Mistress follows Nicci, a powerful sorceress and the Death’s Mistress of the title and Nathan Rahl, both prophet and wizard are tasked by Lord Richard Rahl as emissaries of the D’Haran Empire spreading word of the end of tyranny and the start of his rule and a new free age to the various peoples of the Old World.

After a prediction from the Witch, Red that tells both Nicci and Nathan that they need to journey to and find Kol Adair they set off on their adventure.

Nicci at first scoffs at and derides her part in Red’s prediction but later in the book she comes to realise that Red’s words may well in fact ring true. While Nathan, the first ambassador of the D’Haran empire fully believes Red’s prediction from the start and the necessity of finding Kol Adair.

Along the way Nicci and Nathan pick up a couple of travelling companions due to unforseen circumstances. Firstly, they end up being accompanied by Bannon Farmer, a sailor on his maiden voyage, who is running away from his past and looking for adventure. Bannon is originally from Chiriya, a small island of cabbage farmers – sniggers! πŸ™‚ Children, pay attention in school or else you might end up farming cabbages and eating cabbage soup for life, the fantasy equivalent of working for Tesco! Secondly, the trio are later joined by Thistle, a tenacious and spunky young orphan girl.

Nicci isn’t the most likeable of characters, she’s stand-offish, distant and cold for the most. She’s been given a task to do and she will accomplish the task, no matter the trials and tribulations in her way. As you follow her on the journey to Kol Adair you find her to be a deeper character than she first seems and while not instantly endearing she grows on you. Nathan is a far more affable character, the opposite of Nicci and together they make a good duo.

When Bannon is introduced, oh poor Bannon, if he was in a grimdark book he’d have been dead in his first paragraph! Naive, trusting, idealistic and clueless are the best adjectives to describe Bannon. He does mature over the course of the book showing himself to be a competent sword fighter and earning Nicci’s respect late on. Some of his actions and the lines he comes out with throughout the book make you cringe at how corny they are and sound, it’s best we put it down to him being a gingernut and his youthful boyish exuberance. He is a likeable character though and a worthy companion for Nicci and Nathan, his interactions with Nathan and parts of the story where he proves himself show an added depth to his character.

Thistle was probably my favourite character in the book, she’s determined and brave with a bit of an attitude and she added an extra dimension to the group also aiding in Nicci’s character development when something poignant happens late in the book, just for a moment Nicci’s Ice Queen facade cracks and it was one of the standout moments in the book, seeing a character in Nicci that seemed impervious to emotions actually showing feeling.

Goodkind has a decent eye for scope and scale in his world building, giving you that epic vibe and feeling that many miles have been traversed.

The book adheres to the tried and tested straightforward formula, whereby our protagonists journey to Kol Adair consists of travelling to one location, encountering an obstacle and overcoming it before moving onto the next and so forth. It’s simple but works well to move the story forward and the locales are diverse enough that each creates a different new challenge for our group.

The adversaries that the group face throughout Death’s Mistress are many and include, Selka, underwater creatures. Norukai savage slavers. The Adjudicator. Dust People, remnant husks created by the Lifedrinker. The Lifedrinker himself, a student who after using a magical spell that went wrong turned into the Lifedrinker, an unstoppable force draining the life out of people and the world. And, Life’s Mistress, again, the result of a magical spell gone wrong but this time instead of draining the life out of the world, the creation gives life back, only too much life wanting to revive the world, wipe out humanity and turn it into a massive forest and a vast plateau of flora.

The pacing in Death’s Mistress is good with the story moving along and developing nicely. The book doesn’t outstay its welcome and when the ending comes, it feels like the right place to end the book both as a conclusion to this part of the tale and as a ‘to be continued’ for what will happen next.

It took me a while to get used to Goodkind’s writing. I found the interaction between characters came across as rather stilted and wooden. At times it seemed like they were practising receiting lines in a play to each other instead of having the easy flow of a conversation. Goodkind isn’t the most poetic of writers, he doesn’t woo you with flowers and chocolates under the moonlight, with gentle caresses and whispered elegant sweet nothings to lure you in. His approach is rather more blunt, like a club to the back of the head, resulting in you being dragged back to the cave. But, he has written and sold a lot of books and the approach obviously works well for him and as I progressed through Death’s Mistress, it didn’t bother me as much, I became accustomed to his style and liked his rather straight to the point manner.

The book itself is not overly dark and gore splattered with the visceral action I’m generally accustomed to from the grimdark subgenre of fantasy I frequent. And is far more akin to and harkens back to the classic styling of adventuring and epic fantasy.

Even with my issues at the beginning, by the end I had enjoyed my time spent reading Death’s Mistress, it was a book I looked forward to being able to pick up and read, at the end of the day that’s what reading should be, an enjoyable experience. I’m definitely interested to follow the continuation and see where Goodkind takes the story next.

I found Death’s Mistress to be an enjoyable and often fun if somewhat formulaic fantasy yarn.

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34 thoughts on “Death’s Mistress (Sister of Darkness: The Nicci Chronicles #1) Book Review

  1. The Sword of Truth series was a favorite of mine around the time I finished High School, but once I got to The Pillars of the World and on my interest started to wane. I did read to the end of the Chainfire trilogy which was supposed to be the end of the series at the time. I haven’t read past that though and was debating about picking this book up. I’m still debating lol
    Great post though! This review has me thinking a little more seriously about whether or not i should read this book.


    1. I hadn’t read any Sword of Truth books, 17 is a big commitment with so many other books out there to read. I’ve read Malazan so I don’t mind long series but the Goodkind books seem to get a mixed reception with some loving them and some hating them. Not sure I’d have read this if the publisher hadn’t sent me a surprise copy, but I was pleased that I did, it’s not the best but I enjoyed it.πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, like i said it was a favorite when i first read it, but when i reread it years later, I didn’t like it as much. I think my reading tastes have changed and matured over the years. I dunno, the first few book in the series are good.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. The last 4 books of the SWOT series were actually pretty good. Based around a lot of action and is fast flowing. I enjoyed them more than the middle part of the series when they seemed to drag on. I’m abotu 3/4 of the way through Death’s Mistress right now, and it is pretty good with a fresh storyline with some of the characters we have become familiar with. i look for Richard and Kahalan to make an appearance at some point in the series but we shall see. If you haven’t already read the book, you should!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read any Goodkind books , but all are in my TBR , but I’m not sure anymore , the plot here seems cliched and the characters aren’t really giving me any interesting vibe . What do you suggest should this book be on my TBR for a near future read


    1. It’s definitely a clichΓ©d plot and the characters are OK but not amazing. I enjoyed it but I was sent a surprise copy by the publisher, really liked the cover and had just finished the book I’d been reading so decided to give it a go and ended up enjoying it but it’s not a book that I’d have purchased for myself.

      I think there’s far better fantasy books out there that you’ve yet to read Rash and that you’d enjoy more.😁

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review, Drew… I had a good old laugh when you said Bannon would’ve been dead in his first chapter if it was a grimdark book πŸ˜€ And the darn gabbages… yeah… gabbage farmer might be equivalent to a Tesco worker πŸ˜€ (that is bound to piss someone off as well) but gabbage go darned well with some trotters! πŸ˜€
    I could feel from your review that this wasn’t your normally gushing, glowing experience, but it’s good it was somewhat enjoyable anyway πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, thanks Queen Lizzy, I’d hazard Bannon would be dead in the first paragraph not chapter ‘ladies, I’m Bannon, cabbage farmer extraordinaire and love machine, hello boobies’ wallop, slash, crimson gushing, bye bye Bannon!πŸ˜‚

      Ah well, you see, I work at Tesco so no one should take offence to that comment, it was only added as a laugh.😁

      Eurgh, cabbage and trotters, yum!πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha, true though someone might take offence to the comment and way that Bannon died, so, in the interest of fairness and not to be deemed wrong ‘gentleman, I’m Bannon, cabbage farmer extraordinaire and love machine, hello willies’ wallop, slash, crimson gushing, bye bye Bannon!πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

        I also included gingernut in the review, that might cause offence too, oh well, it’s all good fun!πŸ˜‚

        This is true, a job is a job no matter what.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. hahahaha, you are just cracking me up… I know.. everyone is so bloody sensitive about everything nowadays… like.. can’t say anything without someone finding some insult to take away… anyway…
        gingernut is a new one for me… what does that mean or is it just obvious from the word ginger?

        I’ve had a few different jobs… I’ve been in a take away, housekeeping and office… and theres a good saying about jobs… no matter what it is you do, do it with pride. customer care is difficult tho… can drive a man crazy some days and if I was offered a job chopping wood, at this stage, I would gladly accept the position. preferably in a forest where no other people would bother me πŸ˜‚


      3. Damn right, any job with no one bothering you would be wonderful!πŸ˜€

        Alas, whoever coined the phrase ‘the customer is always right’ needs shooting because they aren’t always right and even if they are it doesn’t give them the right to act like asses over it.

        Gingernut is just a term for ginger haired people, there is a ginger coloured biscuit called ginger nut.πŸ˜‚

        That is very true, sadly you can’t say much now days without someone taking offence to it, it’s wrong really, nothing wrong with good humoured banter, it’s fun, simple as but if someone doesn’t like something they overhear then they pull the insult/offensive card out and complain.😠


  4. Very cool!I never really considered this book at all because I didn’t like the ‘Sword of Truth’ series and thought you had to know what happened there. I watched the TV show as well but never finished it. I like cheesy, I mean I watched Shannara (which was pretty good!) and that awful Camelot adaptation with Eva Green… but Sword of Truth was a bit too much πŸ˜€ I was soo annoyed by Kahlan’s white dress that never got dirty!! NEVER!

    I am a bit scared by the wooden dialogues you mentioned, but everything else seems like it’s worth checking out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I watched Shannara too, actually enjoyed it but gave up on Camelot after a couple of episodes.πŸ˜‚

      No, you don’t need to have read Sword of Truth series, it’s easy enough to pick up but yeah, wooden dialogue isn’t great and is off putting for some, it took me a while to get into it. I enjoyed the book but have to admit that if the publisher hadn’t sent me a surprise copy it’s not a book I would have purchased myself, doubt it would even have been on my radar.πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t finish ‘Camelot’, but I made it through most of the episodes – don’t ask me why! Did you watch that waterfall scene? That’s something else!! I kept hanging on when James Purefoy appeared, he’s mostly worth watching.
        I couldn’t even stand Joseph Fiennes in it, he was whispering the whole time!! And Eva Green was too mysterious, that was all so over the top πŸ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

  5. You’re review is encouraging!! The Sword of Truth series was NOT for me, but this might work. Also, you had me laughing at your description of Goodkind’s writing :p “A CLUB TO THE BACK OF THE HEAD” omgggg

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh my goodness- someone else who watched Legend of the Seeker!! I really enjoyed that show- it was so cheesy, but so good! I’ve read some of that series as well now and found it enjoyable too (though it has some similar flaws of being a little formulaic) Definitely gonna get to this series… after I finish up with the ridiculous number of Goodkind books I still have unread on my kindle that is πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, yeah, it just oozed cheese but Legend of the Seeker was quality, a sad day when it was cancelled, it was just a fun show.πŸ˜€

      Ha, I’m not surprised you have a ridiculous number of Goodkind books still to read, 17 in the series is a crazy number for a series and from what I’m aware lots are rather large books too!πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I agree completely!! I was really sad it went- especially when it was getting so good. Yeah it’s crazy- and they had a kindle sale for most of the books a few months ago, so I *may* have gone a little crazy… πŸ˜‰ Yeah- and they are *huge*!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Yay, someone else who had a good time with this! Seems like a lot of folks have written this off because of bad experiences with Goodkind’s work in the past. To be honest, I almost did – but I’m glad I decided to try after all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hadn’t read any of Goodkind’s work before so wasn’t sure what to expect, I doubt I’d have bothered with it if I hadn’t received a copy but I’m glad I did, some good reviews and some bad made me interested too in what I thought and I enjoyed it, not the best but I had a good time with it.πŸ˜€


  8. I think I just might have to remind my kids to keep up their grades unless they plan on living off of cabbage πŸ˜‰ Awesome review. I am not sure I am ready to tackle this as I still have several the Sword of Truth books here for when I feel like that daunting challenge. I have been watching that somewhat enjoyable but definitely cheesy show though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, Legend of the Seeker, it was definitely cheesy but it was fun too, abit like a newer version of Hercules and Xena from the 90’s, just fun.πŸ˜‚

      Mmmmmmm cabbage! Yum yum!πŸ˜‚

      Eurgh, 17 books in that series and all are hefty tomes too, that’s a lot of reading, seems very divisive too, both lots of good and bad reviews for it.

      Liked by 1 person

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