Severed Souls (Tor, 2014), the latest fantasy novel in Terry Goodkind’s Richard and Kahlan series, is fascinating, captivating and somewhat frustrating for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons it is a frustrating book is because it is the third one in an arch in the overall series, yet everything does not get resolved nicely and neatly and some of the ways characters behave seem to go against the types of characters readers have come to expect them to be, including even Richard Rahl.
In Severed Souls, both Richard and Kahlan are still without their special magical powers and still have the icy touch of death within their bodies, brought about by their encounter with Jit, the Hedge Maid. Though Jit was defeated, their encounter with her robbed them of their magical gifts and every day spent without their getting healed properly is hastening their deaths.
Though Lord Richard Rahl managed to rescue many of his fighting men, Kahlan, and the wizard Zedd in The Third Kingdom (2013), death is still ever-present within him and Kahlan Amnell. Zedd has helped heal them to a degree, but they need to return to the seat of government in the D’Haran Empire, the People’s Palace, in order to fully heal Richard and Kahlan.
However, they face a major complication in the form of legions of Shun-Tuk and other “half people” without souls who are trying to hunt them down and eat them, to gain souls of their own. The hordes of Shun-Tuks are led by the evil Emperor Sulachan and Lord Arc, who are raising further numbers to join their army from the graveyards they pass by as they also head towards the People’s Palace. They want to unite the worlds of the living and the dead, so the separate worlds become one, ruled over by them.
The Emperor Sulachan and Lord Arc give the people of the towns they pass the option of either getting down on their knees and accepting them as their rulers without question, or death by being swarmed over and consumed by the vicious and predatory half-people. The Emperor Sulachan has somehow managed to come back from the world of the dead to the world of the living, despite having died over 3,000 years ago.
They relish the chance to be the ones to send Lord Richard Raul to the underworld where, as a captured Shun-Tuk informs Richard and his band, demons are waiting for him and Kahlan, waiting to latch on to both of you and drag you each down into the deepest, darkest depths of the underworld where you will be forever lost.”
The captured Shun-Tuk added that his people then would “devour the living flesh and drink the warm blood of your woman. We will enjoy her helpless screams as we rip her apart.” He said that they will know that her soul has been “promised to the dark ones in the underworld,” and that they cannot have it, but they will still “revel in drinking her warm blood anyway because she is yours and it will matter to you.”
Despite all of this, not very much else is heard of about what Lord Arc and the Emperor Sulachan are up to in the rest of Severed Souls. Presumably, there will be, sometime in the future, another book in the series that will get into this more – but, that is a part of the frustration with this book, in that it is a pretty big deal that these two nefarious characters are creating a wide swathe of death in their paths as they march towards the People’s Palace.
Several other main characters from the series are in Severed Souls besides Richard, Kahlan, and Zedd. For instance, there is Irena, Samantha, Nicci, and many soldiers and officers from the First File. They all do their parts to add to the action and suspense of Severed Souls.
With Lord Arc gone from Saavedra, Lord Dreier steps in to fill the power vacuum and he takes over the citadel there. His personal Mord Sith, Erika, is there by his side and the Mord Siths who had served Lord Arc also now serve Lord Drier. Though much is written about him and he has the potential to be another nasty foe of Richard’s, his story line is also almost completely dropped for a while in Severed Souls, which is yet another of the frustrating aspects of this otherwise highly entertaining novel.
A large portion of Severed Souls is devoted to the attempts of Richard and Kahlan to get back to the People’s Palace and hopefully in time to save their people from the Emperor Sulachan and Lord Arc and try to stop them from their evil plans in time. In one of the most exciting parts of Severed Souls, Samantha proves she is very gifted at using magic in a major battle against the half-people. However, after the battle, the novel goes back to one of the main themes about their struggles to get back home.
A couple of the major characters –SPOILER ALERT – end up slightly dead in Severed Souls. The word “slightly” refers to the fact that just because a character might die in a Terry Goodkind novel, does not necessarily mean that he/she cannot come back alive in some future book.
The beefs with this book are the frustrations that fans of the series might feel when they read Severed Souls and then realize that many loose threads are left hanging by the end of it. Also, none of the characters at the People’s Palace in other books are in Severed Souls, so we do not get to find out their perspectives on everything going on and the fact that an army of the dead is headed their way. Another beef is that two major characters die, though…anything can happen in potential future Richard and Kahlan novels, so perhaps the two characters who die will one day return to the world of the living.
Severed Souls by Terry Goodkind is well worth reading, a captivating addition to the Richard and Kahlan series of novels. There are many frustrating aspects about it, but that does not mean that fans should stay away from reading it. Just be aware that Severed Souls should not be read by anyone who is hoping for the entire series to be tidily wrapped up with a happy ending in this novel, because that does not happen and hoping that it will might leave readers feeling let down and depressed. However, there is a lot of action and gruesome parts in Severed Souls, and the writing of Terry Goodkind is top-notch, as usual, which helps to somewhat offset the frustrating aspects about the novel. Recommended, but probably only after the other books in the series have been read.
Written By Douglas Cobb