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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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 of self-doubt, holding on to past anger and frustrations, yet trying to improve constantly. Although I agree with other reviewers who say that they would have liked to see strong female...
Published on July 12 2008 by Voracious Reader

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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Darkness that Comes Before
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...
Published on June 20 2004


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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
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Satisfying Read, July 12 2008
This review is from: The Darkness That Comes Before (Mass Market Paperback)
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 of self-doubt, holding on to past anger and frustrations, yet trying to improve constantly. Although I agree with other reviewers who say that they would have liked to see strong female characters that weren't prostitutes, I feel that the women were still drawn up as three-dimensional human beings who fell into unfortunate circumstances but are doing their best to internally overcome their lot in life while at the same time searching for that one person whose love for them will transcend their situation.

Another extremely satisfying aspect of this novel is that Bakker attempts to show all characters and all sides equally. You get an impression of every single character's understanding of what is going on around them, allowing a detailed construction of the overarching story line, without feeling partial to anyone necessarily. His language can become sheer poetry at times, his conversations are realistic, all of his characters are desperately trying to hide their flaws and come out on the winning side of an argument.

Overall, a fantastically constructed, well thought-out novel, which deserves much attention. I will definitely be reading the other two books in this series.
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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
By 
Ian Kell "muzak fan" (Seattle, WA United States) - See all my reviews
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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. Bakker has more in common with Erikson, Stephen R. Donaldson, Martin or early Robert Jordan. There are multiple threads and disparate points of view (hence 'epic'), but as the book progresses they are wound tighter and tighter until the gripping conclusion.
Don't be misled by self-admitted Marxist reviewers.... Modern philosophies don't easily translate to fantasy novels (witness Goodkind's terrible slide), and Bakker himself wrote a great short article on sffworld.com about the current role of the fantasy genre in modern life (Why Fantasy and Why Now?). Bakker may come across as an educated, intelligent writer, but more importantly, he's a talented one. Avoid this debut at your own peril.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to like this book too..., June 27 2004
I began reading the book with high hopes - especially after reading some of the very positive reviews here.
Unfortunately, I've struggled to finish about three-quarters of the book, and have since stopped. I ask myself why - the writing is good, yes the rapid POV switches are bit irritating but everyone does them nowadays, the world-building was interesting, and so forth.
But I couldn't bring myself to care about any of the characters. And quite frankly when that happens, a book just doesn't compel. A really good writer interests you even in the 'bad guys' and the bit players.
And on a gender-specific note - I noticed that almost ALL the women in this book who are protagonists are [prostitute]. Even the old empress seems to have [prostituted] her way to her position. While many women throughout history used sex to advance themselves in a world where they had no power - not ALL of them did. Frankly, the insistence on [prostitute]in this book (and I suspect the future ones) is a mite disturbing.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First-class fantasy, Sept. 19 2003
By 
Peter Diplaros (Toronto, ON Canada) - See all my reviews
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What a breath of fresh air. I've been looking for a good fantasy series for a looooong time. Mr. Bakker's first novel blew me away.
This novel has a fully realized world, plausible situations, magic that makes sense within the context of the world, half a dozen very interesting characters, skillful writing and brilliant pacing. It also provokes emotion, not melodrama.
Here's the best part (for me at least):
* NO ELVES
* NO DISGRUNTLED PRINCES
* NO BICKERING WOMEN
* NO MEANINGLESS QUESTS
* NO DISNEY-ISMS
* NO CLUELESS POETRY
* NO INDESTRUCTIBLE, INFALLIBLE HEROES
* NO GIFTED, SMALL-TOWN BOYS WHO ARE SECRETLY PRINCES OR HEIRS
I could go on. READ THIS BOOK!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Canadian "High" Fantasy, Sept. 4 2006
By 
This review is from: The Darkness That Comes Before (Mass Market Paperback)
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 two) and it's a lot to absorb. Normally a book this length would take me about 3-4 days to read. I've read the whole series now and each one took me about two months. There's also a lot of characters and factions to keep straight.

It's a great story though. Bakker writes very well and keeps the plot building steadily throughout the series. The characters are interesting and they grow as the war goes on and they learn about themselves and each other. The philosophy behind the Mandate Schoolmen and the Dunyain, for example, is fascinating. I recommend it for people who are looking for more than your average sword and sorcery fantasy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingriffictabulous, April 29 2011
This review is from: The Darkness That Comes Before (Mass Market Paperback)
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. It's right here and devishly interesting, the characters are well thought out, constructed and posses many dimensions/motivations beyond the normal, "Small town kid realizes he has super duper powers and feels like it would be a good idea to destroy that evil looking wizard who somehow will benefit by destroying the world... Yawn!".

Simply put a great read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A good start., July 26 2008
By 
Ali Siddiqui (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Darkness That Comes Before (Mass Market Paperback)
A great starting fantasy book "The Darkness That Comes Before" is in my opinion a strong hard fantasy. At first I was a little put off from it because of the unnecessary cruel nature of some characters and the imagery. But, once I got past that I realized how tantalizing the world that Bakker has created is. It's a cruel but fascinating place where magic, faith, sex, and violence are embraced in equal measures. If I were pressed to say who this book is marketed towards I would say adults most definitely. Due to not just the adult situations but also because of the complex and harrowing storyline. I took the dive and I am happy with what I've read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A fresh and gritty approach to fantasy, April 23 2008
By 
Thiago S. Silva (São José dos Campos, SP, Brasil) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Darkness That Comes Before (Mass Market Paperback)
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.

It breaks the mold of regular fantasy books, bringing a more dark and mature tone to it. One of the best descriptions I've read of it was "Dune meets Lord of the Rings", and I found it evocative of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon too.

The baseline for the story borrows heavily from Christian history and mythology, but it's not a catechizing book at all (i.e. Narnia series). I was kinda bothered by it at first, thinking it a lack of creativity, but as the book unfolds the parallels make for some very good reflections about Christianity as a sect, and faith in general.It is likely to please agnostics more than religious readers, I'd say.

Overall, I largely enjoyed the whole series, but it definitely has ups and downs, losing pace in many parts of the narrative in the two last books. I also got the impression that the ending was a bit rushed, as if the author had lingered too long during the core of the story, and found himself out of pages to finish the book. The ending is very "movie-like", by leaving a hook for sequels, but it does offer a conclusion for the story.

Overall, a very enjoyable read, very fresh and original, and definitely thrilling at some points. A worthy read if you're into fantasy but is looking for something more gritty and mature.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Drew me into fantasy, Jan. 11 2005
By 
Don Eglinski (Edmonton, Canada) - See all my reviews
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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 metaphysics, and the developed characters. Plot turns keep it intrigueing.
If you're a fan of Clive Barker, Frank Herbert, or more cerebral fantasy, then you'll be an instant Bakker fan. His writing style is poetic and erudite, and very much his own.
The Prince of Nothing series has quickly become one of my favourite stories ever. If you're not into complex epics, however, such as Dune, perhaps skip this and come back to it when you're more comfortable with the number of characters and its depth of meaning.
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The Darkness That Comes Before
The Darkness That Comes Before by R Scott Bakker (Mass Market Paperback - April 9 2004)
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