First Installment Wins, and how. Wizard's First Rule is, and remains, one of my favorite fantasy books of all time. It is an excellent story with genuinely good themes, characters, suspense, plotting, and an excellent ending. The writing is a little sub-par, due to Goodkind's rather mediocre skill, but if you can tolerate the typos, awkward paragraphs, and run-on sentences and appreciate the story for what it is, you'll likely enjoy it. Since it can stand on its own, I recommend reading just Wizard's First Rule, and then closing it and deciding, "And then Richard and Kahlan lived happily ever after," and never touch any of the others. The other ten books are vastly inferior to Wizard's First Rule in every way, shape, and form. The morals and themes go from genuinely good ones to one long Objectivist Author Tract that endlessly repeats itself as the heroes become increasingly less like heroes and more like sociopaths intent on winning no matter who they have to kill to do it, much like the villain of the first book. Goodkind can be a good storyteller at times, but he's only a mediocre writer, and an unlikeable and somewhat fanatical person to boot. As the books go on, the plot takes the back seat to his preaching, particularly in Naked Empire, which fails to advance the story by more than a few inches and simultaneously feels like 650 pages of fluff. The later books have a couple of saving graces, such as the gradually larger role of Nicci, one of the most interesting characters in the whole series, who's effectively one of the main cast by the Chainfire trilogy. However, they have a feel of massive wasted potential to me, especially when I think of how good the series could have been if it had lived up to the mark set by Wizard's First Rule. To sum it up, first book is great, second book is almost as good, everything goes downhill from there and the overall potential of the series is wasted. The first book makes a good stand-alone, but continue the series through to the end and you'll likely be disappointed, especially considering the time that it will take you to get through the whole thing.
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