Fantasy bestseller Goodkind brings his usual strong sense of place and distinct characterization to his seventh sprawling novel in the popular Sword of Truth series, though the action, too often discussed rather than shown, takes a while to warm up. The struggle continues between the New World's Seeker of Truth, Lord Richard Rahl, and the Old World's totalitarian leader, Emperor Jagang "the Just," against the dry and barren beauty of the desert landscape. After deposing his father, old Lord Rahl, Richard lingers in the background at his immense fortress. Meanwhile, battling for power are the bastards that old Rahl has also sired, notably Richard's oafish lout of a half-brother, Oba, who tries to murder his way to the throne. Taking center stage is the vengeful Jennsen, who wants to kill Richard because she blames him for her mother's murder. Of course, Richard isn't the villain she takes him for, though Jennsen is slow to catch on.