I'll lead with the cons. The first half of this book is confusing. The reader struggles to make the plot clear and the author is packing in a lot of world building.
Now for the pros. This is the first book in my favorite fantasy series. In the second half, the reader greatly improves, and the world building pays off. It also sets the stage for the second and third books (and subsequent series). The second book contains a summary of first book, and I highly recommend glancing at the first part of that (the part that covers the historical back drop you were supposed to infer from the first). It will really clarify things.
This book (and series) is so excellent because it subverts the traditional virtue of fantasy books--courage--in favor of another virtue, skepticism. The entire series is a meditation on doubt, deception, and the human desire for certainty. While the book praises skepticism, it is also unflinching about its costs. The characters are frequently called upon to act under conditions of extreme uncertainty and active deception. The characters who go in for false certainty over doubt are happy (for a time) but ripe for exploitation, while the character who reject the allure of certainty are miserable but (relatively) free.
The most prominent secondary theme is the philosophy of mind--including the philosophy of consciousness and philosophy of action. Again though, epistemic issues are central. Bakker focuses on cognitive impenetrability--the idea that our own mental processes can be inaccessible to us. He especially explores the implications of this hiddeness for the character of conscious experience and free will.
Besides these philosophical themes, Bakker draws richly from history and theology in building his world. It reads as deep and original, but with a familiarity that adds to its realism.
All this makes the Prince of Nothing series one of the most interesting works of fiction I have read, and The Darkness that Comes Before serves as a solid foundation for this amazing trilogy.
In the abstract, I appreciated what the author was doing here - he's clearly put a ton of thought into his world and his philosophy. The narrator I thought did a reasonable job with a (in my opinion unnecessarily large) cast of characters. That said, it felt a bit like having to suffer through a D&D campaign run by a medieval-studies major whose favorite movie was Idiocracy. The story came off as a smug dismissal of the value of anything but logic and probability. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that premise, pretty much every character is unlikeable or incompetent within the world or both. By the end, I was kind of rooting for everyone to die. Unfortunately, if they do all die, you won't find out for another three books and I've put in my time, so I won't be finding out.
Further, the characterization of women in general and in the specific is appalling. If you're into the rape-ier bits of Song of Ice and Fire, then I guess you'll like this book but for me it was a punishment to get through. I made it to the end but once there, found myself wondering why I'd bothered.
A detailed world of plot and intrigue, history and war with unforgettable characters and customs. Much of this book teaches of its world. Narration was wonderful and well delivered, giving the characters flavor.
i knew it would be a good listen because it was a great read! This series is every bit as enthralling as Erikksons Malazan series, and Ruthfuss's Kingkiller chronicles.
Very enjoyable will purchase the remaining books as well. Great characters, the world feels very alive, narrator is on point as well.
I read the books a few years ago and they were even better now than I remembered. A very ambitious book-series exploring the ideas of how the unprecedented intellectual prowess of one man entangled with arcane magic might impact a world of empires, wizards, beasts, barbarians and holy wars.
Like with the Dune saga, I find it easier to follow this story in audiobook format. Though if my attention wanders to something else (phone, radio, people talking to me...), I soon have to rewind in fear that I missed something important.
Also, the narration is excellent. Voices of individual characters are performed in a way that fits well with the story. Hopefully the rest of the series retains this high quality.
Always open to something new, but my favorite genres are horror, sci-fi/fantasy with more of a leaning toward fantasy.
Not really. Friends have been after me for years to read this series and I just didn't get around to it. The book is a slow starter, but just good enough to keep the reader going toward the last third of the book or so where things start coming together nicely.
Well, I like philosophy. People should understand before going into this series, Bakker is a philosopher in real life as well as fantasy author. His world is large, complex and the people in it are complex. This is no dragons and magicians' apprentices type of fantasy world. The land Bakker writes in is at war and the magic is nasty, hard. The entire series is about a crusade launched against a "heathen" people who years before had taken over lands that once belonged to one of the empires involved. Many things involved in the series parallel our own earth's history (the Crusades mostly). The series is chock full of philosophy, religion, magic, war, politics and plotting/backstabbing and even tragic love. I liked the level Bakker writes at even though I enjoy more light fantasy too (something like the Wheel of Time).
He does a good job with everybody I think. I came into the series blind, not having read any of it, and by the end I think he represented the character's traits pretty well. It was interesting seeing the names in print after hearing them pronounced. I also suggest for anybody coming into the series without a book to go Online and find maps of the world so you understand what nations and peoples Bakker is writing about and where they are from in the world.
It's probably a little too philosophically deep to make a script and retain all of the plotting and conniving and philosophizing going on. The magic would be really expensive to do effects for also.
I stated before that the book started slow and dragged a bit. But, I will say that by the end of the first book I was ready to immediately buy the second book because I wanted to hear more of the story. I will also tell you that the rest of the series is definitely not a letdown, the second and third book are definitely better, so don't get discouraged if you decide to dive in and find it a little slow at first.
Enthralling, brutality, artistry
I personally love the moments when you gain insight into Kellhus' background and training
He has some flimsy accents, and sometimes the same character's accent will change. I found myself laughing a lot at his inability to keep track of those details, granted, there are a lot of characters.
Can't leave spoilers! I found the whole book quite moving.
I have read this book print three times. I'm almost finished listening to the audio version. I highly recommend reading this book in print. You can take your time with it and absorb things. I am really enjoying the audio, but I think it helps that I know the story already.
I love this series so far. However, It is not for the feint of heart. It is brutal. Awesome though.