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The Warrior-prophet (Prince of Nothing S.) by R.Scott Bakker
Review by Steve Savile
Orbit Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 1841494097
Date: 07 July, 2005 List Price £12.9 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

So, if you were here last month you?ll recall I said something along the lines of ... "R. Scott Bakker's ambitious epic fantasy The Darkness That Comes Before could very well be the Everest of Big Fat Fantasy." The question now is does The Prince of Nothing continue to strive for the peak of peaks or does it wind up as a lowly Ben Nevis?

In The Warrior Prophet, the second volume of The Prince of Nothing trilogy, the winding story of Anasurimbor Kellhus and the apocalyptic Holy War moves on at something that might be considered apace, considering the languid nature of the preceding novel. Bakker's world grows evermore enchanting - and at times dark to the point of being horrifying - as the crusade plunges the land into bloody turmoil with both sides struggling for purchase and the enigmatic Kellhus drifting in and out of focus as the quest and incumbent perils therein multiply a thousand fold.

As we know, the leader of the Inrithi faith has called a Holy War against the heathen Fanim, in order to liberate the holy city, and has gathered a vast host composed of the faithful from every nation of the Three Seas. I particular enjoyed the humanism of the army by Bakker and the way he handled the various infighting, intrigues and political maneuvering that afflicts the conscripts, particularly the surprising conclusion that allows the Holy War to begin in earnest.

The original cast from The Darkness That Comes Before makes a welcome return, including Drusas Achamian, the Mandate sorcerer and spy, the exquisite Esmenet, who accompany Kellhus.

Without wishing to unravel the baroque complexities of the plot, the few reservations I had with the often digressive and baffling plot/backstory, scene setting in The Darkness That Comes Before are overcome here. The meticulous preparation by Bakker in terms of his world and character building really pay off in this volume. There is a decidedly more direct feel to the book, though at 600 plus pages it is still far from a light read. Compared to its predecessor The Warrior Prophet is a much more muscular piece of writing, the plot well-knit and the narrative a headlong rush.

This is a violent, dark and passionate series, full of refreshing intelligence and with the kind of world building that few contemporary fantasies offer. Knowing that Bakker is Canadian, like Steven Erikson, one is forced to wonder what they are putting in the water over there...

Did I like the book as much as the first? Moreso, I have to admit but it is every bit as difficult and challenging a read, and every bit as rewarding too. In places my frustration had me wanting to hurl the book across the room ? especially when a six hour marathon read resulted in me moving on less than 100 pages into the book. I?m not a slow reader, and I?m not an idiot (generally!), but there were moments along the journey where this second installment had me backtracking twenty or thirty pages to clarify plot points I'd not fully taken in previously. I know that doesn't sound too promising, but honestly, hand on heart, this is a cracking series for a good reader, and definitely one in which you get out of the book what you put in to it. Set aside a goodly amount of time to sit back and simply revel in Bakker's exquisite creation.

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