fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review R. Scott Bakker The Darkness That Comes Before The Second Apocalypse: The Prince of Nothing The Warrior ProphetThe Warrior Prophet by R. Scott Bakker

The Warrior Prophet picks up from The Darkness That Comes Before (which must be read first) and mostly improves on that first book, which in itself was a solid read. Where Darkness suffered from lengthy exposition, now that the basic storyline and world have been set, Bakker can focus on moving things along more quickly, if that can be said about a 600 plus page book. Though the book could be cut by a hundred plus pages, that’s a critique that can be made about almost any recent fantasy (heavy sigh) and so can be relegated to the minor “I’ve grown resigned to this” sort of thing. Despite some padding, the book moves along fluidly and at a good pace for the most part, with only a few lagging areas. Part of the reason for the better pace is that while in book one the Holy War (with clear connections to the Crusades) has to be laboriously prepared, here the War is literally on the march, so while there are still scenes dealing with politics, religion, philosophy, and other non-battle elements, because the army can’t just camp out for months on end to deal with these things, Bakker has to settle them quickly or on the run. This self-limiting facet of the plot therefore helps quite a bit. The battles themselves are well-done, though I confess I tend to glaze over such things a bit the second or third time around.

The book also improves on Darkness in that there is less shifting among multiple characters and setting. This was less a problem of complexity than of emotional impact in book one — the constant shifting among so many characters diluted any single character’s impact — so while The Warrior Prophet may be equally complex in plot, the reader cares more about how that plot affects the characters thanks to the welcome sharpening of focus. Characters from book one aren’t simply dropped; we just don’t spend as much time with some of them.

The ones we do spend time with vary in their degree of interest and depth. As in book one, the most compelling character remains the sorcerer Achamian as we see him wrestle with a variety of issues, among them: his nightly dreams of the first apocalypse, his fear that Kellhus is the harbinger of the second one conflicting with his hope that perhaps Kellhus is more, his love for the whore Esmenet, his tattered relationships with former pupils who consider him a blasphemer. These don’t even include his time being tortured or his attempts to track down the “skin-spies” of the Consult. The story is always strongest when it focuses on Achamian, and luckily it does so for most of it.

Unfortunately, however, that means that it does move away from him and it is in these moments that the book tend to lag a bit. None of the other characters are of as much interest. Kellhus, who is the second point of major focus, lacks the depth and conflict of Achamian. He is portrayed as just too good at everything. We’re constantly told that when Achamian teaches him math, Kellhus stuns him with how he goes beyond the historical math geniuses. Then we’re told the same with regard to philosophy. And then … And then… I kept waiting for someone to comment on how he cooked the best goat and mended breeches best and so on. Not only was this sort of thing repetitive, but it robbed Kellhus of a sense of humanity (needed even if characters aren’t necessarily human) as well as robbing the book of some suspense as one never doubts that Kellhus will achieve what he sets out to. There are a few moments of internal conflict but they are grossly outweighed.
The women characters don’t particularly stand out, nor do the other noble characters. Cnaur is mostly a one-note character who doesn’t grow all that much. Other characters flash some potential, such as the leader of the Spires (a rival school of magic to Achamian’s) but are usually cut away from too quickly.
Finally, Bakker needed to reset some of his character inter-relations and develop them a bit more here as some major plot movement of the latter half of the book revolves around those relationships — ones we haven’t seen for about 500 or so pages back to the previous book.

Despite these flaws, The Warrior Prophet is an enjoyable read. The plot moves quickly and at a good pace despite its 600 pages, and the philosophical discussions, rather than slow the pace, complement the more militaristic “action” scenes nicely. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they were my favorite parts, making The Warrior Prophet not simply enjoyable but thoughtful as well, something that can be said all too rarely about much recent fantasy. While I still wouldn’t rank it at the top or in line with Erikson’s Malazan series or Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, it is different enough and intelligent enough to recommend strongly if not wildly enthusiastically. Though if book three improves as much on The Warrior Prophet as The Warrior Prophet did on book one, that may change.

The Second Apocalypse: The Prince of Nothing — (2004-2006) Publisher: Strikingly original in its conception, ambitious in scope, with characters engrossingly and vividly drawn, the first book in R. Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing series creates a remarkable world from whole cloth — its language and classes of people, its cities, religions, mysteries, taboos, and rituals — the kind of all-embracing universe Tolkien and Herbert created unforgettably in the epic fantasies The Lord of the Rings and Dune. It’s a world scarred by an apocalyptic past, evoking a time both two thousand years past and two thousand years into the future, as untold thousands gather for a crusade. Among them, two men and two women are ensnared by a mysterious traveler, Anasûrimbor Kellhus — part warrior, part philosopher, part sorcerous, charismatic presence — from lands long thought dead. The Darkness That Comes Before is a history of this great holy war, and like all histories, the survivors write its conclusion.

R. Scott Bakker The Darkness that Comes Before The Warrior Prophet The Thousandfold Thought

The Second Apocalypse: The Aspect-Emporer — (2009-2017) Publisher: Some twenty years have passed since the events narrated in The Prince of Nothing. Anasurimbor Kellhus now rules all the Three Seas, the first true Aspect-Emperor in a thousand years. The masses worship him as a living god, though a few, the Orthodox, dare claim he’s a walking demon. With Proyas and Saubon as his Exalt-Generals, he leads a holy war called the Great Ordeal deep into the wastes of the Ancient North, intent on destroying Golgotterath and preventing the Second Apocalypse. His wife Esmenet, meanwhile, remains in Momemn, where she struggles not only to rule his vast empire, but their murderous children as well. And Achamian, who lives as a Wizard in embittered exile, undertakes a mad quest to uncover the origins of the Dunyain.

R. Scott Bakker The Second Apocalypse: The Aspect-Emporer 1. The Judging Eye 2. The White Luck WarriorR. Scott Bakker The Second Apocalypse: The Aspect-Emporer 1. The Judging Eye 2. The White Luck Warriorscience fiction, fantasy, horror, and comic book and audiobook reviews,204,203,200_.jpg


  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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