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3.9 out of 5 stars
The Judging Eye (The Aspect-Emperor)
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2009
I have my reservations, my criticisms of 'Judging Eye' and its precursors, the 'Prince of Nothing' novels.

I do not feel the need to air them, or give this book anything less than five stars because of them. In a genre filled to the brim, no, overflowing with cardboard supermen and superwomen who can defeat every foe and master every enemy, Bakker finally puts real people into a fantasy world. People who can be broken by the immensity of the events around them, people who were once large that can become small and weak, people who are weak becoming strong. People who allow their foibles to make them into monsters to those around them. People who...well, just have foibles at all, yet remain heroes, and not twisted villains.

There is moral ambiguity here, amongst the heroes and the neutral forces, and even some of the villains. There is a chance for the reader to doubt the indomitable quest of the 'good guys' as being something less than what it is portrayed as, we are allowed to make our own choices about who we root for and who we hate (to a degree at least).

There are so many bestsellers out there full of escapist fantasy, full of characters who never change and can never be beaten, and it is nice to see that at least some writers are out there who are willing to take the chance that their readers might not want everything neatly laid out for them.

Bravo Bakker, keep it up. You're verbose and sometimes over-complex, but I'll take poor, old, beaten down Akka, over some of those other sword-wielding super-men(and women) any day.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2009
This is really a 3.5 stars. Good read with excellent pacing and storyline. The part I disliked was the wordiness of it and every person involved in the story had to explain everything they saw with too much detail. If you're trying to make a point, I understand. It seems to me that the author wanted too many people in the book to be special, so instead of Sentry Guard A seeing a "rock" as a rock, it was "A wonderful conglomeration of minerals formed into this amazing, hand sized object with all the colors of wonder jammed packed into it!".
Maybe that's too harsh, but I definitely got tired of reading about every single little thing from everyone's perspective.

Also, if you've read it, there is an incident with the youngest prince where he gets away with something big and nobody has a guess. The unlikeliness of it, plus the clues (a small child can't reach very high up) which would add up to the size of the culprit, plus the highly analytical people there who would figure it out quickly. That part seemed very out of place for Scott's writing. Rushed, even.

The running battle near the end is also goofy compared to earlier writings. Before, the author wrote more realistically with fighting, that one man would have trouble against two or more, except our local superman :)
This particular scene has anyone with any backstory (like a horror movie, you can pick out who lives and dies early on) able to take down 20 opponents with no problem. Too far into hollywood's "I'll wait my turn for you to kick my butt" bad guys.

Anyway, a good story by far, but it feels like the author is diverging from his earlier writing style. The first 3 books seem more subtle with coincidence playing a hand, which makes sense. This book seems to wave the plot in your face repeatedly and everything working out perfect for some and hollywood movie like for others.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 2, 2010
R. Scott Bakker's "Prince of Nothing" trilogy quite simply fascinated me. Bakker, a young philosophy nut and first-class deep thinker, has created a completely original epic series, which is no small feat when one considers the mighty chains forged by Tolkien, George R. R. Martin, Frank Herbert, and all the rest.

Bakker's world is a dark, violent, lusty place that is as ancient as it is fascinating. Too many inferior works of fantasy get bogged down in exposition when relating their unique histories, and to be sure it can be quite daunting to the reader trying to keep the various sects, alliances, armies, and peoples straight. You will find yourself flipping back to the helpful appendices in vain efforts to keep up to speed - just who is the Consult? What are Sranc? How are the Mandate Schools different from . . . you get the picture.

"The Judging Eye" is the first volume in a new trilogy - the Aspect-Emperor trilogy - that kicks off twenty years after Anasurimbor Kellhus took dominion over the world and was publicly rejected by everyone's favorite tubby wizard, Drusas Achamaian. Kellhus is less a character in this book as a figure of awe, reverence and terror, depending on your perspective. Kellhus is marshalling his peoples - united from all corners of the world - for a tremendous march north. Picture Alexander the Great heading out to conquer Persia, but instead of bringing a relatively small contingent of Macedonians along with a handful of allies, imagine if he also brought along armies from every corner of Europe, up to and including Viking raiders from the north. And their families.

While Kellhus is leading this army of destiny (to what end nobody is entirely sure), his wife Esmemet attempts to rule in his stead, continually struggling with her feelings of inadequacy as both mother and empress. Her children by Kellhus range from the near-godlike to the near-imbecilic, and she is confronted with unimaginable challenges from the most surprising of places.

Her former lover, Achamian, now resides in the wilderness alone. An infamous recluse, thanks to his rebuke of Kellhus, Akka only wishes to remain alone. But what can he do when Emse's daughter - a former prostitute now turned royal - shows up demanding that Akka teach her sorcery. And she bears the Judging Eye, a rare mystical power she has only begun to understand. This reunion leads Akka to follow Kellhus's march north, through a path so dark and dangerous that it calls to mind Tolkien's magnificent Khazad-dum.

All in all, this is more of the same from Bakker - fascinating, rich material that requires close reading and careful study. I wish I had re-read the "Prince of Nothing" trilogy before diving headlong into the latest entry. Given that I have no idea where this story is going to go, and it's really unfair to judge any book in a trilogy on its own without knowing where it stands in relation to the whole, I reserve the right to amend this review. I would say that one of the few sources of merriment in these otherwise grim tales, Akka, has grown dour over the years. Even by Bakker's stern standards, this is a dark book of dark moods. Excellent, to be sure, but dark.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2009
"The Judging Eye" continues from where the "Prince of Nothing" trilogy ended, albeit more than 20 years later. All of the living major characters from the trilogy - Kellhus, Esmenet, Achamian - return, although only the latter two have viewpoints. The story centers around three "threads": the march of the Great Ordeal (Kellhus's vast venture northward into the North), the issues back in Momemn under the rule of Empress Esmenet, and Achamian's expedition northward and through the mountains ringing the Three Seas civilization. Several other stories exist along side this - particularly a story involving the Yatwer Cult in the Three Seas - but the above are the main threads.

Bakker is at his best when writing the Achamian thread. He introduces a compelling new female character who accompanies Achamian and his group in their expedition northward, who plays a critical role in maintaining that group while uncovering a lot more about the metaphysics under-pinning Bakker's fictional universe. The "Kellhus" thread, which really centers around a character captured early in the book, is also good, but not quite as good as the "Achamian" arc. The weakest thread - Esmenet in Momemn - is still fairly good, but suffers from the problem that plagues the entire book in varying degrees: pacing. The story slows down considerably in certain parts, although it never quite got to the point where the book was a "slog".

Nonetheless, it is pretty good for a first novel in a new trilogy within the Bakker Series. There are some issues with the ending (it's not particulary good in terms of resolving things), but that's not surprising for the first book in a trilogy. I urge anyone who enjoyed the "Prince of Nothing" trilogy to read it. Caution is suggested for those who haven't read the trilogy; while Bakker goes to pains to explain "What Came Before", it is a poor substitute for actually reading the Trilogy, and many of the important concepts within the novel will be difficult to understand without that background.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2009
When I read Bakker's first book in "The Prince of Nothing" series, I came away thrilled that I may have found my next Erikson. However, with each book, I became less and less excited. "The Judging Eye" continued that trend. Bakker is a very good writer in general. He has nice control of the English language. However, this story doesn't really go anywhere. I found myself putting the book down for several weeks, which is something I never do. With "Best Served Cold" sitting on my bookshelf unread, I really had to force myself to get through this book without just giving up and coming back to it later. There really isn't any action.

The best part of the book, for me, was following the Achamian story line, but even that didn't really have much going on. This book definitely lacked a character like Cnaiur from the first series. In other words, I felt the characters lacked depth. Hopefully, this series will be the opposite of the last series where each book gets progressively better. I will continue to read Bakker, because the first series was very good overall, and his writing style is outstanding.

I feel that some of the great reviews on this particular book may be based on high expectations for the next books in the series. Overall, I felt it was average at best.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2011
As my title indicates, there are both pros and cons to this book.

-Achamian's search for the truth about the Dunyain
-the launch of the war against the Consult
-minimal philosophical digressions

-vast majority of characters are still unlikeable
-Momemn storyline tends toward tedium
-the pacing can drag.

The Judging Eye is set about 20 years after the conclusion of the third book, "The Thousandfold Thought." Kellhus has solidified his control of the Three-Seas, creating the New Empire and has prepared for the Great Ordeal, the war that is launched against Golgotterath. While Kellhus is with the army on the northern frontier of the empire and venturing into the wilderness toward Golgotterath, Esemenet, now the Empress, is left in Momemn to rule. There the reader is introduced to the younger Anasurimbor children, most of whom are loathsome. The book has 4 new PoV characters: Kelmomas, youngest son of Kellhus, Sorweel, the young King of Sakarpus, Mimara, oldest daughter of Esmenet who was sold prior to the first trilogy, and Psafta, the Mother-Supreme of the Cult of Yatwer.

Meanwhile, the reader catches up to Drusas Achamian, who lives in the wilderness at the edge of civilization with his slaves. He's been exiled these past 20 years, and has come to be renowned as the Arch-Heretic of the New Empire for his repudiation of the divinity of Kellhus. He has been cataloging his dreams of Seswatha's life in an attempt to find the origins of Kellhus. Mimara shows up on his front door and requests that he teach her magic. Upon learning that Kellhus is moving against Golgotterath, Achamian decides to hire a company of mercenaries to help him find the origins of Kellhus and the monastery at Ishual.

On the whole, the novel is fairly satisfying. The reader learns more about the Nonman/Inchoroi war, but doesn't really advance in knowledge about the Consult or the No-God in particular. I think Bakker is at his best when writing through the eyes of Achamian, who to me has the most interesting storyline. Esmenet and Kelmomas don't reveal much other than life in Momemn, while Sorweel is underutilized in the story. I think he has the potential to be a good character, particularly in how he may be able to hide his thoughts from Kellhus, but Bakker doesn't really devote much time to this aspect yet.

There is still, unfortunately, much that is tedious in this book. Two of the storylines revolve around the march toward either Golgotterath or Sauglish (Achamian's POV), while the other is the politics of ruling the empire in the absence of Kellhus. As I mentioned earlier, the philosophizing of characters has been reduced, its still there and I still find it incredibly pretentious and jarring as a reader. Sometimes Bakker stops writing in the third-person perspective of the character and switches to a first-person narrator, then back again to third person, all within a few sentences. As well, he is not always clear about what it is he is describing or the meaning of such things. Another annoying aspect is that during the battle sequences told through Mimara's eyes, he switches from past tense to present tense, which again is a bit jarring. My guess is he did this to bring out a sense of immediacy in the action, but it rather disrupts the flow of the narrative. The biggest knock against this book, I think, is that while it is only about 420 pages long, it feels much longer.

My short summation of this novel then is that it is a good yet deeply-flawed story. If you liked Bakker's previous trilogy, you will probably like this. If you didn't, then you won't find much in this to convince you otherwise.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2011
As much as I loved the Prince of Nothing trilogy, I was hesitant to read The Judging Eye because it picked up twenty years into the future and I was afraid that the characters I loved would fade into the background. However, this was not the case and I'm glad I finally read The Judging Eye. The story continues with Esmenet struggling to maintain control of the empire, all the while dealing with the harsh consequences of her choice to be with Kellhus, including: being married to a man incapable of love, who manipulates all those around him to reach his goals, producing children who are emotionless, mad, murderous, and/or deformed creatures. Meanwhile Achamian comes out of isolation to try and find the secret behind Kellhus' mysterious origins. Kellhus' character remains in the background; we don't see anything from his perspective and he continues to overawe people with his presence and conquer nations. Two new characters emerge: Mimara and Sorweel. Mimara--Esmenet's daughter who was sold into prostitution--follows Achamian into the depths of hell, literally, to learn sorcery and proves to have unique powers of her own, as well as a brave heart. It will be interesting to see her development throughout the series. Sorweel's character--a son of a defeated ruler who constantly struggles with his conflicted heart--was a disappoint. He is a Hamletesque figure, who remains static throughout the book and the sections on him are rather dry because nothing ever happens.
The reason this gets 4 stars instead of five is because, unlike the Prince of Nothing series, this book lacked originality and borrowed greatly from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring. At one point Achamian and the men he's hired are forced--due to a storm--to go underground through Cil-Aujas, a place very similar to the Mines of Moria. During this trek the band is attacked by sranc--creatures similar to orcs--and is forced through a chokepoint during which a staircase is broken and surprise, surprise they are momentarily relieved. Also, the band discovers that the Non-Men brought this evil upon themselves by enslaving humans for their mining purposes. Despite the fact that he borrowed ideas from Tolkien, the book remains a very entertaining, philosophical read, with some horrific images and original ideas of his own. The writing style and language are once again flawless and R. Scott Bakker does a good job exploring the nature of man. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and eagerly await the sequel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2014
I really cannot understand some of the criticis I read here.

In my opinion this story ( albeit having read only the first volume in this continuation trilogy ) is the expected, and logical collow up of Anasurimbor Kelhus and Achamians world. An impressive, well created world.

As is not the case with other huge encompassing fantasy sagas, after several years, it was not difficult at all to get back to the plot(s) and what it all is about.

I find this book far easier to read, also, than the first trilogy ( a superb trilogy, one of the rare ones ).

As to Bakers writing,mit is pretentious, sometimes unnecessarily intelligent. Again, in my opinion, itwas far more complicated in the first trilogy.

The trick is to glide through it, not to re read every more complex turn of phrase, twice or thrice, and find that the story, the pace, is there, showing itself to the reader.

And well worth it.

Finnally, I do not do Bakker the injustice ( in my view he is perfectly established as a writer and story teller and does not need it ) of affirming that some part of the plot is LOTR based.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2009
A most entertaining and welcome addition to Scott Bakker's 'Prince of Nothing' trilogy.

This book follows the independent tales of Kellhus and Drusus Achamain (Akka) in a period of time that follows Kellhus becoming the God-like Aspect-Emperor. In addition, the book focuses some attention on Kellhus's wife Esmenet, and in what appears to be a major developing side story, their son, Kelmomas.

The book is extremely well written and easy to follow, with chapters alternating between the different characters' stories. Chapters tend to end leaving you wishing for more and eager to get back to that particular tale.

I enjoyed this book much more that Bakker's trilogy ending 'The Thousandfold Thought', which seemed to me to contain a great deal of philosophical discussions that I personally found somewhat difficult to follow and understand. By comparison this novel was more 'story' and thus easier to understand and a joy to read.

In addition to a well written with a host of great characters, the book features (as per all previous Bakker books) an excellent glossary of character names with a brief description of their roles. It also has a detailed map of the area involved. And last but not least there is a brief summary of the story of 'Prince of Nothing' trilogy so you won't be totally lost if you don't read the initial trilogy (but you probably should).


Bakker is back; this is as fine a continuum as I could have hoped for to one of my favorite fantasy/adventure series. I can hardly wait for the next installment. Easily 5 Stars.

Ray Nicholson
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2009
Twenty years after the "holy war" we are given a glimpse of it's aftermath: where is drusus achamian? what sort of ruler has kelhus become, and what are his plans now?

like his first book "the darkness that comes before", "the judging eye" started off at a slow pace to me, but i have since put faith in bakker's ability to explode with tooth cracking tension and horror, and i was not disappointed.

in the final pages of the book there is a trek reminiscent of the fellowship of the ring's journey through the mines of moria...but i tell you that bakker's "rendition" makes that one look like a telly tubbies episode.

my only frustration is that i have to wait for the next installment.
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