"'You knew they were there, didn't you?' Kahlan asked in a hushed tone as she leaned closer. Against the darkening sky, she could just make out the shapes of three black-tipped races taking to wing, beginning their nightly hunt. That was why he'd stopped. That was what he'd been watching as the rest of them waited in uneasy silence."'Yes,' Richard said. He gestured over his shoulder without turning to look. "There are two more, back there." Kahlan briefly scanned the dark jumble of rock, but she didn't see any others. Lightly grasping the silver pommel with two fingers, Richard lifted his sword a few inches, checking that it was clear in its scabbard. A last fleeting glimmer of amber light played across his golden cape as he let the sword drop back, in place. In the gathering gloom of dusk, his familiar tall, powerful contour seemed as if it were no more than an apparition made of shadows."Just then, two more of the huge birds shot by right overhead. One, wings stretched wide, let out a piercing scream as it banked into a tight gliding turn, circling, once, in assessment of the five people below before stroking its powerful wings to catch its departing comrades in their swift journey west. This night they would find ample food."
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As much as it pains me to say so: This entry of the Sword of Truth series was completely pointless. If you would skip this one, there would be absolutely no difference between where the characters were at the end of book seven and the beginning of book nine. So if you want to skip it, go ahead, you are not missing out. If you still interested in the story, I will give you a short - non spoilery - rundown of the major plot points.
Richard and Kahlan are still deep in enemy territory. In book seven they just left the place called pillars of creation, and that is basically where this book picks up. It starts with the little group encountering a batch of birds, that have been following them for quite some time and Richard spots a strange figure made out of sand, that seems to be watching them. After a lot of callbacks to former stories and once again stating the beliefs of all the characters over and over again, they meet a young man called Owen. He lived in a place called Bandakar. His homeland was invaded by the Imperial Order and desperate for assistance, he poisons Richard, in order to force him to help his people. This is the point, where I really struggled, not you turn off the audio book and throw my phone in the furthest corner of the room, because from this point on, this person - Owen - follows them around and constantly goes on about his enlightened views of condemning all forms of violence and how everyone else is a savage. This goes on and on and you actually root for them to cut this guy into little pieces. However, Richard, having - once again - serious issues with his gift, is forced to go help Owens people and so his group travels to the "naked empire" of Bandakar. Obviously, he goes on, trying to convince the people there, that the beliefs they held for thousands of years are invalid and that Richards own principals are the only right ones. I would have to lie, if I were to say, that there are not some very interesting and well-written dialogue chapters between all this nonesence, obviously there are. Nonetheless, this entire plot is utterly predictable and besides one or two smart twists not very original. Their main antagonist in this book is Nicolas "the Slide" and even tho the concept behind this character is quite fascinating, he doesn't really do much and poses no real obstacle. Over in the new world, Verna and her sisters are holding the passes into D'Harra against Jagang's horde and at the wizard's keep, Zed is overwhelmed by a special sort of enemy. This is actually one of the really cool ideas, that kept me going. All of Zed's chapters are very interesting. Where all the other books had a final act, that completely justified, the slow pace, this one just kind of ends. It was very disappointing. One is tempted to call it an ex Machina, even tho there is a logical explanation for most of the things happening.
To avoid any major spoilers, I will not get into the conclusion of any of those plot lines, but be assured, that everything happens basically the way you would anticipate.
Would I recommend this audio book? Obviously not. I managed to enjoy parts of it. Richard's way of convincing people and the way he explains how life is his most important value are very captivating. That is what I enjoyed most about the other books and when you get it within this one you will be satisfied. Nonetheless, it was incredibly hard to get through the first six to ten hours, for listening to Owen and his people is pure torture. I refrained from just looking up the plot details simply because I wanted to listen to all eleven books again and basically for no other reason. To everybody else I recommend you skip this book in the sword of truth saga and continue with book nine instead.
As always, Jim Bond does a good job reading. He manages to somehow not sound bored during some of the speeches and not disgusted during a few of the more graphic segments and for that, you have to respect the man. Sadly he does not always manage to really captivate you with his performance.