Fantasy Author Terry Goodkind has died, and It's Hitting Me Harder than I Thought

As writers, we all have that book. The one we read in our formative years. The one that sparked a burning desire to leave a lasting footprint in the book world. The one that, even as we grow and change, remains a core part of why we write.

Strange how I didn’t realize this until today.

The first book I ever fell in total love with was A Wrinkle in Time. I identified with Meg Murray’s insecurity and hidden strength. I also wanted to go galivanting on an adventure across the universe because 10-year-old me figured Meg came back fine, so I would too.

When I was a bit older, my parents noticed my love for SFF books and urged me to read David Eddings Belgariad and Malloreon series. I did and enjoyed them. Though, perhaps not as much as my mother wanted 13-year-old me to. Nevertheless, they got me started down the path of fantasy reading.

But the real leap came when I set my way-too-young hands on Wizard’s First Rule. I remember being intrigued by the picture of a redhead in a pretty white dress mounting a dragon on the hardcover that lived in our living room. I mean, she was wearing a dress and getting ready to ride a dragon. That was amazing.

Much to the chagrin of my parents, I dove into the Sword of Truth series at a tender age. Looking back, I can see why they had reservations. There was a lot (and I mean a lot) of graphic violence for a mid-teen. I, however, was undeterred. I just skipped the gross parts and got swept away in the tale of magic, royalty, and a brutal world fighting to keep a destructive man at bay.

I blew through the series, grabbing each new book as it hit shelves and reading them in one or two sittings. With every book, I got more and more invested. I clearly remember ranting at Pillars of Creation because my favorite main characters weren’t in it until the last few pages. I got older and less squeamish about the violence (well, most of the violence. We won’t discuss that scene in Temple of the Winds…moving on). I devoured the worldbuilding, the new magic, and the eventual conclusion of all the strife.

And oh, how I wanted to be a Confessor. The ability to make anyone my completely obedient slave? Think of all the chores I wouldn’t have to do anymore. And the power. “There was an impact to the air. Thunder without sound.” Okay, this came with crazy weakness for some time afterward, but who wouldn’t want that kind of power?

But I digress. Book 12 came and went. I thought it was over until the next installment came out a while later. I read it, but it wasn’t the same. I’d grown up. I’d moved on. That was the last Goodkind book I read and figured I’d left that part of my fantasy journey in the past.

Until this morning.

Today, I woke to the news that Terry Goodkind passed away.

And it’s hitting me, hard.

I thought I’d left his books behind as a mark of fiercely stating my independence to read adult books as a teenager. My tastes have changed. I’m not much for graphic violence anymore. I no longer want an obedient slave (except maybe to wash dishes after a late dinner). I’ve grown, and that’s shaped my reading preferences.

But The Sword of Truth was the first adult fantasy series I read completely of my own volition. It was a choice, and choices have power. Things we choose to do leave strong impressions on our hearts and minds, stronger than we sometimes even know. It wasn’t until this morning that I realized how much those books meant to me. They grabbed my teenage imagination and refused to let go. They hauled me along on an adventure through a world full of the fantastic, and they made me want to write fantasy. They ultimately set me on the path to my MFA, this blog, and book editing. If I reread them now, I doubt I’d be so enthralled. I could probably find things that are giant no-nos in fantasy today. I’m sure there’s stuff in there people are offended by now that was common in books twenty years ago. Today, they’d just be another fantasy series for me.

Back then, they changed my life.

And now the man who precipitated that change is gone.

I don’t know if I’ll read more of Goodkind’s work, but even if I don’t, there won’t be more. His mark has passed, leaving the next generation to pick up where he left off. I know how Luke felt when Vader struck Obi-Wan down.

*cries like a baby*

I mean, didn’t we know he was a goner right there?

R.I.P. Terry Goodkind, and thank you.

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