Title: Heart of Black Ice
Author: Terry Goodkind
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Genres: Epic Fantasy
It’s hard to believe it was only 3 years (and 4 books) ago that we were introduced to the witch woman’s prophecy that saw Nicci and Nathan embark on their epic journey across the Old World.
‘Future and Fate depend on both the journey and the destination. Kol Adair lies far to the south in the Old World. From there, the Wizard will behold what he needs to make himself whole again. And the Sorceress must save the world.’
We already saw Nathan’s part of the prophecy realized last year in Siege of Stone, restoring a magic that hadn’t yet been lost when the prophecy was delivered, but the lingering promise of Nicci’s part has remained tantalizingly out of reach. More than that, it’s remained frustratingly unclear, since Nicci is a woman who has (and will undoubtedly again) performed acts of heroism that one might argue have indeed saved the world. While that prophecy is not the sole focus of Heart of Black Ice, it is something of which the characters are well aware, and (in the end) it is what drives the climax of the Nicci Chronicles.
Having set a lot of pieces in motion, particularly in the last book, Terry Goodkind brings friends and foes together here, drawing them ever closer, and propelling them into one massive final confrontation. That means there’s a lot going on, multiple story threads and POVs to be accomodated, but he weaves them all together in a book that is just about perfectly balanced and solidly entertaining. Yes, it’s a little formulaic, a little predictable, and even a little frustrating with the deus ex machina aspects of the finale, but all of that is entirely in keeping with both genre conventions and expectations set in the Sword of Truth saga.
In terms of those POVs and story arcs, Nathan’s is probably the least interesting, although it does have its heroic moments (the Weeping Stone spell especially), and travelling with Prelate Verna forces them to confront their shared history. Nicci’s arc is a little scattered, taking her all across the Old World, and it is very much a solo journey, but the way it ties into the overall mythology and magic of the entire Sword of Truth saga gives it some real ‘wow’ moments of real significance. She feels like herself again, after what I felt was a weak portrayal in the third book, and the struggles she faces to understand her role in the prophecy reveal a vulnerable side of her we haven’t really seen before.
Bannon’s part of the tale was, rather surprisingly, my favorite. His struggles and triumphs aboard the Norukai ships are fantastic, bringing his story full-circle in a lot of ways, and the manner in which Adessa and Lila become a part of that story is genuinely exciting. He’s a character who has really grown over the course of the series, and while I felt his personality was a little bland in the last book, here we see him reach his full potential as a character, becoming more than just an ordinary hero archetype. In terms of action and excitement, it is no stretch to say that this trio carries much of the novel.
I guess it shouldn’t be surprising in a final volume, but Heart of Black Ice shows no fear and no hesitation in killing off key characters, often in ways we don’t see coming, and far sooner than we might have expected. There’s a weight of significance here, a looming sense of things coming to an end, and I think Goodkind did a fantastic job of wrapping up all the storylines. Like I said, the way in which the heroes converge in the right place at the right time is a little forced, but it’s precisely how many of these sagas end. Despite the little things that nagged at me, this was a solid read that more than delivered on what I was hoping for.
Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ 1/2