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The Darkness that Comes Before: The Prince of Nothing, Book One Paperback – September 2, 2008
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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.
Top customer reviews
It's impossible to walk away unaffected.
Simply, though, this is the most amazing series I've read yet.
At first, I was a little bored and confused by it. Bakker seemed to be treading into that realm of taking way to long to say things that didn't need to take so long to say. The story seemed to drag. There was too little explanation of all the different factions and who was trying to do what, and who belonged to which nation; basically, it was confusing. I don't have much patience for this, and I was honestly about to give up.
But then Bakker seemed to "find his groove", and boy did he find it. Eventually, after that rough start, he reached a balance that is hard to reach in writing; beautiful, engaging prose, but not at the expense of keeping the story interesting and moving along. He almost did a 180 from the beginning of the book; descriptions of things and thoughts of characters are worded in a way that is so unique, so visceral, that you can feel it in your gut.But he didn't beat around the bush with this. He described things and thoughts beautifully but efficiently; just enough to make you feel it, and then move on with the story.
The story is epic. Grand things are happening on a grand scale, but you see it through the eyes of every character in their very flawed ways. It is written in a "changing perspective" format; from character to character, which can be hard to pull off. Too often with this format, you get invested in one characters story, it reaches some cliffhanger, and then you are left hanging while it switches to another character. This annoys me when authors do this, but Bakker doesn't. He sees each minor plot all the way out until a relatively satisfying stopping point, and then and only then does he switch. And he doesn't slowly build the new plot, he takes you right into it. It keeps you engaged the whole way without feeling like you are starting all over every time a perspective is switched.
Honestly, after reading Bakker's work, I'm feeling a bit spoiled; kind of like I felt after reading "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss. Other fantasy I read now seems clumsy, poorly worded, and "obvious". The other fantasy books I was reading have slowly fallen by the wayside while Bakker's work is in my reading list.
Bakker's world is dark, gritty, and there isn't one single character that isn't horribly flawed. I think this is where a lot of the negative reviews come from. It can be hard to relate to and like some of these characters, but he provides us with an "anchor" in Achamian. This is the one character that seems to resonate the most with what we like to consider as a "good man", a person that we can relate to. To help anchor us with this, he spends a great deal of time telling the story from his eyes. It provides a sense of humanity in the cruel, dark world that he has created.
This is an incredibly hard setting and story to write, and to write it in a way that in profound, beautiful, and entertaining all at the same time is a task that only an incredibly talented author can do.
I am devouring the second book now, and it is just as good, if not better, because the slow start is non-existent.