The Warrior Prophet - A Tale for Tolkien Fans?
Book 2 of The Prince of Nothing
by R. Scott Bakker
The Warrior Prophet is the second book in "The Prince of Nothing" series by newcomer R. Scott Bakker. Like the first volume (The Darkness That Comes Before), The Warrior Prophet is rich in imagery and continues smoothly from where the initial book left off.
Some readers may find this series very heavy going at the beginning, but perseverance definitely pays off. Bakker dives straight in and begins spinning his tale in the middle of all this stuff, without really initially describing it enough to give the reader a clear idea of what exactly this stuff is. There are mentions of a multitude of complex historical, social, cultural and religious structures that finally begin to resolve themselves by the middle of the book. This makes the second half of the first book and the entire second volume much more enjoyable, since by now there is enough information to form some halfway solid mental pictures of Bakker's richly appointed fantasy world.
In this series, the vast majority of the character developments are impressive and fairly leap off the page. In spite of all the layers and layers and yet more layers of myriad names, cities, ancient and current cultures, peoples, languages, social customs, organizations and political machination, Bakker manages to get his principle characters to stand out right away. Even though one or two of the characters have their agendas repeated a bit ad nauseum, they still continue to engage and intrigue the reader as the story progresses.
In fact, I found The Warrior Prophet nearly impossible to put down. As the juggernaut of the Holy War gained momentum, so did my reading speed. And a sure indication of Bakkers ability as a storyteller lies in the fact that even when the Holy War bogged down in the Carathay desert, the pace of the story didn't.
This series has been compared to George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" and Stephen R. Donaldson's "Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever". The cover notes of the books tell us: "Strikingly original in its conception, ambitious in scope, with characters engrossingly and vividly drawn, the first book in R. Scott Bakkers "The Prince of Nothing" series creates a remarkable world from whole cloth -- its language and classes of people, its cities, religions, mysteries, taboos and rituals . . . etc, etc . . ."
I agree that like these other authors and indeed, even like Tolkien, The Prince of Nothing is certainly ambitious in scope and reasonably original in its conception. Bakker's Earwa is intricately and thoroughly drawn, and the characters are engrossing and vividly portrayed. Comparisons to Martin and Donaldson as far as content and theme are also valid, however at this point all comparisons to the Professor's works fade. Unlike Tolkien, I would not feel comfortable recommending these books to a younger audience. In my opinion, Bakker's generous use of harsh expletives and graphic descriptions of sexual torture and cruelty are not entirely suitable for any but a more mature readership.
Tolkien has certainly proven that bad language and graphic sex are not necessary to sell a solid, creative and well written tale. But Bakker is addressing far more controversial subjects than the pure idea of good versus evil. Like other contemporary Fantasy authors, his themes and the story he builds in order to explore them may make some readers a bit uncomfortable.
If this is the case, hopefully the reader can relegate any discomfort to the background, where it will not diminish the sheer richness of the work itself or overshadow the enjoyment of it. For a mature reader who enjoys an engrossing and well written Fantasy story, this series is well worth the time. Bakker is spinning a fascinating tale, one that makes it absolutely necessary to see how it all comes out!
Review by Silverscribe