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The Darkness That Comes Before [Mass Market Paperback]

R Scott Bakker
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 9 2004 The Prince of Nothing

The critically acclaimed first volume of Bakker's epic fantasy trilogy is now in mass market paperback

Two thousand years have passed sinceMog-Pharau, the No-God, last walked among Men. Two thousand years have passed since the Apocalypse.

In a world wrenched by holy war and devastation, a sorcerer, a concubine, and a warrior find themselves captivated by a mysterious traveller from lands long thought dead, a man who makes weapons of insight and revelation. Unable to distinguish the passion that elevates from the passion that enslaves, they fall ever deeper under his thrall, while what begins as a war of Men against Men threatens to become the first battle of the Second Apocalypse.

With this stunning debut, R. Scott Bakker is destined to become the next great fantasy writer of his generation. Set in a world of unparalleled detail and authenticity, populated by truly unforgettable characters, and framed by a profound understanding of the human condition, The Darkness That Comes Before proves that epic fantasy can be at once majestic, intelligent, and terrifying.


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From Amazon

The Darkness That Comes Before is R. Scott Bakker's first novel, the beginning of a large-scale, swords and magic fantasy trilogy. It's a book with historical depth by an author as interested in exploring the philosophy of his world as its violent, conflicted politics. The novel begins a bit slowly as we're introduced to the characters and the world they live in. There's Kellhus, a warrior-monk from a city hidden away for 2000 years, and Achamian, a sorcerer and spy from the Mandate school, whose members all have recurring nightmares of an ancient war. There's an emperor who longs for godhood, a barbarian warlord, and assorted other schemers. And lingering in the background is something truly evil.

When a newly arisen leader declares Holy War, the story brings everyone together. From that moment, the narrative takes off, and Bakker's prose carries the story right along. There's a fair amount of graphic violence, broken up by occasional flashes of humour. Bakker is working a combination that's currently also being explored by Steven Erikson and Sean McMullen: big fantasy worlds with long, deep histories, and characters who can think as well as act. It's a potent mix that elevates The Darkness That Comes Before well above most of its competition and bodes well for the rest of the series. --Greg L. Johnson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Canadian author Bakker's impressive, challenging debut, the first of a trilogy, should please those weary of formulaic epic fantasy. Bakker's utterly foreign world, Eärwa, is as complex as that of Tolkien, to whom he is, arguably, a worthier successor than such established names as David Eddings and Stephen Donaldson. Bakker creates an extraordinary cast of nationalities and races involved in an enormous holy war set off by an unseen prophet, Maithanet. (Appendices help keep the history and personalities straight.) He casually drops for half the story an increasingly important character, Anasûrimbor Kellhus (aka "the Prince of Nothing"), who finally returns without a breath of exposition. The amiable and wise sorcerer spy Drusas Achamian binds the myriad narrative threads together. Drusas's love for Esmenet, a too-experienced prostitute, provides some tenderness amid the abundant slaughter. In the book's most harrowing scene, which fans of gentler fantasy will find too graphic, Esmenet is raped by a creature who, despite its human appearance, is likely demonic. If this ambitious novel lacks the beauty of Tolkien as well as the sense of pure evil that suffused Middle-earth with genuine terror, its willingness to take chances and avoid the usual genre clichés should win many discriminating readers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Darkness that Comes Before June 20 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This book has garnered outstanding reviews and the author is being hailed as the heir to Tolkien.
I'm not sure that I see why. While this first novel has some original touches and nicely avoids good-versus-evil cliches, it doesn't really stand out to me. The worldbuilding is that of generic epic fantasy, with civilizations lasting thousands of years, emperors, dark lords, and multiple species; some distinctly Frank Herbert-esque touches of religious cults, killing words and Mentat-like trances add interest, but are not really well developed. (I do think the Sranc, murderous creatures perhaps best described as goblin-elves, are interesting.) Rapid POV switches between characters who are broadly sketched rather than vividly developed makes the plot not so much hard to follow as hard to maintain interest in.
Sentence-level writing is sparse, at times to the point of dullness; there is an overall lack of imagery, and though I applaud the author's desire to avoid infodumps I think readers may find the setting generally underdeveloped. While reading, I never felt drawn into the world; not only visual but sensory detail is largely lacking from what feel like rapidly sketched scenes.
The work shows potential, but not brilliance, in my opinion.
This will probably appeal to fans of epic fantasy; I don't think it transcends the genre.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic fantasy of the year! June 9 2003
Format:Paperback
Wow, there's something in the water up in Canada, and US publishers are really missing out. Good thing for the Internet! Manitoban Steven Erikson, still without distribution in the states, has established himself as the penultimate epic fantasy writer of the day (except for maybe G.R.R. Martin). Now along comes 'The Darkness that Comes Before, an unequivocal stellar debut by Ontario native R. Scott Bakker.
All of the usual superlatives apply. Simply put, TDTCB is incredible, and any fan of epic or high fantasy should already have it on order. Bakker is an expert craftsman...his world is rich and believable, the characters godlike, and the plot constantly engaging and in motion. Toss in the requisite humor, flawed leads, sex and betrayal, and a true gem emerges from the fantasy morass.
Brief plot summary annotated from the book sleeve: Two thousand years have passed since Mog-Pharau, the No-God, last walked among Men. Now the Shriah of the Thousand Temples has declared Holy War, and untold thousands gather, determined to wrest Shimeh, the Holy City of the Latter Prophet, from the hands of their heathen kin. Among them, one man stands apart, a man who uses redemption to deceive, and passion to elevate and enslave... Anasurimbor Kellhus. Two couples, a barbarian chieftain and his concubine, a sorcerer and his harlot lover, share his trials and tribulations, each compelled by what they think they see: the possibility vengeance, the promise of redemption, the threat of apocalypse, or the hope of escape. As the violent fortunes of the Holy War transform Kellhus into an all-conquering prophet, they finally begin to ask: What is he really?
References have been made to Tolkein, but this novel is far more postmodern and machiavellian than LoTR.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great and Deep book June 19 2004
Format:Hardcover
This is one of the best fantasy books I've read in a long time. Like one of the critics said above, the book brings you into a story thats been started a long time before. Personally, I think this adds to the feel of the book. Makes you feel like you're looking into something real. Furthermore, I like the way Bakker makes use of the philosophies of Nietzche in the creation of his hero. Toss in a little bit of the creation story from the Bible. And you have yourself a character that inhabits the space between possibilities. And yet, like a Nietzchian hero, you could almost call him an anti-hero in some parts of the book. Furthermore, the book doesn't just revolve around Khellus, the hero. Bakker has a good collection of deep, well developed supporting characters. This is a solid, well written. Its even poetic at some points. The world in this book is built on sound philosophies and logics. The politics and intrigue are amazing. And yet you can very clearly see the flawed humans beings at the center of it all. Yep, this is an excellent book and deserves all five stars. I wish I didn't have to wait for the next one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great epic fantasy April 14 2004
By R. Nicholson TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This is one of those books that I could hardly wait to get a free minute or two to continue reading. It is the first of a series and I'm itching for the next volume to come out (expected sometime quite soon, in fact)
The first part of this book reminded me a lot of Frank Herbert's "Dune": that being, a rather diverse, confusing, "I wondering what's going on here", beginning: and like "Dune", your patience is rewarded as the individual pieces eventually get pulled together, making for one great story.
The story itself is fresh and intriguing; with plots and subplots involving individuals and also on a more global scale. There is a wealth of interesting characters and substantial character development. You will find war, revenge, deception, journeys, and an erotic sexy quality to the sporadic love scenes: all of which make this novel very readable and addicting.
If you liked the style of story telling you found in "Dune" or if you just like great fantasy writing, I would recommend this novel.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Beware: "Nothing" here!
I am a seriously avid and persistent reader. I thoroughly dislike cliche fantasy novels, and have been enjoying the fresh breeze that authors like GRR Martin, Scott Lynch, Joe... Read more
Published on April 18 2012 by Melika
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingriffictabulous
For those of you finding yourself growing out of the 90's Fantasy of Wheel of Time and looking for a more modern character driven story... STOP LOOKING. Read more
Published on April 29 2011 by Cal 0_o
5.0 out of 5 stars A good start.
A great starting fantasy book "The Darkness That Comes Before" is in my opinion a strong hard fantasy. Read more
Published on July 26 2008 by Ali Siddiqui
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Satisfying Read
I bought Bakker's "The Darkness That Comes Before" on a whim, and it turned out to be a deeply satisfying read, with three-dimensional characters, all flawed and harboring feelings... Read more
Published on July 12 2008 by Voracious Reader
4.0 out of 5 stars A fresh and gritty approach to fantasy
This is a very interesting series, and I'll base my review on the complete series, as I assume you'd be interested in reading the whole story. Read more
Published on April 23 2008 by Thiago S. Silva
1.0 out of 5 stars Do Not Waste Your Time
As an avid fantasy reader I have enjoyed my way through R.A. Salvatore and his adventures with Drizzt as well as his ancillary novels; Robert Jordans Wheel of Time Series, Terry... Read more
Published on Aug. 9 2007 by Drizzt 39
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Canadian "High" Fantasy
I enjoyed this. A warning to potential readers though: It's slow paced. But not boring! It's just that being about holy war, the subject matter's pretty heavy (especially in volume... Read more
Published on Sept. 4 2006 by Barxrockingm
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard to like
A fantasy account of a crusade. Two stars for at least some interesting ideas and the odd exciting battle scene. However, there are major problems with this book... Read more
Published on Feb. 22 2006
5.0 out of 5 stars Drew me into fantasy
I've never really been one for fantasy, but after reading about this on Amazon.ca's site, I picked it up and was thoroughly blown away by the intrinsic philosophies and... Read more
Published on Jan. 11 2005 by Don Eglinski
5.0 out of 5 stars A hard book to put down!
Normally I do not read fantasy books, but I ran across this book in my public library and decided to try it. I absolutely loved it and couldn't put it down! Read more
Published on Aug. 31 2004
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