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on 31 July 2016
At the beginning, this book really confused me. The author launches into his characters and settings straight away, and the reader has to follow along and somehow work it all out as the story progresses. It’s like viewing it all from the outside in, getting snippets here and there, then having to try to hold that information in order to piece it all together once a better explanation comes along. It’s like drawing a map of a place you’ve never visited before street by street, with little context of the surroundings until you get there.

But, once I did get into it, which luckily didn’t take too long (the first third, which is standard for a more complex book), I actually found it captivating. The author has a slightly GRRM way of killing off characters, which is fine if you’re used to that. Yes, the wonderful Mr. Martin is King of giving a character their own POV, then killing them off afterwards! So it’s a good point not to get too attached, just in case. Yet the whole storyline is an intriguing one, even if perhaps an alternative to a familiar idea.

Also, one thing I just read amongst the many reviews is that the author, apparently, uses his thesaurus too much. Now I didn’t have any trouble at all in understanding the words here, just had some time familiarising myself with special words particular to the universe.

Anyway, not a bad read at all, and I imagine that the next book should flow along far easier now I’m familiar with the universe.
2 people found this helpful
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on 28 June 2017
The start of the best fantasy series you'll ever read. Thrilling, engrossing and horrifying.
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on 3 June 2012
I really wanted to like this; Bakker does good work with the world-building, there is some political intrigue and a sense of history. However, he spoils that with over-writing and cod-philosophy that adds nothing to the book apart from weight.

What ruins the book, though, is Kellhus, the central character, who is utterly unconvincing as the almost entirely flawless warrior-monk, who can tie even the most impressive people round his little finger with a mix of charm, epigraphs from the Little Book of Zen and a highly dubious ability to read facial cues. So unconvincing is Kellhus that the writing seems more wooden when he is around and the reactions of other characters to him appear entirely unwarranted.

Bakker has been compared to Steven Erikson but this lacks the sense of truly epic scale and the humour of the Malazan books. This would not be too much of a problem were it not for the badly conceived and executed protagonist.
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on 2 August 2013
I found this book very long and struggled to finish it I did not get attached to any of the characters. I will read the other books of the trilogy as I have bought the trilogy in one go following the advice of a friend and the amazon reviews.
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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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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 2 July 2006
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 14 September 2007
Wow, what an amazing book. Bakker's debut novel is packed with political intrigue, philosophical poignancy, awesome characters and complex and involving story lines.
The tone and writing style is reminiscent of one of the greatest books ever written, Frank Herbert's Dune. R Scott Bakker has amazing talent as a writer. This book truly exceeded my expectations.

A warning though, initially it is an arduous book to read, because it's packed with unpronounceable character and place names, as well as a deep and complex history of the world. But all this contributes to the believability of the setting and ultimately a very satisfying and rewarding book. This is largely responsible for the negative reviews on this site, but ignore this if your looking for a novel which offers more than a fancy cover.

The Darkness That Comes Before is a refreshing addition to the fantasy genre and I can't wait for the next books in the series, which should be good because ... "What comes before, determines what comes after."
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on 22 March 2011
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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VINE VOICEon 29 April 2006
Ignore the detractors who say this work is inaccessible. The same people gave up reading Lord of the Rings. What is worthwhile is never easy. I would agree it is sometimes difficult to sort and understand all the references to names, cultures, races and places. However, it is truly worth the effort and the books are supplied with a 'Character and Faction glossary' if you get lost.

I read an interview with R Scott Bakker on Sffworld and there is one thing he said that sticks in my mind. "Here I was, this egghead with a small deal in a small market, casting about looking for ways to reach those I thought would love the book: world-junkies (such as myself), and those who'd abandoned epic fantasy when they went to university."

I loved epic fantasy in my youth and for years I read fantasy almost exclusively. As I got older I realized I was missing out and migrated and expanded my reading interests and also started to feel that the majority of fantasy output was clichéd, unimaginative copies of Tolkien, and largely childish drivel (David Eddings and Terry Brooks spring to mind).

I started to feel embarrassed that I ever found this stuff so enthralling, and try as I might to find good adult, intelligent fantasy, I found the task impossible. For a long time I left the genre to the spotty adolescents, battling with their hormones and trying to find the meaning of life in the words of Gandalf.

It was the work of George RR Martin that showed me that there were authors out there writing intelligent and entertaining fantasy that could still appeal to people over twenty. So to me the work of R Scott Bakker is very special. Intelligent fantasy writing with philosophical undertones, it does come across as a modern Lord of the Rings. I wouldn't burden Bakker with the platitude of `best fantasy author since Tolkien'. However, I would say that hell of a lot of thought has gone into the Prince of Nothing series and Bakker's characters are deep and a pleasure to read. If you are an aging fantasy fan looking for something that gave you the same feeling of place that you felt when first reading Lord of the Rings all those years ago, then I thoroughly recommend that you try this series.
10 people found this helpful
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