Stone of Tears book review

Stone of Tears book cover
GenreHigh fantasy, grimdark fantasy
AuthorTerry Goodkind
Number of Pages979
Release DateJune 1996
Don’t shed tears over those already in the ground, until after you have brought vengeance to those who put them there. There will be time enough, then.Terry Goodkind, Stone of Tears

Stone of Tears is the second book in the Sword of Truth series. It is a gigantic one as well – just below 1000 pages. The story continues exactly where it was left off in Wizard’s First Rule. As it turns out, what saved our heroes in the first book now threatens to destroy them in the second one. You guessed it right, there is more to Boxes of Orden than what we were told. I will write this review with minimal spoilers, just enough so that you can still enjoy the book but also understand what makes it so good. And yes, this book is good, in my opinion even better than Wizard’s First Rule. It does have its flaws, which we will discuss, but overall, it was a worthy read.

Stone of Tears plot summary

We start off with Richard and Kahlan celebrating their victory against Darken Rahl and being eager to finally get married. As they travel to the Mud people’s village, Richard keeps experiencing headaches and diet changes, foreshadowing his destiny as a wizard. To make things worse, the Boxes of Orden have torn the Veil between the world of the living and the Underworld. Now, the Keeper of the Underworld, the enemy of all that lives, seeks to wage war on all life by sending his minions and ultimately materializing himself once the Veil is completely torn.

Stone of Tears shown in Legend of the Seeker
Printscreen: ABC Legend of the Seeker, Stone of Tears

Several prophecies are heard throughout Stone of Tears regarding the impending doom and our protagonists do their best to save the world without losing their lives in the process. Since Richard is the key and his migraines are threatening to end him, Sisters of the Light appear and take him to the Old World, to the Palace of the Prophets. There, he is to be trained as a wizard and continue his quest. This does not come without a heavy price as, in order to be trained, he has to wear Rada’Han, a magic collar. Memories of what happened in Denna’s dungeon are still vivid so he doesn’t want to put it on and only after Kahlan brutally forces him, he puts it on.

Sisters of the Light in Legend of the Seeker printscreen
Printscreen: ABC Legend of the Seeker, Sisters of the Light

Kahlan and Richard take different paths, as Kahlan has to go to Aydendril to assist in stopping the Keeper. On her way there, she witnesses the aftermath of the battle of Ebinissia and joins the vengeful war that surviving children’s army has started against the Imperial Order which is responsible for the onslaught. Richard, on the other hand, travels southeast, towards the Palace of the Prophets, and after a short, but intense, encounter with Baka Ban Mana blade masters, he finally starts his training. Soon, another prophecy is heard and Richard has to make haste and pass the Valley of the Lost and Towers of Perdition in order to save the world and Khalan. A terrible choice will be given to him in the climax of the main plot line but he will emerge victorious in the end.

Plot strengths and weaknesses

As I’ve said, Stone of Tears is a long book and a lot of things happened. Overall, the plot flow feels much better than in Wizard’s First Rule. The side quests are not that often and characters generally strive to achieve the goals which they set in the beginning. The main idea behind the story is that the greatest harm comes from the best intentions. The whole Sister of the Light storyline serves as proof of that and the same goes for Richard’s path, at least during most of the novel. I enjoyed that and the way in which the plot was set up was just masterful.

A fantasy book opened

Unfortunately, the execution was not as good as the build-up. Same as many other fantasy novels with magic, sometimes things just happen to work out for our protagonists without much explanation. For example, on one occasion, Richard manages to overcome a major obstacle and says “I don’t even know how I did that“. However, one may argue that that’s the beauty of fantasy and magic while others would say that it’s just lazy writing. For me at least, the ending felt rushed and it seemed like Terry Goodkind realized that his novel was too long and that he has to end it as soon as possible. Don’t get me wrong – I liked the story a lot. Although it did have some repetitions, Terry abstained from using unnecessary fillers. Also, the fact that the story is driven by prophecies makes it really interesting to read. So in spite of the rushed ending, the Stone of Tears plot is surely one of the best high-fantasy stories out there.

Characters get more complex in Stone of Tears

In Wizard’s First Rule, Kahlan’s character felt more complex and better written. However, in Stone of Tears, Terry Goodkind really develops Richard’s character with all his strengths and weaknesses. The depth that was given to his character really spiked up the overall quality of the novel. He feels more mature (well apart from when he travels with sister Verna), more conflicted, less naive, and overall more authentic. Richard’s inner struggles are what made me feel like I know him more intimately. His relationship with Kahlan is remarkably complex in Stone of Tears and I am glad to see that.

Kahlan continues to be the strong female lead, even stronger than in the first novel. Since at one point she gets stripped of her powers, she has to use her human skills to overcome the perils that await her. In Stone of Tears, Kahlan stars as a commander of an army in a battle that’s easily one of the top 10 battles in fantasy novels ever. Her determination and brutality to do whatever she must in order to save the world are so strong that I wondered if she will switch sides at one point. If you enjoyed Kahlan’s character in the first novel you are in for a ride in the second one as well.

Richard and Kahlan from Legend of the Seeker
Printscreen: ABC Legend of the Seeker, Richard and Kahlan

We get to meet new characters as well. Sisters of the Light are very interesting to read about and especially their complex relationships are intriguing. Sister Verna probably has the best side character arc in this book and I enjoyed reading about her. Since I mentioned side characters, I will just say that Denna from the first book is in Stone of Tears as well – and her arc will be completed in a shocking twist. I have to give an honorable mention to a character called Gratch who is a baby gar whom Richard takes as a pet. It is truly a wonderful side story, especially for people who have pets and know how strong the bond between a person and an animal can be.

A small disappointment is a fact that Zedacus Zul’ Zulander gets no character development in Stone of Tears. He is absent most of the time and I really felt sad because of that. Hopefully, he will get more space in the next book.

Magic system and prophecies

The magic system is further explained in the second novel of Sword of Truth and the rules are pretty strict. The main problem I had with magic in the first one was that it was so wild and unpredictable – except when Richard is in danger and his plot armor deflects anything thrown at him. We get some of that in Stone of Tears as well, but overall it does get a lot better. The difference between Additive and Subtractive magic is explained with some clear examples of how it can be used. What’s entirely new is the explanation of how prophecies work. I was impressed by how thoroughly Terry Goodkind explained this and added something new to the fantasy genre. Usually, prophecies are used in books and movies just as an explanation for plot holes but in Stone of Tears, they are what actually drives the plot forward.

Book art light

The quality of storytelling

As far as the storytelling aspect is concerned, as I mentioned, Terry Goodkind really knows how to build up the story. The exposition and climax are depicted flawlessly but the resolution part is what bothers me. Sometimes the author spends so many pages building up a story part just so that a deus ex machina resolution can occur. This doesn’t happen all the time but it is there – and these parts could have been better. Maybe this problem would have been solved if the book was edited better and shortened. Again, Richard’s plot armor is the most powerful spell in the book and that’s what really ruins it for me. Even when the most powerful thing in the story according to the author, prophecy, gets in his way, Richard’s plot armor will get him through it. I don’t mind him emerging victorious but I do feel that it could have been handled more smoother.

Kahlan’s story on other hand has more depth to it. Terry really nails it with the description of the battle that she takes place in. The tactics that Kahlan uses are described in detail so you can actually follow the pace of the battle. You might even recognize some motives from historic events like The Children’s Crusade in this chapter of the story. The whole thing is done smartly and the author really tried to show us a battle with no plot holes. I would say that Goodkind managed to do so and I highly recommend reading Stone of Tears if you are a fan of epic battles in fantasy novels.

The book has a steady pace although as I mentioned before, some parts could have been shorter (Richard’s journey to the Palace of the Prophets for example). The overall tone is again a mixture of epic fantasy and grimdark fantasy. This contrast is handled better than in Wizard’s First Rule and adds up to the reader’s experience.

Stone of Tears in a nutshell

Stone of Tears is a must-read if you enjoy high-fantasy novels. As I stated before, it is not perfect. The pace of the story could have been faster, and the author could have abstained from using Chekov’s gun and deus-ex-machina principles in the resolution of his story. That being said, Terry still managed to write a compelling character-driven book with some wild fantasy elements that you will enjoy. And if you really like it, be sure to check out the third part of the Sword of Truth series, Blood of the Fold.

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