In the penultimate entry of the Richard and Kahlan tetralogy following the main Sword of Truth books, the Lord Rahl and his forces continue to battle the Shun-tuk, accompanied by the resurrected spirit king Emperor Sulachan and Hannis Arc, who seeks to augment their forces. The book features some commentary, particularly due to a conversation between Richard and a Shun-tuk prisoner of war, of the nature of the human soul, with Sulachan seeking a union of the worlds of the living and the dead. Lord Rahl and the Mother Confessor still have the taint of death resultant from the death of the sorceress Jit, and will die without the cure of a containment field.
The forces of D’Hara have a fight with the Shun-tuk lasting several chapters centered on a chasm, and Kahlan befriends a friendly predatory creature she names Hunter. Meanwhile, Hannis Arc and his servant Ludwig Dreier continue to conspire in the city of Saavedra in the Fajin Province of the D’Haran Empire, both obsessed with torturing prophecy out of their victims. At one point, Richard’s grandfather Zedd suggests that his grandson’s battle with the half people is futile, and that he and Kahlan should simply give everything up, run away, and live their lives as they please.
The clock continues to tick on Richard and Kahlan’s lifespans, with the D’Harans traversing a system of caverns to an oracle named Red, who wishes to converse with the Mother Confessor alone, and shares their goal of sending Emperor Sulachan back to the netherworld, though she adds a prophetic warning. Due to distance of the People’s Palace that awaits the invasion by the antagonistic forces, Richard and Kahlan make it a point to try using a containment field supposedly at the citadel in Saavedra to lift their death taint, and eventually reach the city.
As with most selections in the Sword of Truth series, things intensify in the latter portion of the book, culminating in several plot twists and a cliffhanger ending. Overall, while author Terry Goodkind could have certainly combined many of the brief chapters into longer ones so the story wouldn’t feel overly-fragmented, this reviewer definitely enjoyed it, although not everyone will appreciate its ending, and it’s scarcely a good starting point for those who are new to the franchise, given its direct continuation of the plotline present in prior entries of the Richard and Kahlan subseries.