51 of 64 people found the following review helpful
about as good as modern fantasy gets,
This review is from: The Darkness That Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing, Book 1) (Paperback)
This was an amazing book, beautifully written, full of original fantasy and incredible depth. Kellhus, the descendant of an ancient line of forgotten kings, is called to the holy city of Shimeh by his father, for mysterious reasons. They are both of the Dunyain, an order of supremely logical monks who are trained to silence all their emotions; they have no real magic, but training has given them some neat abilities, including incredible skills as warriors, the capacity of reading men's minds by the nuances of their tones of voice/facial expressions, and calculating the future by means of a probability trance. They can manipulate others so easily that it's sometimes referred to as possession.
Although Kellhus is the first real protagonist of the novel, he disappears for most of the book after his relatively brief introduction. Mainly we follow the doings of Achamian, a spy and a sorcerer who is searching for signs of the Consult, the evil force responsible for the apocalypse two-thousand years before. Most fantasy writing has the *feel* of some particular culture or time period (e.g. medieval, prehistoric, Asian, Western, etc.). This book feels Middle Eastern and a little Asian, and is reminiscent of both the Bible (Old and New Testament) and the Crusades; a new prophet is inciting a Holy War to reclaim the holy city of Shimeh while in the background, Achamian begins realizing that the second Apocalypse may already be unfolding.
Like a lot of epic fantasy, this book has a huge number of names and made up words. There are tons of characters (historical and present), different peoples, tribes, kingdoms and schools. It makes the world seem more majestic, but some might find it tiring. The events detailed are big rather than small; this isn't the tale of a single man's quest for greatness or self knowledge or anything like that. It's a fun read, but it isn't really a light or an easy read. It's also not a *flashy* fantasy book; there's much more plotting and intrigue here than real magic. Those who like fantasy books that focus on some central character gradually coming into his/her powers from an early age might not find it to their tastes. In the realm of epic fantasy, however, it's superb.