My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Read and listened to the audiobook in 2016 on 9/27 to page 183 and on 10/6 to the end. I liked it and recommend it to fans of Terry Goodkind and his books about Richard and Kahlan.
The Omen Machine is the first book in a story that reaches across four books including this book. This book is exciting enough. It sets up the dramatic props authors use to keep the reader turning pages, ending with the dramatic tick-tock countdown timer adding the ever looming doom over our protagonist characters for the remainder of the books.
Now, The Omen Machine
(Rich with spoiler detail, skip to commentary to avoid any likelihood of spoilers)
In the Omen Machine we open with Richard and Kahlan wandering the massive grounds out in the plains around the D’Haran Palace. It is a happy time. A wedding of two great warriors is taking place and all the royalty from all the lands are in attendance. In the wandering and meeting folks of the Empire, Lord Rahl and the Mother Confessor come across a very sick boy who appears to be in the grip of fevered hallucinations. Talking to the child’s mother they learn that the mother and son are from the “Dark Lands”, a part of the Empire that Richard and Kahlan know little to nothing about which sparks their interest. The young boy says something prophetic and his mother confesses she has taken the boy to some kind of powerful sorceress who did not heal him. The essence of this opening provides the marrow running through the next four books.
The prophetic thing the boy says brings up two things. Prophecy and Evil in the Dark Lands. Then the boy scratches Kahlan and Richard and is off and running. It seems insignificant and Richard and Kahlan assign people to hunt down the boy and bring him back to his mother. (Writer’s lesson: Don’t show a shotgun over the mantle in scene one unless you are going to use it by scene 3.)
Back in the Palace it is not long before the royalty or province leaders in attendance are wanting access to “prophecy” that is contained in the Palace so they will know how to manage their provinces. Richard and Kahlan have no faith in prophecy and know that even if a prophecy seems as clear, only a real wizard with the gift of prophecy can actually discern what any prophecy really means. Richard and Kahlan know that even if a wizard with the gift of discerning prophecy may not understand a prophecy as the free will that people have often throws a wrench into the gears of the prediction.
If you’ve read this far in the series you know there are many other problems with prophecy. A prophecy may be on a “dead branch” of prophecy…. A prophecy that was predicted, but is only valid after something else happened. If that prerequisite event never happened as predicted, all the prophecies after that “dead branch” are invalid.
These anxious leaders have resorted to seeking out “prophecy” from folks who are little more than gypsy fortune tellers explaining their dreams, reading palms, or looking into a crystal ball. Folks are becoming obsessed, even possessed, with these predictions. Some believing something so horrible will happen they attempt murder or try killing themselves to prevent the prophecy they have come to believe and fear.
Richard and Kahlan are troubled with the vague foretelling coming from the sick child who has run away. The peace they have won in the previous book “Confessor” seems to be vanishing right before their eyes as leaders of all the provinces are in an uproar about prophecy. Several sudden deaths appear to confirm prophecies wildly rumored and that turns up the heat among the province leaders.
The number of issues driving Richard and Kahlan crazy are piling up like flies on a dead body. Then they discover they are being watched from inside the palace… Their protectors, the Mord Sith, and The First Guard are ardently distressed over their leader’s safety. Richard and Kahlan learn they are being watched in their own private rooms even when they’ve secretly moved to different rooms in the palace. No one can find the dark voyeur. Even the First Wizard, Zedd, is reduced to guessing that someone may be using mirrors in the palace to see inside. And still no one has found the boy who ran away…
Hiding from whoever is spying on them, Kahlan and Richard have retreated to the top of the palace, to the magically shielded and highly guarded Garden of Life, to sleep on the grass under the dome at the top of the Palace. While trying to rest lightening strikes the ceiling crashing through the inside and causing enough damage in the to reveal a secret room below the Garden of Life. A place that has been sealed for thousands of years… and where they find the Omen Machine.
Examining the Omen Machine it produces prophecies on strips of metal… the same prophecies as those rumors that are predicting people jumping out of windows or trying to kill key story characters.
I like Richard and Kahlan stories and have read the series up to Confessor twice. I’ve enjoyed the last 4 books. This one and the next three reviews on the way.
I want to point out a horrible review by Eric Allen because he has some really good insights into all of Terry Goodkind’s books. He rips up this book with a one star rating and every one of his criticisms are accurate. Lots of spoilers in Eric’s review and the criticisms may spoil everything for you, but if you find you are disappointed in this book and struggle to force yourself to pick it up and keep reading, head over to Eric’s review. It may give you permission to skip it.
I do give three stars and recommend the four book story. I didn’t read this book soon after the previous book in the series “Confessor”, and my memory is such that I could probably start over with Wizard’s First Rule and most the time would be wondering what is going to happen despite having read it twice. It is in hindsight that Eric’s very critical review becomes so clear.
I admit that in this book and too often in the next three books I’ve thought ill of Terry’s writing. I make notes relating to Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” which, as a book, could be just as exciting and get her philosophy across just as clearly if she had cut more than half the pages. Terry likewise has an agenda. This isn’t unusual for authors.
Robert Heinlein was notorious for his barely veiled ideologies and most his books are classics. When it does become obvious though it distracts from the story. Terry’s pulpit includes lectures on free will and the theme of his books are pretty much the same from book one to book fourteen. They are largely libertarian in nature. I happen to share his beliefs, in large part, so the thinly veiled lectures are not terribly annoying to me. But in these later books he does get annoyingly repetitive.
If, like me, you have developed trust with an author like Terry, you can probably overlook a multitude of sins in order to stay on with the Richard and Kahlan adventures. I think Mr. Goodkind did well in finishing the four book story line. The Omen Machine, The Third Kingdom, Severed Souls, and Warheart.
I’ve also provided a link to Eric Allen’s review in several cases on Terry Goodkind books if you just love to see a good author legitimately ripped to shreds. I’ve thought about this some. I used to get handed manuscripts and asked for critiques rather frequently. Eric’s “reviews” are more like critiques. That is handy for new authors to improve their writing, but with established fiction writers most readers are looking for escape, not work. It is usually only when the writing becomes a hindrance to suspending disbelief that average readers get their panties in a bunch. At that point they should. There is a contract between the author and the reader and while the reader’s job is largely to suspend disbelief, the writer’s job is to know how to make that easy for the reader. When they fail, it is fine to tell them to get their act together.
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