A series that always, always, always pops up on any list of top fantasy, whether it is epic, political, dark, or grimdark, is The Prince of Nothing series by R. Scott Bakker. This series never appears on the top of any of those lists, it is more like a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope series, meaning that you need enough players/books to fill up a roster so there ya go. From what I understand there is a rapid fanbase for this series, as I am sure there are people who think Kentavious is ready to take a leap or is the perfect guy to take your team to the next level, but those people are dumb. But like his name is fucking Kentavious. I actually came back to this paragraph after finishing this blog just to say that.
Now that is not to say The Darkness That Comes Before is a trash book, it had a lot of positives and got significantly better towards the end, hence the subtitle referring to the prophetic title of the book. The prologue was a little dense, but I got real hyped thinking I was about to read something great. The book is supposed to be about this holy war that mirrors some visions this sect of wizards have about a time of some earlier apocalyptic war and how we are about to have another apocalypse, but what it really is about is this one dude named Anasûrimbor Kellhus.
Lets make no mistake, the books success and allllll my enjoyment of it is entirely based on Anasûrimbor Kellhus. He is a fucking awesome character, my guess is if you don’t like him you hate this book. The book starts off with his kind of origin story, he has some dream about his dad and leaves this kind of monastery that raised him to be some super warrior/monk/psychologist. I am positive you have 897 characters in your head that already fit this description so I will do my best to explain why he is so awesome. His superness doesn’t come from having great fighting skills (which he does have), or some magical powers (which he doesn’t have), but rather from his ability to understand and manipulate the human psyche.
From the beginning he does things like observe the muscles in the mouth twitching to ascertain whether someone is being truthful, or links something someone said to some trauma that happened in their past to predict future behavior. The monkness part comes from his crew that preach the “Logos” which essentially means take the shortest path to success. He uses his abilities to manipulate a woman into loving him, an intelligent barbarian into joining him, and an entire noble class into accepting him as a prophet. As an aside, I really am tired of the intelligent, thoughtful barbarian character, but this version of it isn’t terrible.
All of this sounds very trope-y but in this case Bakker succeeds mightily. There are a lot of other story lines, the main two follow this guy Drusas Achamian, a wizard that belongs to a school known as The Mandate and the second the Emperor with his nephew Conphas. The magic dudes all belong to different schools, The Mandate is the school that has visions of the last Holy War which of course are being played out again. Conphas is some genius commandeer who is also a master politician. Both these things pale in comparison to Kellhus.
It is hard to imagine that a book which really has pretty lame action, a predictable story line, and a run-of-the-mill plot can be enjoyable, but Bakker’s special skill is creating these incredible characters. It is the depth and the creativeness of the characters that really leave you wanting more. I was dying to get more of Kellhus because I just found him to be such a fun read. His journey across the various stages of the holy war were must read, the other parts, especially the beggining shit with Achamian were pretty standard and actually leaned on boring, but if you could put up with that stuff the gold comes towards the end. It seemed like at some point Bakker knew he had something special with Kellhus and rode him to success.
Did this review tell you anything about the book? I don’t know, it was kind of just some ramblings. It is legitimately a good book, nothing special. I didn’t know this until I literally just added the cover into the blog, but my guy Steve Erikson endorsed it with that quote on the front. If that gets you to buy it then the marketing team has done their job well, if not then these fantasy book review blogs are prob not for you. I rate this as neither virgin nor chad, which seems like a very virgin thing to do. Thems the breaks when you are in the blogging game. Gotta keep yourself honest.
R Scott Bakker is an alllllll time fantasy author name. Easily top five no cap. Shout out to me for finally understanding basic photo editing and making a somewhat readable rating chart.