Well, I just read WFR, and I have to say, I don't really feel much need to read further (other than giving the writer a chance to improve himself). The one character a really enjoyed, Denna, is dead. Yes Zedd is alright too, but he falls in the Merlin/Gandalf/wise man category. I went to terrygoodkind.com in the hopes of some discussion about the book. I wanted to give my opinions and hear the defense of fans, but as that site seems to have nothing but positive things to say, I have refrained from posting there.
I'm rather picky in my fantasty. I don't like fantasy merely for the sake of being fantastical. One can have strange world, magic, and bizarre monsters, but if they don't somehow create a big picture that stands on its own, I think it fails as good fantasy. Of course, that is only the setting for a good story that must have interesting characters that the reader can relate to.
As far as the world that TG creates, I have some serious problems with it. I don't expect all authors to have the detailed world that Tolkien created (Tolkien's work has its own issues - black and white depiction of good and evil, traditional worldview, endearing but not terribly complex characters). But TG's world is flat and devoid of life. There is almost no sense of culture and history. There is barely a sense of time and technology. I'm assuming that we are in the typical sword and sorcery medieval setting, but at any point in the story I wouldn't have been surprised to see a car or the armies come marching in with machine guns. I think I have a pretty good imagination, but I can barely imagine the places the characters visited in the generic sense much less the rest of the world. The population seems to be some nameless, faceless mass, or perhaps not there at all since they aren't mentioned in the story. The Westlands seem to consist of two shanty towns, the Midlands a group of generic kingdoms, of which we get a generic description of one, and D'Hara consists of a single huge People's Palace. The only places we see are a string of locations/obstacles that the character must visit to complete the story. These are placed as needed for the story. There is no sense of a world that lives and breathes outside of the immediate action of the story.
Monsters and magic could be considered the staples of fiction. As far as TG is concerned, he seems to be making it up as he goes along. Random monsters named and produced as an obstacle is needed for the character's story. Magic created to keep the story moving. Wizard magic, confessor magic, sorceress magic, additive magic, subtractive magic, underworld magic, drawing magic, building magic, magic of the tongue, magic of the touch, hate magic, love magic. None of it is connected in any sort of logical, satisfying way. And this doesn't include the various magical artifacts that appear when needed and litter the story.
I suppose all of this could be considered forgiven if the story and characters were exceptional. It is a first book and it takes time to release details. But I did not like Richard much as all. One strange thing I noticed was that I could never place an age to him. He may have been 20, but he could have also have been 40. I sense of age would have hinted at his place in life and revealed more about him, but I really couldn't guess with certainty how old he is. He is a blank slate, and I never really believed his transformation into the "Seeker." The details we do have about his life are given to us bluntly. Kahlan is bit better developed and more interesting, but their developing love affair is a bit torturous to read about. We know that, despite the odds, that they have to get together, and I found myself wishing that they would just get it over with.
One could also put some of this aside if it dealt with some interesting issues. Truth - it touches lightly on the idea that truth is in the eye of the beholder. There is no pure evil or good. But Richard's search for truth is more about finding a way to bag Kahlan. Time and again he turns aside from what he should do for her, and ultimately, that is more important than anything else he is after. Sex is fairly prominent to the story, which can have a place in any type of story if done right, but it is just there to spice things up. Rape is even more prominent. Rape is an important issue that needs to be known and discussed. If you want, read about how the Germans in WWII poured into Russia, killing Jews and undesirables as they went. The Russians, on the counter-offensive movement into Germany, raped all the way back to Berlin. These are ugly issues, but TG doesn't deal with them or add any humanity to them. He just uses them to make the bad guys worse, and possibly to get his own jollies.
I won't discuss the Gollum/Samuel incident, or the generic storyline. The one saving grace to the book is the secondary characters. Zedd, Rachel, Giller, and Chase are decent. Denna and her little episode with Richard are actually the most human and interesting part of the story. As others said, it stands out like a sore thumb from the rest of the story, but I actually think it is the only really good part of the book. The rest is a generic fantasy with a soap opera's worth of bizarre coincidences and revealed relations between the characters.
Sorry for those who I may have disgruntled, but I feel I have exorcised myself. I would welcome any counter arguments that could put a more positive light on these issues, but I don't expect to read further as even those who like the series say it goes downhill at some point or another.