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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 February 2010
One of the most polished starts to a fantasy series I have read, Bakker uses excellent characterisation to ensure the backdrop of a second apocalypse is the culmination of the hopes and fears of dozens of central characters as opposed to said apocalypse being the driving force for said characterisation. The approach is definitely a more mature one and many characters are reprehensible and uncompromising, yet Bakker makes them likeable by showing that this is how his world operates. Fans of mystery will also be entertained as Bakker keeps many aspects of the mythology intentionally vague and open to interpretation - he doesn't spoon-feed you the plot at all.
If this is merely the calm before the storm, as is usually the case in the debut of an epic fantasy series, this could well turn out to be one of the definitive western fantasies of the 21st century. My only critiscism is that Bakker may drive off a lot of fantasy fans by being too dark for many to be able to stomach.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
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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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
'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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2006
This is a very good start to a new fantasy series.

The world it is set in is interesting and nicely complex; the characters all have flaws, and this dirtiness (if you like) makes them enjoyably unpredictable; and the mythology of various religions and schools of magic is new, mysterious and faintly menacing.

The prologue is wicked, but the main body of the book meanders a fair bit until a few hundred pages in when Kellhus and Cnaiur come together, and things seriously take off. I guess my reason for only giving four stars is that the book on the whole feels like an extended prologue.

The "promise" I mention in the review title obviously means I reckon the next two books are going to be absolute stompers!

If you like your fantasy complex (George RR Martin, Robert Jordan, Steven Erikson...) then you can deal with getting through long books with slower sections, and methinks you will enjoy this too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This isn't the easiest read on my shelves, but it is certainly one of the most interesting. This is the sort of book that you have to be in a particular mood to read. If you enjoyed the philosophising and deep politics of Erikson's Malazan series, as well as Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books, there's plenty for you here. The characters are well-drawn and very fallible, and the storyline is sketched out with just the right shade of foreshadowed tragedy to pull the reader along.

If the book has any failing at all, it is that there is no relief from the incipient misery, and virtually no humour to be found at all. Bakker's well-constructed "schools" of magic, more resembling the schools of thought of ancient Greece, are also tough going for anybody who doesn't want a story too rooted in psychology and philosophy. There's also the feeling that not a tremendous amount really happens - the main characters are being shuffled into position for the next act in what could be described as a very extended prologue (Bakker's Wikipedia entry confirms that this first trilogy was originally intended by be one single book).

But as the first part of what looks to be one of the stand-out fantasy series of both this and the last decade, The Darkness etc. is definitely worth a good look.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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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