Temple of the Winds review

Terry Goodkind's Temple of the Winds book cover
GenreHigh fantasy, grimdark fantasy
AuthorTerry Goodkind
Number of Pages528
Release Date15th September 1997
Intent is guilt. Failure to successfully carry out the intent does not absolve the guilt.Terry Goodkind, Temple of the Winds

Temple of the Winds is the fourth part of the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. This is a very divisive novel – a lot of people quit the series after it. There is a strong reason for that and I will elaborate on it later on but you should know that this is the breaking point in the SoT series. In Temple of the Winds, you will see a lot more fantasy and fewer politics – which is good in my opinion. However, the main focus of the novel is on Kahlan and Richard’s relationship thus making the plot feel like a slow-burn romance in a fantasy setting. The fantasy elements are often seen but it’s more of a history of magic and the world-building development that we get than the actual usage of magic. Some of the chapters are just wild and I will try my best to give a full review without giving out too many potential spoilers.

Temple of the Winds summary

The fourth novel kicks off pretty much where the Blood of the Fold ended; Richard and Kahlan are in Aydendril planning their wedding. A strange wizard called Marlin tries to assassinate Richard but Cara captures him. Cara manages to subdue Marlin and gains control of his powers. Emperor Jagang sets him free by using his own dream-walker abilities. There is a long chase scene after which the wizard is killed but Cara gets badly hurt. New characters appear as Richard’s step-brother Drefan and (kind of) ex-girlfriend Nadine show up. Conveniently, Dreafan is a healer so he saves Cara.

Their troubles are just about to begin as one of the Sisters of the Dark unleashes a plague upon Aydendril by using ancient magic under orders from Emperor Jagang. A new double-forked prophecy is unveiled. The Temple of the Winds is the key to stopping the plague. The task is not so easy as the Temple was hidden a long time ago and no one knows what it actually is. As the prophecy foretells, in order to succeed in their quest, Kahlan must betray Richard or the world will be doomed. Nadine tries to win Richard’s heart but fails; a lot of the plot focuses on this love triangle between Richard, Kahlan, and Nadine.

Richard Rahl fights
Printscreen: ABC; Richard Rahl

Meanwhile, Zed and Ann are on a quest of their own as they pursue Nathan Rahl. Nathan saves Clarissa, a Sister of the Light, from Jagang, and soon they develop a relationship. Back in Ayedndril, Richard and one of his Mord-Sith Berdine translate the Journal of Kolo. The journal holds the answers that are needed to find the Temple of the Winds. Meanwhile, the plague is decimating their citizens and some of the palace members get infected as well. While all that happens, a mass murderer is killing prostitutes in Aydendril and we get a few POV chapters of that as well.

Kahlan decides to go to Shouta and confront her since she is the one who sent Nadine to Richard. She there learns that Shouta only wanted to help because Nadine is a part of the prophecy. Kahlan visits Mud people by using the Sliph afterward. Ancestor spirits confirm her deepest fear; The prophecies are true and she and Richard can’t be together if they want to save the world.

In the end, Richard, Kahlan, Nadine, and Dreafan get close to The Temple of The Winds. In order to get in, Richard has to marry Nadine and Dreafan has to marry Kahlan. That’s the sacrifice the spirits are asking for. I am not even sure how to explain this, but somehow they do it but they don’t actually consummate marriage with their respective partners. Richard feels Kahlan has betrayed him which enables him to go to the Underworld through the Hall of the Betrayed. Through that path, he finally gets to the Temple of the Winds. Richard easily stops the plague once he is inside the Temple and Kahlan returns to Aydendril with Dreafan, who is now her husband and preceding Lord Rahl.

As Richard has a change of heart after talking to the spirit of Kahlan’s mother, he returns to Aydendril but not before paying the price to the spirits – he is now infected with the plague. Drefan goes full postal and is torturing Cara as she doesn’t want to tell him Richard’s location. In the final scene, Richard manages to save them all and Kahlan saves Richard from the plague by reciting the names of the Three Chimes.

Plot analysis – strengths and weaknesses

As you can see, a lot of things happened in this novel. Overall, it was a slow burn apart from the violent POV Jack the Ripper scenes that we occasionally get. The begging was solid with the chase scene but it kinda drags on after it. There are a lot of world-building parts in the middle of the novel here which I really liked – we actually get to learn how the Confessors, Mord-Sith, the Sliph, and all other magical beings came to be. The explanation is that basically wizards experimented on real people and turned them into weapons thousands of years ago. Generations later, we see their decedents and that’s what all these magical beings are. Usually, fantasy novels don’t really go in deep on how the magic actually came to, most of them leave it as a mysterious thing that’s just there but in Sword of Truth Terry Goodkind tries to develop some history behind it.

Temple of the winds book cover art
Book cover art by Keith Parkinson

The overall main storyline with the plague didn’t feel like the main plotline – Richard did try to stop the plague but the story more focused on everything else most of the time. Since I don’t like the whole concept of the plague being inserted in a novel of this kind which I will discuss later, I don’t mind that. Zed and Ann’s side story was bland for me and even served as a comedy relief from time to time; not a very good one to be honest. I didn’t feel any tension in those parts of the story so I wasn’t really invested in what will happen to them as I knew that they will pull through somehow.  The plot moved at a snail’s pace right until the end where it gained a crazy plot twist moment. I do feel that the ending could have been done differently, especially with the Hall of the Betrayal thing but overall, this is a novel that you will memorize – in one way or another.

A brief overview of how characters develop in Temple of the Winds

As I’ve stated before, Temple of the Wind focuses on Richard and Kahlan’s relationship. I have mixed feelings about that. The problem is that it seems that the whole story is just a set-up for their relationship development whereas in previous novels their relationship developed through the hardships that they went through together. It almost feels like their relationship drives the plot forward. Richard becomes a true leader and I think that’s great, we had enough of the “I’m a simple wood’s guide” talk in previous novels as we know that he has a higher destiny and it was just a matter of time before he embraced it.

Kahlan’s character on other hand seems to have deteriorated in Temple of the Winds. She is somehow weaker. She gets upset very often, she is often seen crying and needing support, and the new character Nadine is what is (mainly) causing it. Nadine is portrayed as Richard’s ex-girlfriend that is under the impression that Richard wants her to be his wife. Even after Richard turns her down, she keeps pressing the matter and that leads to conflict with Kahlan. The love triangle that we get feels weird as we know that Richard is not interested in picking Nadine over Kahlan. That’s why Nadine’s character almost feels like a tragic character during most of the novel.

Cara, Berdine, and other Mord-Sith play a big part in the novel. I am glad to see that they are more than comedy relief and that Terry finally found a way to portray their characters in depth.

Richard Rahl and Cara Mason from Legend of the Seeker
Richard Rahl and Cara Mason from Legend of the Seeker

Nadine is not the only new character we get in Temple of the Winds – there’s also Dreafan Rahl, Richard’s step-brother who grew up as an orphan in the D’haran healer community. He is an interesting character and although I saw where his character arc is headed I still enjoyed reading about him. I won’t say much about him as I would need to write heavy spoilers.

When it comes to the main sub-plot involving Zed and Ann searching for Nathan who is with Clarissa I have mixed feelings about that as well. The story itself was rather interesting but although it connected in the end, during most of the novel it felt too distant and not important. Clarissa was a great new character as she felt like a regular person who was thrown into a fantasy novel so the reader could really relate to her story. Nathan is still a mysterious prophet with unknown motives which is fine as well. The prophecies in the SoT series work in strange ways so I get why he gets this character trait.

Wizard’s fourth rule: There is magic in sincere forgiveness

We know that all the books in SoT have a wizard’s rule that serves as the main theme of the novel. In Temple of the Winds, we hear the wizard’s fourth rule: “There is magic in sincere forgiveness, both in forgiveness received and given“. However, I noticed that the author tried to mix other rules in the resolution of the story. The thing is, I really like how Terry Goodkind presents his main idea of the novel but sometimes his execution and how he gets to that confirmation of the rule is a bit strange. This is the case with Temple of the Winds – the theme is awesome but how it was presented was a bit weird.  The way in which Terry Goodkind moves the plot forward and centers his characters in order to get a confirmation of his hypothesis shown in the wizard’s fourth rule is just wild.

Creativity and originality of Temple of the Winds

Many people pointed out that Terry Gookind’s novels “borrowed” things from other fantasy novels. After meeting Sisters of the Light in the second novel many actually saw Aes Sedai and gave the series an alternate name calling it “a discounted Wheel of Time“. As I’ve said in my previous reviews, I don’t share this opinion – I know that Terry did take many motives from other novels but he always added something new to them, making them unique. That being said, this novel for me has another problem – a lot of things are taken from real-world events and just stuffed into the novel. Let me give you three examples of this.

  • The Plague. The plague in Temple of the Winds is a real medieval bubonic plague, minus the rats (we will get to that as well, bear with me). The plague has the same symptoms, the same mortality and pretty much it’s just a plague – but it was magically released by the unknown forces of darkness. I don’t get this at all; if you have a fantasy setting and you even add a fantasy element to something, why use the same thing that we all know of? It just felt boring for me and reading the descriptions of it felt like reading a history book (from which Terry pretty much copied everything)
  • Rat torture. Another one is the scene where Cara gets tortured by rats – another historical copycat of infamous rat torture. Again, the same problem – we have a high fantasy setting in which the author can’t (or won’t?) think of anything creative and uses a well-known historical event, not changing it a bit. The scene is gruesome by the way and one of the most brutal in the Sword of Truth series.
  • Jack the Ripper. I don’t even get why he was in the novel. I mean from the first appearance I assumed who it was (since that character constantly talks about prostitutes it wasn’t that hard to figure it out). It just feels like the author thought it would be cool to put Jack the Ripper’s POV in the novel and then just stuffed it in it without any regard to the plot of the story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine that grimdark fantasy novels have graphic scenes but this one just felt like it was from another novel, that’s all.

Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel "The Triumph of Death"
Pieter Bruegel “The Triumph of Death” – the plague

Temple of the Winds story resolution controversy

We all know that Terry Goodkind was a controversial author. I will discuss that fact in a separate article but the ending of Temple of the Winds is surely one of the main reasons for this controversy. By reading the reviews I saw that many readers were outraged by the few final scenes. I am putting a spoiler alert for the following part but there is no way to analyze this without context.

Kahlan finds out that she needs to marry Drefan and Richard has to marry Nadine in order to stop the plague. That’s what the spirits are asking as a tribute. There is no explanation for why the spirits are asking for this and for me, it just seems like the author wants to create drama without any context in the main plot. Anyway, Cara is the messenger of the spirits because she linked herself to them when she tuned into the magic of an Andolian that was actually possessed by spirits (yeah, read that again).

But wait, it gets better, much better actually – the spirits are performing the wedding ceremony and giving further instructions. Now the two newlywed couples need to consummate their marriage. Cara, still possessed by the spirits, takes Kahlan and Drefan to one location and Richard and Nadine to another. They are to make love and not say a word in the complete darkness of the cave – that’s what Cara tells them. The rest of the scene is shown as Kahlan PoW as she struggles with the fact that spirits are basically forcing her to be with Dreafan. She can walk away from it though, but you know, the plague will destroy the whole world so that’s not really an option (although the author for some reason wants us to think that Kahlan is actually considering that).

Next, we get to see explicit sex scenes from Kahlan’s perspective – she manages to go through it but she doesn’t enjoy it. She realizes nothing has happened as the way to the Temple is not shown yet like the spirits said it would be – and “understands” that she needs to enjoy the act. This is the part where I was like, why is this sequence even in the novel? The spirits are torturing her for no reason at all and we are getting some weird sexual violence for no reason other than to put sexual violence in the novel.

Richard and Kahlan walking
Printscreen: ABC; Richard and Kahlan

It’s the same reason why Jack the Ripper is in the novel – the author wants it to be in it but can’t think of the right way to fit it into the plot. That’s why this whole chapter feels really weird and, to be honest, kinda creepy as well. Kahlan pushes herself into enjoying it – and Terry vividly describes all that. Just when you thought the ordeal was over as the way to the Temple of Winds is finally shown by Terry, I mean spirits, Kahlan starts to beg Dreafan not to tell Richard about this – and realizes it wasn’t Dreafan at all, it was Richard with her the whole time! She completely loses it and now begs Richard to forgive her but he is furious because she enjoyed the imaginary sex with Drefan. He goes to the Temple alone and leaves Kahlan in tears. Cara finds her and tells her that she swapped Richard and Dreafan in order to save her.

I can’t even begin to analyze the plot holes in this one – How come the all-knowing spirits didn’t see the swap? Or maybe that’s what their plan was all along since they controlled Cara? Why did they ask for all that in the first place? How in the world Kahlan didn’t realize that it was Richard the whole time (Richard knew of course because he is Richard)? Why was this setting so bad and couldn’t this have been done differently? And most importantly, why is Richard angry? Is it because Kahlan didn’t see it was him or because she enjoyed the act in order to please the spirits and save the world?

This is the worst part of the book and I understand why people disliked it. I personally didn’t like it, it was nonsensical and overly intense for no reason other than to be intense. The graphic violence and the sex drama were there for no apparent reason and it didn’t fit into anything as Richard and Kahlan forgave each other and were back together in the next chapter. I suppose the idea that Terry Goodkind had is to link the wizard’s third rule (passion often rules reason) from Blood of the Fold to the fourth one that is the main theme in Temple of the Winds (there is magic in forgiveness) but it didn’t work for me – it just felt childish and underwhelming.

Final thoughts on Temple of the Winds

The Temple of the Winds was a very interesting read. I won’t say that it’s good – it’s very different than what we had so far in the Sword of Truth series. The main theme was generally good and it kept my attention during most of the novel. Surely, it wasn’t the best book in the series – but it wasn’t the worst one as well. It added new things to the world in terms of how magic works and we got plenty of character development on Richard and Kahlan’s part. Some of the chapters, especially near the end, could have been written better in terms of how the plot was moved. Be it as it may if you got through Temple of the Winds be sure to check out the fifth part of the series, Soul of the Fire.

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