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Darkness that Comes Before
on June 20, 2004
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.