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The Darkness that Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing) Paperback – September 2, 2008

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Product Details

  • Series: The Prince of Nothing (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook TP (September 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590201183
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590201183
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.3 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (198 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Many centuries ago, the world was nearly destroyed by the dark wizards of the Consult, and the High King's family was wiped out--or so it seemed. Then from the wild, uncharted north comes a mysterious and extraordinarily powerful philosopher-warrior, Anasurimbor Kellhus, descendant of the ancient High Kings. But the return of the king's bloodline is little cause for rejoicing. For Kellhus's appearance may signal the overthrow of empires, the destruction of the sorcerous schools, the return of the Consult demons--and the end of the world.

The Darkness that Comes Before is a strong, impressive, deeply imagined debut novel. However, this first book of an epic fantasy series is not accessible; it reads like a later volume of a complicated ongoing series. Author R. Scott Bakker has created a world that is very different from J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, yet in depth of development comes closer than most high-fantasy worlds. In addition to providing five appendices, Bakker attempts to make his complex world clear to readers by filling the prologue and opening chapters with the names of characters, gods, cities, tribes, nations, religions, factions, and sorcerous schools. For many readers, this approach will have the opposite effect of clarity. It's like demonstrating snowflake structure with a blizzard. --Cynthia Ward --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Canadian author Bakker's impressive, challenging debut, the first of a trilogy, should please those weary of formulaic epic fantasy. Bakker's utterly foreign world, Eärwa, is as complex as that of Tolkien, to whom he is, arguably, a worthier successor than such established names as David Eddings and Stephen Donaldson. Bakker creates an extraordinary cast of nationalities and races involved in an enormous holy war set off by an unseen prophet, Maithanet. (Appendices help keep the history and personalities straight.) He casually drops for half the story an increasingly important character, Anasûrimbor Kellhus (aka "the Prince of Nothing"), who finally returns without a breath of exposition. The amiable and wise sorcerer spy Drusas Achamian binds the myriad narrative threads together. Drusas's love for Esmenet, a too-experienced prostitute, provides some tenderness amid the abundant slaughter. In the book's most harrowing scene, which fans of gentler fantasy will find too graphic, Esmenet is raped by a creature who, despite its human appearance, is likely demonic. If this ambitious novel lacks the beauty of Tolkien as well as the sense of pure evil that suffused Middle-earth with genuine terror, its willingness to take chances and avoid the usual genre clichés should win many discriminating readers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 81 people found the following review helpful By B. Capossere TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The Darkness that Comes Before is the beginning of yet another epic fantasy. It stands out a bit with its more gritty feel, its lack of frequent overt magic, the relative lack of supernatural creatures, and its more full use of religion and philosophy. Those with some awareness of history will also see clear parallels (though not necessarily in one on one fashion) to the Crusades, another nice twist. Like many of the more ambitious works in the genre, there are a plethora of characters and places with the book's narrative shifting back and forth between them and there is a grand sense of time, with events from thousands of years ago playing out in the present.

Darkness shares with some of those other works the same highlights and lowlights. The plot is complex enough to remain stimulating throughout and the shift in point-of-view offer up a more interesting story while allowing more in-depth characterization. Bakker handles the narrative shifts smoothly and has a good sense of when it's time to leave one character for another. The characters are also nicely balanced in terms of interest so that there is no drop-off for the reader as we move along. The same is true, mostly, for the various storylines, though some are more compelling and better paced than others.

The negatives, while not outweighing the positives, are a noticeable drag however. Because the book must recount history over the course of several thousand years and set up the reader for the coming conflict, there is a lot of exposition that must be handed out. It is rarely done in clumsy or uninteresting fashion (a few places here and there), but so much information does slow the book now and then. The number of characters also sometimes serves to dilute their individual impact.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Del Mar on July 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
Bakker's fantasy series was years in the making which is apparent to anyone who manages to read through the (currently) 3 novels in the series. With the exception of the prologue, the reader is thrown mind-first into a the largely realized world of Eärwa where factions, theories, philosophies, histories and dogma abound.

Bakker does not treat his reader delicately. Very little in the book is simplified or overexplained. Those looking for a book with introductions and pages of explorative narration would best turn elsewhere; Eärwa is on the verge of an Apocalypse, it has no time to accommodate the reader.

Bakker himself has admitted the book is almost meant to be twice read and that if he could do things differently, he would have offered more chapters for the reader to associate themselves with Kellhus, the central figure the trilogy revolves around.

Despite the complexity and shadows thrown long across the narrative, Bakker is a deft hand at bringing personal feelings and drama through the mouths and minds of his characters.

If you're willing to check the appendix and maps on occasion, you'll find yourself quickly immersed in this wild and wondrous world.
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58 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Nick Alimonos on September 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
Freud the Sorcerer: My Review of The Darkness that Comes Before by Scott Bakker.

Plot: The story of The Darkness that Comes Before is not easily summed up. There are many factions both political and religious, and many characters including princes, mages, warriors and a prostitute, all of whom get wrapped up in the preparations of a Crusades-like Holy War to capture the holy city of Shimeh. Comparisons between the actual Crusades and the attempt to capture Jerusalem are hard to ignore, although Bakker doesn't seem to be making any allegorical statements; rather, he uses history as a reference and blueprint, including mention of the Holy Shriah, who could be compared to the Pope. Meanwhile, there is a "barbarian" named Cnair Urs Skiotha who becomes the last of the Utemot tribe after he is betrayed in battle, and he decides to seek revenge on the man he feels responsible, the father of a mysterious wanderer named Kellhus, who, through powers of psychological observation and a philosophy that "what comes before determines what comes after" (apparently this guy never heard of Jean Paul Sartre), can manipulate people's thoughts and passions to benefit his own purposes.


Scott Bakker proves himself a master of the English language and writes in a superb, poetic style that is never overbearing or pretentious. His style relies on short sentences that never become too convoluted or distracting, and some quite brilliant and original uses of metaphor. I found myself enjoying many of his descriptive passages, though infrequent, and his battle scenes are fast-paced and thrilling (I only wished there were more of these). The plot is interesting overall; keeps you guessing and avoids many overused clichés.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Giles Gammage on January 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
High fantasy is the Rodney Dangerfield of literary genres, where tentative stabs at seriousness tend to result in self-inflicted wounds. Such, alas, is the case with Canadian author R Scott Bakker. The quest for artistic respectability through moral ambiguity and "realistic" writing reaches its zenith (or nadir) in his "Prince of Nothing" trilogy. Part alternate history, party weighty meditation on the nature of free will, the book's airy ideas are nearly asphyxiated by a setting not merely "gritty", but downright squalid.

The book's realism is mostly borrowed, having been lifted directly from the annals of medieval history. The main story arc reads like a palimpsest of a text on the First Crusade: The Shriah (Pope) declares a Holy War (Crusade) against the herectical Fanim (Muslims) who occupy the holy city of Shimeh (Jerusalem). Even minor events like the People's Crusade find their parallel in the book.

In a nod to the cliches of the genre, there is also a shadowy bunch of black hats with the unlikely corporatist name of "the Consult" (I picture them not slaughtering innocents, but boring them to death with business buzzwords and endless PowerPoint presentations), out to destroy the world by resurrecting their "No-God".

If that ambition sounds like something out of Nietzsche, it's no mistake. Mr Bakker holds a Ph D in philosophy, and the central figure in his tale is the Nietzschean super-man Anasurimbor Kellhus, who plans to control the Holy War for his own ends. Kellhus possesses a kind of Spock-like emotional detachment and intellect, and in Mr Bakker's worldview, this enables him to manipulate those around him, since their actions are guided not by free will, but by ingrained habit, culture and emotion.
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