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on 13 August 2005
Despite reading complaints regarding the highly detailed and complex world created by Bakker which stated his book was quite hard to get into i bought it because of the promise of a darker, more mature fantasy than normal. I was not disappointed. Bakkers writing and the world he creates have a depth and subtlety which are all to rare in the fantasy genre and the story/characters are as dark as anything those other masters , George R.R Martin and Steven Erikson, could hope to conjure. I hesitate to go into any great detail on the book itself for fear of introducing spoilers but suffice to say that the writer and book are of the very highest class and have even attracted deserved praise from the quality, literate papers such as the Guardian as well as his successful peers.
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The opening volume of The Prince of Nothing Trilogy, itself merely the opening salvo in a much larger epic called The Second Apocalypse, is an insightful, gritty work of epic fantasy. Set in a world which seems to be a collision between Ancient Greece and the First Crusade, the story follows several characters as their destinies become inexorably entwined in the fate of the great Holy War called by the Inrithi Faith against the heathen Fanim. In this first novel the focus is on the sorcerer Achamian as he infiltrates the Holy War, a particularly well-drawn character, if one who is often tormented by birth and circumstance. Elsewhere we meet the enigmatic, insightful Kellhus who seeks his lost father in the lands of the south, and follow the warrior Cnaiur as he journeys from his tribe into the civilised lands of the east on a quest to find his mentor.

The story is intriguing, the writing is extremely powerful in places, and the world is incredibly well-realised. If Bakker has some faults they lie in making the world rather grim, with incidents of light and humour few and far between. But the fleshed-out characters hold the reader's interest, as does the interesting naming conventions (largely based on Ancient Greece, Macedonia and Persia) and the moments of philosophical insight. Unlike more recent books by Steven Erikson, these latter moments are not allowed to overwhelm the main storyline.

Bakker comfortably slips into place as one of the three or four most interesting and innovative fantasy writers working today (alongside Martin, Erikson and Guy Gavriel Kay) . Well recommended.
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on 24 April 2013
Clearly this book is not for everyone. It has a complexity that challanges the readers. It has a hero/anti-hero that is memorable and infuriating and exceptional. Bakker's visual style and authenticity in his world building is second to none, within Genre or outside it.

It is a book that forces you to think - from an author who clearly knows his ancient Greek philosophical beans. Tekne. Heh, clever.
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on 11 December 2015
After branching off into some other fiction, I felt the itch to come back to fantasy and, after a bit of looking around, stumbled upon this and thought I'd see if it was any good. I have not been disappointed, this is nothing short of amazing.

The plot follows a handful of characters as their threads become entwined in an overall arc. If you were to break this down to its very core you'd find standard fantasy elements - a sorceror, a barbarian, a forgotten prince etc, all joining a war with the ever present (but not really believed by most) threat of an ancient demon-god coming back to threaten the world with darkness. However, as average as that sounds, the writing is of such an incredibly high standard that Bakker could throw in any type of character and you'd still read it. Each character is overwhelmingly deep in substance, and this is an almost constant exploration of the various aspects of humanity; there are phrases and passages in here that you read several times, then shut the book and contemplate for a time.

I won't attempt to summarise the characters or the story, as even a summary would take too long and not do this justice. Sufficed to say that if you love high/epic fantasy, this is for you. It is a little tricky to start with, but nothing too difficult, and my main (and only) slight niggle is that some of the character and place names are very complicated. I often find myself simply recognising the shapes of the words rather than attempting to pronounce them. But that really is the only criticism I can offer, and it's a very subjective one. This is the start of what will surely be one of the best fantasy novels I've read in a long time.
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on 5 January 2013
Was gripped by the sample on Kindle, so my husband bought me the book. Now I'm waiting on tenter hooks for the postie to deliver books 2 & 3.
To my mind on the same level as James Barclay's Raven books & Raymond E Fiest's Rift War series.
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on 5 January 2011
I'm sick of generic, formulaic fantasy. The storylines are the same. Only the names change. The virtual shelves of Amazon bend under the weight of them. I'm sick of adolescent characterisations and vacuous, sanitised storylines that wouldn't phase a vicar freshly back from a prude-awareness course. So imagine my pleasant surprise when I picked up this book. Fresh. Grown up. Sophisticated. Dark. Unflinching. Challenging. Enough already to lift this up above the rest and make me rave. But that's just the beginning. Don't bother with it if you need your plots spoonfeeding to you, because you'll be lost from the beginning. Don't bother if you don't want to stop occasionally and think about the meaning behind the words, because the deep subtlety of this book will be lost on you. This is a book that repays the reader's effort with an interest rate that would have bankers flinching and crossing themselves. The plot is brilliantly woven around an exquisite philosophy of determinism. It warns you of the manipulative nature of its characters, then goes ahead and manipulates you. It inspires and sickens by turns, but it consistently amazes. Characters can be made to seem clever by an author's shallow trickery, but the intellect of Scott Bakker's protagonist took genius. The author has created a mountain amongst fantasy molehills. He has provided giants' shoulder's and challenged others to ride upon them.
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on 13 October 2004
Tired of reading books that create a world in which nothing is explained? Tired of reading books that skimp out human culture and make each realm a carbon copy of the one before? You need a book that gives you interesting cultures, religions, and so forth without drowning in pedantic detail. You will like The Darkness that Comes Before.
It is not an easy ride. Those looking for skimpy light fare will hurry past this one. The first 100 or so pages are thick in details and names that the mind shudders to remember them all. Some names seem unpronounceable, others full of dots accents and circumflexes to the point of drowning.
But soon the mind remembers each one. Some things are only mentioned- hinted at, but the interest on each one does not die away.
And the villains! Trust me, you will never look at a Trolloc in the same way. The same childish, cardboard cut-outs of the real thing. These villains exude such an aura of palpable menace that you would scream if you could but your larynx has already distatched itself from your throat and hidden itself under the sofa.
The prose is brilliant as well. IT is written with such a great use of vocabulary and metaphors that your mind reels, like when you took your first sip of wine, and entrance into another world full of vivid descriptions.
The plot flows well, with interesting events popping up. It flows well, political intrigue is better than most, you can gradually fell the escalating fundamentalist religous antagonism building up in Sumna and the tension in the Emperor's court.
So overall the Darkness that Comes Before is a great worthy of your time if you want to be immersed in a rich evocative fantasy that will be lauded for decades after its release
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on 11 February 2015
I prefer my fantasy deep and dark and this certainly fits the bill. In my younger days I thought the works of JRR Tolkien would never be surpassed. In recent years George RR Martin became my favourite fantasy author with a body of work that was much more adult than LOTR's. However, over the last couple of years I have read all of R Scott Bakker's fantasy series (starting with 'The Darkness that Comes Before') and I now have a new favourite. It is similar in scope and in feel with 'Dune' .... it is as adult and mature as 'A Song of Ice and Fire' .... and as epic 'The Lord of the Rings'. 'The Darkness That Comes Before' is deep, dark with characters complex and interesting. The book takes inspiration from real life historical events such as The Crusades with conflicts between religions, but also adds magic, various political factions and an ancient evil into the mix. From beginning to end, I found this book (and the following books ..... 5 in total, soon to be 6 in 2015) to be fascinating, exciting and thought provoking.
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on 19 October 2015
This book starts slowly but is the beginning of an epic adventure that is majestic in its unraveling.. the characterisation draws you in to a world where men are like children and can be manipulated with ease by the hand of one man.. and a great threat is on the horizon. Fabulous story-telling, happily recommend this to anyone and everyone who has read it has not been disappointed.
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on 13 July 2010
'The Darkness That Comes Before' is without a doubt one of the most detailed fantasy books I have ever read and has an incredibly rich world with dozens of factions and rivalries whether they be political, the classic good vs evil or family. The multiple converging storyline's and sub-plots will keep you gripped whilst the richly imagined world in which the book takes place will draw you in until you could almost believe that the world R Scott Baker has created is actually real.

I bought this book because after a while reading the same old 'Good Vs Evil' and 'Boy and friend grow up to be incredibly important' type books which always had the bad guys being totally evil and the good guys being totally good became very boring. I still like that type of fantasy from time to time but eventually the cynic in me ruins things by pointing that real people are never that heroic, if you'ver ever felt like this then 'The Darkness That Comes Before' is the perfect antidote.

This is not to say that every character in the book is selfish but rather that they make mistakes, they sometimes do things out of self-interest and even the heroes at times have to succumb to 'The End justifies the means' philosphy in order to achieve their goals much as many in the real world have to.

The large cast of characters which include a Prostitute, monk, Emperor and nobles to name a few are also by no means stereotypical; indeed they subvert many of the conventions of the genre and in so doing make 'The Darkness That Comes Before' a breath of fresh air in a at times stale genre.

In short if you've got tired of reading Aes Sedai smooth their skirts in 'The Wheel of Time' or you can't take the thought of reading about anymore elves or dwarves without feeling suicidal then you should definitely read 'The Darkness That Comes Before'. It's every bit as epic as Lord of The Rings and the world R Scott Baker has created feels just as well imagined as Tolkien's middle earth. If however you're a bit of a fantasy romanticist you should probably buy something more 'conventional' like Robert Jordans epic 'The Wheel of Time' or Raymond E Feists excellent 'The Riftwar Saga'.
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