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The Darkness That Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing, Book 1) Paperback – May 31, 2005
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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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Top Customer Reviews
The first half is mostly world building, and that's why it's tough to get through(plus the names, oh the names). You really don't have a character to love or hate. I would highly suggest bookmarking the appendix until you get familiar with the characters as well.
As you get to the last half of the book, and hook up with the barbarian and the monk(again), things getting going. You have a few characters that you start to get attached to, and the world is very realized in your head thanks to the world building.
By the end if the book, you have a great cast and world ready for a holy war. I can't wait to dive into the next one.
These books are not for the faint of heart and have a lot of philosophical depth but any adult fan of fantasy fiction will come away with one of the most memorable reads in the genre.
Looking at the critical response on Wiki, I do get the linkages between this series and Martin (SFX). I would not classify this as formulaic epic fantasy (Publisher's Weekly) as there is no coming of age tale here like one gets in Tolkien/Eddings. The story is told through the eyes of mature and old men, well seasoned in politics. It is a tale of religious prophecy come to life.
My only peeve is the accent symbols are distracting and alien to an American. I suppose they may aid one familiar in their uses in the pronunciation of fantastic names, but I would prefer an appendix of pronunciations such as this: Sërwe (Sair-way).