Literature: Sword of Truth aka: The Sword Of Truth
"People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it's true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People's heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool."
— The Wizard's First Rule
A series of High Fantasy novels — ahem, stories that have important human themes—written by Terry Goodkind. It started in 1994 with the publishing of Wizard's First Rule and ended in 2007 with the eleventh in the series and final book of the Chainfire trilogy, Confessor. There is also a prequel novella, originally published in the Legends compilation of short stories and now available on its own, called Debt of Bones. In story-internal order, the books are as follows:
Debt of Bones (1998)
Wizard's First Rule (1994)
Stone of Tears (1995)
Blood of the Fold (1996)
Temple of the Winds (1997)
Soul of the Fire (1999)
Faith of the Fallen (2000)
The Pillars of Creation (2001)
Naked Empire (2003)
In addition to these books, Terry Goodkind has written other novels related to the main Sword of Truth series. The Law of Nines serves as a sequel of sorts to the main series and features an entirely new cast of characters. The Omen Machine, billed as "A Richard and Kahlan Novel", takes place immediately after Confessor, but is not connected to the Myth Arcs of the previous series. The First Confessor is a self-published e-book which features events in the backstory of the main series.
Richard Cypher is a woods guide living in a mostly-pastoral nation called Westland, cut off from the rest of the world—known to them as consisting of two other lands, called the Midlands and D'Hara—by a magical boundary that is in fact a window to the underworld; all who enter it die. After coming upon an "odd-looking vine", he spots a mysterious and beautiful woman who appears to be chased by four armed men. Offering to help her, he finds she is being trailed by assassins.She explains that she has come in search of a great wizard, who supposedly came to Westland years ago, to help defend the Midlands against a man named Darken Rahl, who hopes to bring all the world under his dominion. Richard knows that what she says is impossible; nothing can get through the boundaries, and Westland doesn't have any magic. Yet he has never seen a woman like her, nor men like those hunting her. He decides he should take her to Zedd, a slightly crazy old man who is like a grandfather to him, and who always seems to know everything that goes on...As you might have guessed, Zedd does, indeed, turn out to be the wizard, and the three characters team up to stop Darken Rahl before all is lost. Richard is given the titular Sword of Truth, which uses the power of its user's personal anger to strike down enemies.The two first books, Wizard's First Rule and Stone of Tears, are fairly standard fantasy fare, complete with dragons, an evil wizard out to rule the world, the discovery that he wasn't working for his own sake, a potentially world-ending plot, a magic sword, a wise old wizard, a mysterious woman with strange powers, and a gratuitous S&M sequence. For a long time some people thought Goodkind was ripping off Robert Jordan, as his stories contained many things that had exact counterparts in Jordan's novels. From the third book on, things get slightly less derivative, with the introduction of a new Big Bad and increasing focus on Richard's struggles as a leader. By the fourth book the plot is still pretty standard but at least going under its own power.Around the fifth book, Goodkind began introducing Objectivist themes and aesops inspired by Ayn Rand in the Sword of Truth. Many people who liked his early works found this a turning point in the series, but he also gained many new fans and gave the plot a depth it'd lacked before. Things went overboard in the eighth book, Naked Empire, which contains the infamous evil pacifist plot. The last three books, collectively called the Chainfire Trilogy, brought back plenty of the early themes and events of the series, and Confessor, the last book, was specifically one huge throw-back to Wizard's First Rule.Goodkind has stated a distaste for cliffhangers and other ways of forcing people to buy future books, which is why, aside from the Chainfire trilogy, the books have mostly self-contained plots; some new danger is introduced, the characters wonder about its meaning, and it is defeated. However, all of these book-plots are tied by the Myth Arc of either the Imperial Order or the Keeper of the Underworld.There's also a spin-off book, The Law of Nines, which follows a completely different cast of characters and shifts genres from High Fantasy to a contemporary thriller with fantasy elements. It takes place in the magic-free world created at the end of "Confessor", the inhabitants of which developed technology to replace the magic they had lost. The story follows the exploits of Alex Rahl, a distant descendant of Richard's half-sister Jennsen, whose life is changed forever when he meets a woman named Jax who claims to be from a parallel universe where magic still works.Now has a character sheet.
This series provides examples of:
Absence of Evidence: In Chainfire, after the eponymous spell has made everyone forget that Kahlan ever existed, Richard tries to use this to convince everyone else that she has. He points to where he says he, Kahlan, and Cara had been walking, and notes that there were no footprints between his and Cara's, which were several feet apart. He tells his companions that this means someone erased Kahlan's footprints. Nobody believes him since, as mentioned, everyone is sure that she never existed in the first place.
Abusive Parents: Three examples: Darken Rahl, Oba's mother, and Nicci's mother.
Accidental Athlete: Richard gets conscripted into a Ja'La team after he slaughters his way through a considerable number of soldiers in an almost-successful attempt to free himself.
Aerith and Bob: Names such as Richard, Warren and Nicci are present alongside Kahlan, Zeddicus and Jagang. Both normal and unusual names can be found in almost equal measure anywhere in the world, among heroes, muggles and antagonists.
Anti-Magic: The "pristinely ungifted," who are not only immune to magic, but can't perceive it, and who always pass this trait onto their children. At one point, Jagang has his forces kidnap a bunch of them and forces them to breed with his men just to spread this trait to the next generation.
Anti-Magical Faction: The Blood of the Fold, and the Imperial Order-at least in theory. Both factions are more than willing to use magic and mages to further their goals despite this anti-magic view.
Later in the series, Princess Violet and Rachel learn and use this kind of magic, in Phantom and Confessor respectively.
Artistic License – Economics: The Straw Character communist bureaucracy that stifles the people of the Imperial Order, as depicted in detail in Faith of the Fallen, is so ridiculous that it should by all rights have caused the Empire to die out before the protagonist even became aware of its existence. However, Nicci visits her home town (which was an early place under control of the Imperial Order) and finds nothing but abandoned ruins. It is also explicitly stated that almost all the Old World was conquered within Richard's lifetime, and entirely thanks to Jagang, who is really the only thing holding it all together.
Also, the Palace of the Prophets has a seemingly endless supply of gold, which it encourages its young wizards to spend willy-nilly on the women of the nearby town, and which it freely hands out to any woman who bears a child as a result. This seems to have little to no effect on the value of the gold; when Verna interrogates one local resident and gives him a gold piece for his trouble, it's said that this is likely more than he'd see in a year.
Ascended Extra: Nicci plays a fairly minor role in Stone of Tears, but becomes a major character in Faith of the Fallen and remains one during the rest of the series.
Attempted Rape: Happens a lot of times to Kahlan, but no one ever succeeds, though in Faith of the Fallen Nicci, desiring vengeance on Richard and Kahlan, links herself to Kahlan through a maternity spell, then allows a thug to brutalize her (Nicci), forcing Kahlan to feel every sensation.
Audible Sharpness: Whenever the Sword of Truth is drawn, the air rings with the sound of steel.
Author Appeal: The first book's very long S&M sequence, with perfunctory torture scenes in every following installment. Plus all the political stuff impugning socialism. And the social stuff denouncing religion. Also, lots of almost-rape — as in, Kahlan almost gets raped in every book. (Apparently, people have a hard time remembering that messing with a Confessor is a bad idea.) Also, some women will unbutton their shirts at the drop of a hat.
Author Tract: The series is often accused by detractors of being nothing more than Objectivist propaganda, particularly the later books. These themes were always slightly present, but really begin to crop up later in the series: Faith of the Fallen is two-fifths desperate battles and angst, and three-fifths clangingly obvious pro-Ayn Randsoapboxing on how individuals working for themselves in a free market works far better than your broken, inevitably corrupt socialism. Confessor also stumps for atheism, in a manner which contradicts earlier books.
Automaton Horses: Almost completely averted. Characters travelling any great distance will have two or three horses along to avoid wearing any one out too much. There are very loving descriptions of various mouth bits and other gear, along with their pros and cons as they relate to handling a horse. Richard, in particular, is shown many times rubbing down a horse and cleaning hooves of debris as part of his setting camp routine. It's even mentioned that a horse wearing an invasive bit shouldn't be allowed to graze freely, as it can't chew properly and could develop colic, which is a fact that most authors would never think to include unless they were just straight up showing off.
Back for the Finale: The Chainfire trilogy sees the return of just about every significant character in the series at one point or another, including those who were Put on a Bus (Gratch), those who just hadn't shown up in a few books (The Mud People), and those whom the author had apparently simply forgotten about in the meantime (Ulic and Egan).
Badass: Chase, Rachel(see below), Nicci, Richard/Kahlan/Zedd when they get dangerous, etc. Jagang terrifying the Sisters of the Dark into wetting themselves by his presence alone while calmly eating dinner definitely also counts.
Warren. By all appearances, he is a class A nerd. But then Faith of the Fallen reminds us he's also a natural born wizard who can throw Wizard's Fire around with the best of 'em.
Nicci also counts.
Surprisingly, Jagang shows serious genre savvy, though it would be more accurate to call him a bookworm badass.
Badass Normal: Chase, consistently described as wearing a small armory (he had to actually dress down in order to infiltrate an enemy camp), knowing how to use every weapon he has to great effect, and is probably the deadliest non-magical person in the whole series.
Bavarian Fire Drill: In Phantom, Rachel manages to bluff her way past many people while escaping from captivity.
Be a Whore to Get Your Man: Attempted by Nadine in the backstory, which failed miserably. She and Richard had had something of a relationship, and she wanted him to step it up to the next level... and decided the best way to do that was to let Richard catch her schtupping his brother and invite him to join in. Three guesses how well thatingenious plot turned out.
Because Destiny Says So: Subverted, in that Richard hates prophecy and goes his own way. About half the time he succeeds, half the time, not so much. But then someone always rationalizes it as prophecy being misinterpreted and Richard actually doing what the prophecy said in the first place.
It may not be rationalization. A repeated theme is that only a Prophet has ANY chance whatsoever of correctly interpreting a Prophecy, and even then is extremely unlikely to be able to get the real meaning across to anyone other than another Prophet. A Prophet can, however, attempt to manipulate events...
Bed Trick: Kahlan and Richard, near the end of Temple of the Winds (it's arranged by a third party).
Bequeathed Power: Each Sister of Light, if she fails to convince a person with the gift to come train with them, will kill herself and pass her life force to another so that when the second one (or third one) attempts, she has stronger Mind Control powers to add to her arguments.
Berserk Button: Kahlan and Richard each go berserk if someone tries to harm the other.
Beware the Nice Ones: Used in a twisted fashion with the Mord-Sith. It's explained that they deliberately seek out the kindest, gentlest, most loving little girls to become Mord-Sith, and breaking them makes for a more cruel, sadistic torturer.
Big Bad: Darken Rahl is killed in the first book, appears as a ghost in the second book, is permanently replaced as the Big Bad by someone completely different in the third, and gets his last, final, and most devastating punishment in the fourth. Through the rest of the series, Emperor Jagang takes this role.
Bigger Bad: The ultimate Big Bad of the Sword of Truth universe is the Keeper of the Underworld, Darken Rahl's master and the cause of many of the events of the series behind closed doors.
Break His Heart to Save Him: This is how Kahlan persuades Richard to go away with the Sisters of the Light in Stone of Tears. Later, when Richard has to do the same thing to his pet gar Gratch, he realizes what Kahlan was actually doing.
Naked Empire spends a good chunk of time preaching that you have to work for things, and that knowledge doesn't just come to you when you need it. In the last pages of the book, Richard's dying of poison and the knowledge of how to make the antidote basically just shows up in his head. Another particularly obvious one is the repeated exhortation to live your own life and think for yourself - but if you don't think Richard is right you're wrong, probably evil, and are going to die.
Brought Down to Normal: Richard in the last few books of the series... not that he ever really did much with his magic in the first place.
Bullet Time: This occurs in the books as well as the series, whenever Kahlan uses her power and in many of Richard's fights, accompanied by the recurring phrases "Time was hers" and "Bringer of death" respectively.
Bury Your Gays: Raina, though, to be fair, a 50% mortality rate of the series' homosexuals is not remarkably high compared to the overall mortality rate. Her lover survives the series, is one of Richard's advisors (as she knows some High D'Haran), and in the last book is shown paired up with another Mord-Sith. However, this "pairing" is mostly implied.
The Caligula: Princess Violet, originally a Royal Brat in Wizard's First Rule, returns in Phantom as one of these, having become Queen. Darken Rahl also has some aspects of this, but it's not his defining characteristic. Emperor Jagang, however, is indeed a tyrant and Evil Overlord, but he's not crazy.
Almost the whole of the last three books is a callback to the first book, mostly by putting characters in similar situations to the first book, but showing how they handle things differently now that they've changed.
The scene where Richard goes to the underworld has the exact same dialogue as the one in the first book with Darken Rahl.
Card-Carrying Villain: Emperor Jagang seems to think Richard is this, giving, "Because he's evil!" as the reason he believes Richard is opposing him.
By Jagang's standards, Richard is evil, because Richard's ideas are not only opposed to Jagang's, but inimical to them. Richard appears to understand this (but not people who simply don't agree with him). Jagang does not.
Character Filibuster: Especially towards the end of the series, characters' speeches often go on for pages at a time; in one case, such an oration lasts for two whole chapters. Many of these are also Author Filibusters.
Chekhov's Boomerang: The Boxes of Orden, after having been mostly ignored since the second book, become very important again in the series finale.
Chekhov's Gunman: The night wisps mentioned in the first book, and casually in a few others turn out to actually be important.
Chess Motifs: Show up in The Omen Machine, with the titular contraption's prophecies "Queen takes pawn," and "Pawn takes queen." Most of the main characters don't recognize them at first, as in this 'verse, Chess is an obscure game played only in the far reaches of the empire.
Chosen One: Richard is the first person in three thousand years to be a true Seeker of Truth or a War Wizard, in addition to being an integral figure in multiple prophecies. The universe more or less revolves around his actions.
Clock Queen: Kahlan's study of her guards' schedules allows her to cause no end of frustration to her captors.
Combat Pragmatist: As the series goes on, Richard uses this more and more as his modus operandi. Twice in the last book alone he cut off an Imperial Order commander and Emperor Jagang himself in mid-sentence with decapitation and magic heart attack, respectively.
Crapsack World: The collectivist dystopia is a somewhat exaggerated version of this, but in the rest of the world heroes and muggles still routinely suffer horrible fates.
Crazy Cultural Comparison: The Mud People greet each other by punching to demonstrate strength. Though there are cultural allowances to accomodate for things like age (the elders, for example, are given a more ceremonial smack rather than the rattle-your-teeth-and-knock-you-to-the-ground punches younger warriors might give each other).
Dangerously Genre Savvy: Nicci. She intentionally invokes or defies several tropes, such as when she kidnapped Richard by exploiting his love for Kahlan, or when she warned Jagang against Names to Run Away From Really Fast and advised him to take the title "Jagang the Just." She also intentionally studies Richard's previous captors so she can avoid their mistakes.
Deadpan Snarker: Though completely humorless, Nicci has a tendency to make snarky remarks of black humor. Zedd does not find these very amusing at all. Zedd and Nathan get into the more usual type, and apparently Richard used to be like this, but we never see it in the series.
Deal with the Devil: If you aren't born with Subtractive Magic, (like Richard) you can get it for the low, low price of your soul and eternal damnation!
Deus ex Machina: Played painfully straight: Richard Rahl's Gift (basically magic) qualifies. At the end of a book, expect him to know how to perfectly use it to get out of the dire situation of the week, while at the beginning of the next book he's so clueless about how to use it that the events of the last book might as well have not happened.
Lampshaded somewhat at the end of The Pillars of Creation when one character asks Richard why he even needs the Sword of Truth after seeing his magic shred an entire platoon. Richard explains that his gift seems to work out of anger and need, whereas the Sword works all the time.
Most notable in the eighth book, where Richard is dying from being poisoned, with the only antidote down the drain and the only person who can make the antidote dead. He then uses his Gift to reverse engineer the ingredients (down to the amount needed of each) of the antidote at the very last minute.
Also notable at the end of the fifth book, when Richard realizes how to stop the bells, using a leap of logic that is nothing short of mind-boggling.
Or the second book where Richard, without being aware he's doing anything of the sort, uses magical lightning to strike down all the enemy commanders and then any soldiers who don't surrender.
Devil but No God: The Keeper of the Underworld is present in several books, usually at the climax where it turns out he's inches from crossing over into the world and killing everything. Additionally, he seems to regularly talk with the Sisters of the Dark to make deals with them. The Creator, however, doesn't seem to do anything at all.
Disproportionate Retribution: The series sees a man being tortured by a Mord-Sith after he assassinates a mage in the opposing army (after stabbing a little girl; the girl survives, the mage doesn't). Surprisingly, the torturers are the heroes. After the man has spilled all his information, the mage's lover orders him to be tortured to death as slowly as possible, in retaliation for being so cocky when he was captured.
In the first book, the staff taking care of the tomb of Darken Rahl's father were executed if a single petal fell off the flowers there or a single torch went out in Rahl's presence. And he considered himself merciful for allowing them a quick death in such cases.
In one book, Kahlan looks through old records of trials, one of which includes an entry about a wizard who had been executed for being an incurable alcoholic. Her initial response is to think it's an example of this trope, but when she thinks about it she realizes that given the raw destructive power of wizards it just wouldn't be safe to let the guy live.
Nicci intentionally uses this, at one point going as far as to pull her dress down to her waist during Chainfire, thereby distracting everyone from looking at her face and possibly recognizing her. One Mord-sith does this in the seventh or eighth book, leading to some quite amusing scenes when the normally leather-clad torturer marches back into camp in a revealing pink dress.
Kahlan uses this to her advantage as a battle tactic against the Imperial Order in Stone of Tears by fighting (almost) completely naked.
Downer Ending: Soul of the Fire is singularly the most depressing book of the series, and ends with Kahlan having been beaten to death (and resuscitated by Richard) and losing their child; nearly every other sympathetic character dead; and Richard having been handed the most brutal defeat yet in the series as the Anders vote against him, and are conquered handily by the Order.
Dress Code: The length of hair in the Midlands signifies a woman's rank: longest hair, highest rank. This is magically enforced for Confessors, who physically cannot cut their own hair. Kahlan, as the Mother Confessor, has the longest hair in the Midlands. In one book, a character whose husband gains a political position is shown with hair extensions to signify the rank until she grows it out herself.
The Dulcinea Effect: Richard first meets Kahlan when he spots her being pursued by four men who appear to mean her harm in the woods.
Dystopian Edict: In the first book, Darken Rahl outlaws the use of fire in the lands he holds and conquers, because he was scarred by Wizard's Fire as a child.
Earn Your Happy Ending: In Wizard's First Rule. After that, it's more of, "earn your right to suffer even worse horrors in the next book."
Earth All Along: An interesting example. Their world isn't our world, however it was directly responsible for the creation of it.
Easily Conquered World: Bandakar, whose strawman pacifists put up as little of a fight as you'd expect them to. Also Anderith, which is guarded by a circle of magic bells that can be defeated by plugging wax into your ears; their army is literally entirely for show.
Easy Evangelism: Although one character had been gradually leaning toward Richard, just seeing his statue and the inscription is enough to turn her all the way to his side.
Easy Logistics: The Imperial Order's army is so ridiculously huge, keeping it supplied should be much harder than it is. Then again, they've got the vast majority of the world supplying them, and they're mentioned as raiding everywhere they go for supplies.
The Empire: In the first book, D'Hara is The Empire. In the second book, the existence of another, much larger, empire is hinted at, and in the third book, defeating it becomes a Myth Arc of sorts that holds the rest of the series together.
The End of the World as We Know It: Always threatened, but (almost) never happens. Richard actually uses the phrase "the end of the world as we know it" when discussing Chainfire.
Either/Or Prophecy: Mostly played straight, but subverted in the fourth book with a "bound fork" prophecy in which Richard dies in both possible outcomes. He "dies" by entering the Temple of the Winds, which exists in both the world of the living and the world of the dead.
Emotionless Girl: Nicci. Confessors also use this idea as a public image, adopting their "Confessor's Face."
Inverted: the only princess to play a prominent role in the series, Violet, is a villain-in-training.
Kahlan is the daughter of a king, although her other title renders her princesshood somewhat irrelevant.
Evil Overlord: In the first book, Darken Rahl. Starting with the third book, Emperor Jagang. Pillars of Creation reveals that the Imperial Order (including Jagang himself) believe this of Richard.
Evil Will Fail: Jagang's empire is completely oppressive to individuality and self-interest. As a result, when a high ranking member falls in love and is confronted with the dissonance of what he feels and what he believes, he commits suicide.
Samuel bears more than a passing resemblance to Gollum.
There are also the various similarities between Goodkind's world and that of The Wheel of Time. The most direct parallels appear in Stone of Tears (the title of which is in itself suspicious) and Blood of the Fold. The Sisters of the Light are similar to the Aes Sedai in Robert Jordan's work (complete with evil members). The Keeper of the Underworld and the Dark One are both Satan figures that are trying to break the magical barriers keeping them out of the normal world. They both have human followers, called "banelings" and "darkfriends", respectively, and there are organizations (the Blood of the Fold, the Children of the light) dedicated to hunting them that only manage to spread paranoia and kill innocent people.
Fairy Companion: In the first book, Kahlan has a companion by the name of Shar, who is a night wisp. Shar helped Kahlan keep her sanity when she traveled through the boundary, but as a result of the boundary, as well as Darken Rahl's influence and power, she and her kind are dying.
Flaying Alive: Many characters suffer this or are threatened with it. The Palace of the Prophets graduate Neville Ranson is forced to inflict it on his lifelong friend as part of his forcible initiation into the service of the Keeper.
Forgot About His Powers: Wizards have the ability to transform a man into a wolf, or presumably another animal, as evidenced by Brophy. This power is never used after the first book, even though it's not that far-fetched to imagine that it would be quite useful in a number of scenarios.
Because it's explicitly said to be a 1-way change if the user only has additive magic. Though in theory, Richard could do it. Though full-physical manipulation requires both sides of the power, which was one of the reasons the older Wizards sealed subtractive magic away. Due to all the monstrosities created during the previous war by the unrestricted full use of magic.
Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Two examples-when Du Chaillu says she's going to abort her pregnancy (which was due to rape) Richard asks her not to, saying a child is not to blame for what it's father did (he was conceived this way himself). Du Chaillu concedes, and because they're married according to her people's custom, later considers the child to be also "his." Later Kahlan, having gotten pregnant by Richard, considers having an abortion due to having been told by a semi-reliable source that the child would be male, and the last time male Confessors were allowed to live past infancy they turned out to be Always Chaotic Evil; since then male Confessor children have always been killed at birth. She eventually decides against it...two minutes before she's beaten very nearly to death, which causes one from trauma anyway.
Good Is Dumb: Averted with Nicci. After joining the good guys, she retains her Subtractive Magic and uses it to great effect on several occasions.
Go Ye Heroes, Go and Die: Intentionally used by Zedd to demoralize a mob that wanted to burn him for witchcraft, by getting them to work themselves into believing a "warlock" is a nigh-unstoppable Big Bad and complimenting them for being willing to fight such a powerful foe.
Great Offscreen War: The Great Wizard War that happened 3000 years ago, in which many of the artifacts and MacGuffins that exist in the present, including the eponymous Sword of Truth, were created by the war-wizards of the time. Many of the plots of the entire series owe themselves to the direct events of that war.
Happiness in Slavery: Mord-Sith to any Lord Rahl, due to brutal brainwashing from a young age, which includes being forced to kill their fathers. They still stick around even after Richard freed them (deciding that someone who would do that is worth following), and some were happier than most after he gave them more... freedom. Also, those touched by a Confessor-they literally have no desire except to serve them, for the rest of their lives.
Here There Were Dragons: Almost literally invoked. The later books in the series heavily imply that the world will soon be without magic entirely, which means the end of magical creatures. Richard first realizes how bad this is when he finds the skeleton of a dragon, and wonders if it was the last of them. Turns out, it wasn't.
Heroic BSOD: Richard suffers an especially harsh one after Soul of the Fire. His attempts to sway the people of Anderith to his side fail miserably as they vote to remain neutral in the war between D'Hara and the Imperial Order, Kahlan is ruthlessly beaten and loses the baby they had just conceived, and the Imperial Order draws first blood after they move into Anderith and he can't do a thing to stop them, since they had voted for neutrality after he had told them that he wouldn't waste his men's lives fighting to save people who wouldn't contribute to the effort. He destroys Anderith's Forgotten Superweapon, but the Imperial Order still has a strong foothold in the Midlands and can strike out at will. Personally, militarily, and politically defeated, he takes Kahlan and Cara with him to a remote mountain range in Westland with every intention of sitting out the rest of the war in peace and to hell with everyone else. In part, it's because he wants his people to learn to fight tyranny because they want to rather than because he orders them to, but mostly it's because he's just that sick and tired of the whole mess. If it weren't for Nicci tracking him down and kidnapping him, he would have been able to hide for years without being found.
Heroic Sacrifice: Wizards Life Fire can be this, if used to protect another person. In this first book, Kahlan's former wizard does this to ensure that Darken Rahl cannot use magic to learn who has made off with a Box of Orden. Zed tastes the ashes left on the wall and notes that they are sweet, the sign that it was a Heroic Sacrifice. This is the first indication they have that he was acting on some greater plan, rather than just abandoning Kahlan for the money and power of his new post.
I Just Want to Be Normal: Richard spends the first couple of books saying he's just a woods guide, before he accepts his role as Lord Rahl.
I'm a Humanitarian: The Mud People ritually consume the flesh of their fallen enemies, in an aversion of the "cannibals are always villains" aspect of the trope.
Instant Expert: Richard shows himself to be a master carver on his first attempt, explained as his magical powers using it as an outlet when he's forcibly deprived of his sword and not fighting anyone for months on end.
The Lancer: Kahlan functions as Richard's second-in-command and sometimes equal in addition to his love interest. When she isn't available, her role is filled by Nicci. Lesser lancers include General Reibisch, Benjamin Meiffert, and Chase.
Let's Get Dangerous: Richard Rahl signifies himself getting dangerous with the phrase, "bringer of death." Similarly, when Nicci is going to get dangerous, she slips into the persona of "Death's Mistress."
Line in the Sand: Kahlan offers her soldiers the opportunity to opt out before their seemingly suicidal attack on the Imperial Order. After they leave, she orders the remaining soldiers to go after them and kill them, on the (eventually proven correct) assumption that they planned to sell the others out to the Imperial Order.
The Little Black Dress: The only thing that Nicci ever wears, except in the last couple books, when one of the Mord-Sith keeps putting her in a frilly pink nightgown; even the narration thinks this is funny, especially when Nicci proceeds to make pronouncements of doom while still wearing it.
Little Miss Badass: Rachel in the later books; not surprising, since she was adopted by Chase in the first book, and he's been teaching her everything he knows.
Living Lie Detector: The Confessors' magic was created for this purpose, although it has other uses, such as self defense.
Lotus-Eater Machine: The boundary separating the New World from the Old World works like this, tempting those attempting to travel through it with their hearts' desire. It also appears to keep people alive when it traps them, since when Richard brings down the boundary, dozens of people who've been stuck there for years are finally freed.
One thing that is kept consistent is that all magic has some kind of balancing factor or opposite. Additive magic has subtractive magic. The Sword of Truth runs on both anger and love. The Rahl bloodline's enchantment that ensures there's always a Gifted heir results in the Anti-Magic pristinely un-gifted. It comes back as a clue in The Omen Machine: Richard doubts the validity of the machine's prophecies partly because they're all uniformly doom and gloom, with no positive prophecies.
Richard qualifies in later books; though he never quite gets a handle on just how to use his magic, he's still able to use it to devastating effect, and he's an almost unbeatable swordsman, partially thanks to magic.
D'Hara tries to avert this with the Lord Rahl. He's the magic against magic, they're the steel against steel. Some Lords Rahl don't like rules. Throughout the series, Richard is repeatedly reminded by his men something along the lines of, "Please, Lord Rahl, try to remember: We do the sword fighting, you do the magic."
Mord-Sith. They're anti-magic knights. With a magic torture stick.
A Confessor in the Con Dar is this. And creepy as all getup.
Nathan Rahl wears a sword through much of the series. Many of his friends ask him why he needs a sword when he's a hilariously-powerful wizard. Then the Pristinely Ungifted show up. The Pristinely Ungifted aren't even immune to magic, they have no connection to it whatsoever. To them, magic might as well not exist except when it does something like hold someone off the ground (where they see the person in the air even if they don't understand) and some poorly-defined subset of Subtractive Magic, which they have some connection to because they're mortal.
Merlin and Nimue: Richard's relationship with Sister Verna, and the other Sisters of Light.
Million Mook March: The Imperial Order. They gather over a million troops for an invasion, and later the number swells with reinforcements to 2-3 million. By comparison, before Richard starts trying to consolidate the Midlands' forces, the largest assembled armies were in the 100-200,000 range, and the D'Haran led resistance is hopelessly outnumbered for the duration of the series.
Darken Rahl has the ability to project horrific visions into others' minds, which he does to Kahlan in Stone of Tears. However, the undisputed king of Mind Rape in the series is the Dreamwalker Emperor Jagang.
Shota does this to Richard in Phantom, planting thoroughly lucid visions of Imperial Order atrocities in his mind.
Actually, Shota makes Richard experience his own subconscious thoughts after he just heard a very graphic first hand account of what happens in a city occupied by the Imperial Order.
Mind Your Step: The stairs of the house Richard moves into with Nicci in Faith Of The Fallen are in pretty sorry condition, so Richard talks some of the local thugs, who had been threatening him, into helping him fix them, telling them otherwise they wouldn't amount to anything. Two of them oblige, while the third, well, isn't swayed so easily.
Mommy Issues: Nicci's relationship with her mother is a female example. Her unnamed mother's dogma being instilled in her at an early age is revealed to be the root of her near-insanity, and is probably responsible for more of her anguish than anyone else in the world.
Moral Dissonance: The tactically sound but morally questionable strategies employed by Richard's armies on his instructions.
More Than Mind Control: Jagang's brutal Mind Rape of the Sisters of the Light eventually makes them so terrified of his wrath that they do everything possible to help the Imperial Order, even when he isn't controlling them.
My Girl Is a Slut: Dalton Campbell is the last one to realize his wife's infidelity, and he had prided himself on their fidelity, much to his dismay.
My Girl Is Not a Slut: Despite having been with only Richard once (and only a couple people knew) and was going to marry him, several people assume this about Kahlan in The Temple of The Wind.
New Powers as the Plot Demands: Richard doesn't actually know anything about magic, but the powers he eventually develops work instinctively; he does impossible feats of magic without knowing the slightest thing about how he's doing it. Frequently used as an Ass Pull.
Neuro-Vault: Wizard's First Rule revolves around Darken Rahl's attempts to extract the contents of the Book of Counted Shadows from Richard's mind.
Repeatedly, as a setup for the next book. Due to the way book 7 is written, in book 8 you don't even know why they broke it, just that it happened at the same time as the last book's events.
In Chainfire, Nicci becomes very worried that she is to blame for Richard's "delusions", something that causes her a great deal of guilt. She also blames herself for using Subtractive magic to save his life, effectively giving the Blood Beast Richard's "scent".
While a plague is going through the Midlands, Richard goes to see Kahlan, and is told she isn't feeling well. Naturally he immediately fears the worst, only to be told by her maid that it's just "that time of the month" and she normally wouldn't have mentioned it except to assuage Richard's fears.
Richard is developing a rash on his neck, so Cara goes to a healer to get a salve. She gives it to Richard, and he starts applying it while she lists off the ingredients, only to get squicked out when she gets to "...and some of my moon flow blood."
Kahlan's first time with Richard (whom she thinks is Drefan) is during her period, and attempting to arouse him for a second round she winds up tasting the blood.
Not So Different: There's the fact that the Confessors, a faction of "good" women, have the same infanticidal tendencies as the House of Rahl, the leaders of the evil empire.
Or how Emperor Jagang does all his horrible actions in the name of god while Richard does all of his horrible actions in the name of "Moral Clarity".
Obfuscating Stupidity: Nathan Rahl acts like an idiotic manchild most of the time, but drops the act as soon as things get serious. Zedd likes to play up to people's expectations that he's a silly old coot, only to surprise them at the best of moments.
Obstructionist Pacifist: the beliefs of the culture that produced evil pacifists that are absurd to the point where they won't fight back or even try to get out of the way when people with weapons are nearby and trying to kill each other. Indeed, they are Too Dumb to Live.
Darken Rahl has a lot of kids, most of them he doesn't even know about. For their sake, they had better either inherit Rahl's magical powers, or make sure that he never finds them. Old Darken is admittedly obsessed with finding his one true "Gifted" heir, and doesn't appreciate ungifted offspring running around.
Though Darken Rahl takes this to extremes, it's actually a long-standing tradition in the House of Rahl that goes back thousands of years. "Pristinely Ungifted" offspring of the House of Rahl are historically euthanized at birth, because of the inherent Anti-Magic quality they possess, and the fact that any children they have will also be Pristinely Ungifted, meaning that they could potentially wipe out magic entirely. Of course, Darken has forgotten about the reason for this tradition and just settled for getting rid of any accidental offspring that don't fit his criteria as his true heir.
Also of note are female Confessors. Male Confessors are much, much stronger than female ones to the point where it becomes impossible to control them; according to the backstory, every one was a Complete Monster, using their powers to get whatever they wanted, and sparking off decades of war before they were wiped out. So, all female Confessors are forced to have their mate kill any of their male children immediately at birth, while the Confessor herself tends to be overcome with grief for some time afterward.
Omniscient Morality License: Cited by certain characters as the reason they should be allowed to guide the main character's life. Subverted most of the time in that they're repeatedly called out on it, and probably caused a lot of the series' conflicts and strife by doing so. Only Nathan gets away with it on occasion, mostly because he's an actual prophet and has the prophecies, rather than interpreting them second hand.
Power Nullifier: The Rada'han, whatever the hell Six and Violet were doing in Phantom.
Power Trio: In Wizard's First Rule, it's Richard, Kahlan, and Zedd, the last Seeker, Confessor, and First Wizard, respectively. In Temple of the Winds, it's Richard, Kahlan, and Cara. In Chainfire, it's Richard, Cara, and Nicci.
Psychic Powers: Dreamwalkers. The D'Haran bond to the Lord Rahl is designed to block this sort of thing.
Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Kahlan talks like this when she gets angry. Most notably in Wizard's First Rule when Michael grabbed her in the wrong place.
Rape as Drama: The armies of the Imperial Order rape the women of every city they conquer (but not the cities that join willingly). Many of the female characters and Richard have either had such an experience or have come close.
Really Gets Around: Nicci, having had "relations" with men in circumstances that vary to an insane degree, from rape, to ritual sex with a namble, to being handed to random men as "punishment", to willingly/semi-willingly staying as Jagang's consort, to one case that could almost be called prostitution, to one scenario where she slept with a man she actually disliked just to get revenge on Richard and Kahlan.
Really 700 Years Old: The Palace of the Prophets has a spell on it that slows down aging for anyone who lives in it. As a result, several members of the supporting cast are hundreds of years older than they look. One, Nathan, turns out to be one of Richard's distant ancestors.
Redemption Equals Death: Denna actually sort of goes through this twice. The first time, she lets Richard kill her so he can be free, having fallen in love with him. The second time, her spirit takes on Richard's mark of the Keeper, sacrificing herself to save him. Luckily for her, though, the Heroic Sacrifice disgusts the Keeper so much that he tosses her back to be with the Good Spirits.
Resigned to the Call: Richard really, really didn't want to be the only hope of the New World and the leader of D'Hara. He'd much rather have just gone home after defeating Darken Rahl and lived out his life with Kahlan. But he's The Chosen One, and he eventually accepts that he pretty much has to work all this shit out himself.
Retcon: The Book of Counted Shadows is the key to unlocking the magic of Orden in the first book (proved by its role in awakening Richard's Gift). By the time the magic of Orden returns at the end of the series, it isn't.
Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: A variant; the Sword of Truth protects Richard from the initial effects of the Chainfire spell. Anyone else who touches it afterward can shake off the lingering effects (i.e., they can acknowledge Kahlan's existence and see her), but they don't regain their memories of her.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: At the end of Wizard's First Rule, Kahlan goes after Darken Rahl, resolving to do everything she can to kill him even if she dies herself.
The way she does it is, according to Zed, something she shouldn't even know is possible, never mind being able to do it. She enters a state known as the Con Dar or Blood Rage. While in this state she is The Unfettered, and has unlimited access to her Confessor powers.
Saving The World With Art: The sixth book Faith of the Fallen, puts Richard in the heart of the Imperial Order, powerless to free the people from the enemy government that preaches that people are inherently corrupt and shameful and that only through the Order's "benevolent" guidance can they be redeemed. After being forced to create a hideous sculpture idealizing this, Richard decides to instead create a sculpture showing the sanctity and beauty in the human potential, which he names Life. This sculpture has such a profound impact on the populace that it inspires a rebellion against the government and its teachings, instigating a civil war within the Capitol of the enemy.
Schrödinger's Gun: Minor elements in one book will turn out to be crucial to the plot of the next, with practically no foreshadowing; this can sometimes seem much more like an Ass Pull than anything that was planned in advance.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Subverted in that a character who has knowledge of prophecy explains how this might occur and how to avoid it.
Selfless Wish: Inverted. Richard, when faced with a Sadistic Choice, chooses the selfish wish... knowing the selfless one will be granted in any case.
Self-Made Orphan: Richard kills his father, Darken Rahl. Similarly, his half brother Oba Rahl kills his mother with a shovel. In both these cases, however, the injured parties were evil, abusive douchebags and clearly deserved it, and in the former case, neither even knew they were related until the deed was done.
In Stone of Tears, Richard takes off his shirt (while holding his sword) before laying waste to 30 blade masters for "fluidity." Du Chaillu didn't really seem to mind he'd killed all five of her husbands.
In Faith of the Fallen, however, he chides three local youths for not wearing shirts, since it makes them seem like thugs, and advises them to instead put proper clothes on and learn how to fix a staircase.
The Stoic: Nicci . . . just Nicci. Undoubtedly the most stoic character in the entire series. After going through an insane life of hardship and self-loathing, she eventually becomes so hardened that she is raped and doesn't even bother to acknowledge the person doing it.
Straw Character: If a person isn't an Objectivist in the later books, they are either too cowardly to take control of their own lives, or are actively trying to enforce Communism and religion on the free people of the world. The latter are invariably killed, while the former are usually given a chance to see the error of their ways.
Superpowerful Genetics: The "gift" that enables one to use magic is hereditary, but eons of wizards killing each other have led to it becoming rarer and rarer; by this point, most children of lower-powered wizards will not be wizards themselves. The powers of a Confessor and the Anti-Magic properties of the "pristinely ungifted", however, are guaranteed to be passed on to their children.
Take That: The evil politicians who are the primary villains in the fifth book are supposedly modeled on Bill and Hillary Clinton, with whom they share a set of initials. They get an STD and die.
Wizard's life fire, where a wizard who knows he's doomed throws literally everything he has into Wizard's Fire; one demonstration of it from a Wizard of the Second Order (considerably less powerful than Zedd) is enough to vaporize people instantly.
When Zedd is captured by the Imperial Order and forced to identify magic items, he tries to use a music box with a Sunset Spell on it in this fashion. Fortunately for him, he gets rescued in between triggering it and the explosion itself, which conveniently helps cover said escape.
Tautological Templar: Discussed in the first book, when Zedd describes Darken Rahl's mindset as being like this. Later, however, in Naked Empire, the author argues, completely seriously, that it's not only morally permissible, but morally necessary, to kill anyone who stands in the way of protecting your own life, regardless of what other circumstances may apply.
The Power of Love: Double Subversion. The power of a Confessor is the power to turn anyone into a mindless slave by taking the small spark of love within them and enhancing it until their mind is filled with nothing but love. At the end of the first book, Richard, because he already loves Kahlan with his entire being, is able to withstand her power without losing his mind.
The entire belief system of the culture that produced the evil pacifists is so absurd that only a Straw Character could accept it. And, indeed, many of them do get killed, because they won't fight back or even try to get out of the way when people with weapons are nearby and trying to kill each other.
Several Sisters of the Light show this in Stone of Tears and Blood of the Fold. Taken to the full extent with Pasha Maes.
Took a Level in Badass: Richard learning the Dance With Death half way through Stone of Tears turns him from a woods guide who just happens to have a magic sword into a nearly unbeatable swordsman.
Training the Peaceful Villagers: Richard to the Bandakarans that join him in Naked Empire. It's actually surprising just how well they take to violence, considering they're taught from birth that any and all violence, even in self-defense, is wrong.
Unstoppable Rage: The Con Dar, which Kahlan goes into when she thinks Richard's been killed. Also, Richard goes into one whenever someone threatens Kahlan.
Unusual Euphemism: "Bags", commonly uttered by Zedd. It's not clear what it's a euphemism for, but he's rebuked for saying it in front of children.
Unwitting Pawn: Pasha Maes, manipulated by Ulicia. Later, in the Chainfire trilogy, Ulicia is the unwitting pawn of Jagang.
Upgrade Artifact: In the second book, Richard is attacked by a group of expert swordsmen who are good enough that the "cut through anything" power of the Sword of Truth isn't going to be enough to save him. He then figures out a way to use the Sword of Truth to access the combined swordsmanship skills of all its former wielders, turning him into a master swordsman.
So, you've used a spell to make the Mother Confessor lose her memory, and be the next best thing to invisible. She has no idea who you are, so you can give her any impression of who and what she's supposed to be you want. Do you A. pretend to be her friend, so as to earn her trust and make things easier for yourself, or B. treat her like shit, beat her, berate her, and threaten her, and thereby inspire her to work actively against you? If you picked A, you're smarter than the Sisters of the Dark.
In The Third Kingdom, newly resurrected Emperor Saluchan advises Hannis Arc to put down the villain ball. Arc has Richard captive, and plans to drag him around as he conquers the D'Haran Empire as a protracted revenge for the previous Rahl rulers killing his family. Saluchan points out that as long as Richard is still alive, he'll be planning and working to stop and kill Arc — and therefore a threat that Arc would be better off simply killing now.
Villainesses Want Heroes: Denna, Nicci, most of the Sisters of the Dark... every evil female character at least attempts to throw themselves at Richard.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Richard's bodyguards Ulic and Egan disappear entirely without mention after Temple Of The Winds, and their sudden and conspicuous reappearance in Confessor seems to suggest Goodkind realized he'd forgotten all about them. There's also the seer girl from Stone of Tears who returns to tell the heroes (at great length) about a city conquered by the Order in the last trilogy, then just wanders off later on, never to be referenced again.
With Us or Against Us: While they only actively try to kill the villains, Richard eventually comes to believe that if a person is unwilling to take responsibility for their life into their own hands (read: not an Objectivist), then the life of that person is expendable when it means ensuring the safety of his own people.
Wrong Insult Offence: In the first book, a mob comes to Zedd's house intending to lynch him because he's a witch. He starts his dialogue with them by asking to clarify whether they want to kill him for sorcery, or simply demean him by calling him a girl.
Also inverted once. A man entreats Richard and Kahlan to follow them, saying it was sent by their friend, the wizard. Richard instinctively asks, "Zedd?" and the man responds in the affirmative. But while they're following him, Richard notices something's off, and demands the man tell them their friend's name. The man repeats that it's Zedd, at which point Richard points out he'd know that because Richard told him, and demands the wizard's full name. The man is then revealed as a shapeshifting creature.
You Will Know What to Do: Richard often knows instinctively what to do to solve problems or use his powers. It's subverted in the second book, however. Prophecy was counting on Richard grabbing a certain item from Adie's house in the first book because he would have a feeling about it. Instead, the feeling just made Richard uneasy about the item, and he left it right where it was.