Book Review: The Darkness That Comes Before By R. Scott Bakker


Genre: Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Fantasy Dystopia
Series: The Prince of Nothing
Author Info: blog:

This breathtaking debut by Canadian author R. Scott Bakker is the first book of The Prince of Nothing trilogy and in my opinion it is greatly underrated. Bakker was a Ph.d candidate of philosophy and his education definitely shows in his writing. If you are into dark fantasy and character driven stories, this is absolutely a must read. It can be a bit difficult to get a grasp in the first 70 or so pages due to the alien nature of the setting and the strange names, but once the story elements start to unfold, your mind will be blown.

Bakker has written each character in impressive detail with very complex background stories, conflicting emotions and and world views. All of the lands, cities and nations are richly detailed with their histories, culture, architecture and religious beliefs. Bakker stated that it took him 15 years to write this first book in an interview, and it definitely shows as you delve into the depths of this amazingly detailed world.

The whole setting is very foreign and original -though not that foreign for ancient history buffs- yet extremely realistic.Two of the main characters, a strong willed savage Scylvendi barbarian called Cnaüir and the godlike, mysterious and  charismatic traveler called Anasûrimbor Kellhus both represent the übermensch concept of Nietzsche, although they are quite opposite to each other in every way and it’s impossible to tell which one is the hero and which one is the villain.

The other two main characters are Drusas Achamian, an intelligent sorcerer from the ridiculed Mandate school whose mission is to fight the mysterious and stealthy evil faction called The Consult, and his paramour Esmenet. Esmenet is a low caste prostitute and she is a woman of sharp wits and strong character. The complicated relationship between her and sorcerer Achamian adds a touch of tenderness to this dark and dystopic story.

The fates of the main characters intersect in a great crusade-like holy war marching to conquer the heathen kingdoms and the complex plot is woven between the progress of the holy war, the warring factions within it and the mysterious enemies plotting terrifying schemes. Bakker has done an impressive job with the complexity of the main characters. Most of the supporting characters are also quite well done. My only complaint is that some of the supporting characters are not as deep and they look a bit two dimensional next to the others. I am especially disappointed with Exalt-General Conphas, who seemed quite promising in the beginning and turned out flat as the story progressed.

This book and the entire trilogy stand very far from the typical fantasy literature cliches and tropes. You will not find the typical heroes and villains, Tolkienesque elements, dragons, etc. in this series. It is highly philosophical and made me question a lot of things about life, though the philosophical elements are deftly immersed into the story and far from boring.

If you are into mental chess games, philosophy, glorious battle scenes and high brow intellectual vocabulary, you will totally lover this book and the entire series for the matter. However it’s not for the faint of heart, for there are very graphic violence scenes, an ample amount of gore and explicit sex scenes.

Rating: 4.5/5 Roman Solidus


4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Darkness That Comes Before By R. Scott Bakker

  1. I promise it’s really not that difficult to read (not half as difficult as The Silmarillion) It’s a bit difficult in the first few chapters, due to the strange names and supremely alien environment but once you figure out all the places and who is who, it becomes a page turner before you know it. It is philosophical but not boring or too difficult to read at all. The characters are mind blowing!


  2. Pingback: Summer Reading List: The Most Promising Books from my TBR | Leona's Blog of Shadows

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