- 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.
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…
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! 🙂 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.
Purchase Death’s Mistress:
Follow The Tattooed Book Geek on: