By: R. Scott Bakker
Synopsis: Two thousand years have passed since Mog-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.
Format: The Darkness That Comes Before is the first book in The Prince of Nothing trilogy. That trilogy is part of the larger Second Apocalypse series. This book introduces Kellhus, Achamian, and Esmenet in a world on the brink of Holy War. My copy is 622 pages long, published in 2004 by Penguin Canada.
My Thoughts: This book has changed the way I think. In the beginning of the book you are introduced to the concept of cause and effect. A relatively simple concept to grasp. However, the characters who study this have grasped the true meanings of that concept so deeply they can understand how the world around them will change before the changes even begin. This leads to great advancements of those characters agendas, as other people with the lack of this knowledge cannot help but be manipulated. I found this a fascinating concept, and quite an excellent diversion into something that appears magical, but is inherently logical instead.
Speaking of magic, this world contains many types of sorcerous “schools” all of which regular people consider blasphemous. In an interesting twist, these sorcerers can be virtually godlike in their power, but are still limited by other forms of authority like the kings and emperors around them.
Probably my favourite part of this book is the characters though. Each one has deep flaws, that are eventually ruthlessly exploited. None of the characters in this book are considered “good” or consider themselves to be good. They all have flaws that make them appear to be so real. Once the evil in this book is truly revealed, it is almost hard to distinguish the “bad” guys from the “good” guys, as each group is moving after their own goals in similar fashions. If you read the book you will notice obvious differences between the good and bad, but I am not giving things away in a review.
Finally, I found this book makes you consider what is going on in the world today from a different perspective. Instead of “[insert cause] is good and everything else is bad!” You get the idea that people are working towards what they think is right, regardless of whether that is an efficient or beneficial way. It makes you ponder the extent of your own ignorance (do you act any different than the others around you?) and if people are truly as dark as this book can make them out to be. I highly recommend this book and series, especially if you like your fantasy books to get you thinking!
Let me know what you think below!