“The thoughts of all men arise from the darkness. If you are the movement of your soul, and the cause of that movement precedes you, then how could you ever call your thoughts your own? How could you be anything other than a slave to the darkness that comes before?”
Jason Deem’s re-imagery of the series covers.. Which I prefer to the original covers which is half a face in a circle..
This novel is one of those novels that are basically impossible to review. So excuse the word vomit. Like a Malazan book, this series goes in its own category of badassery and uniqueness. It can’t be compared to just your standard fantasy due to the complexity and HUGE plot and backstory. This whole entire world is new, unique and fascinating and you will not find another story like it, this is the reason why I’m literally urging every grimdark fan to go read this now. Seriously, you will thank me later..
”Some events marks us so deeply that they find more force of presence in their aftermath than in their occurrence. They are moments that rankle at becoming past, and so remain contemporaries of our beating hearts.”
The Darkness That Comes Before is Richard Scott Bakkers debut novel. It was published in 2004 so obviously I am 13 years late to the fandom; I was 12 years old when this book was first published so I’m kind of glad I didn’t read it then. However it’s never too late to become a mega fan of something so wonderful… right? Anyway I have had this series on my radar for over a year now but was abit nervous to start it due to the things I’ve heard from a few friends say in regards to how complex the system used in the story is, Bakker has basically created a whole entire vivid world, he has made his own special unique magic system, characters, names and religions. There is a lot of descriptions (*cough* BORING!!) and half the book is actually just info dump. The story dives a lot into the religion Bakker has created, so I can understand why a lot of people find this book confusing and boring which brings me to my next point. I see a lot of DNF (did not finish) reviews for The Darkness That Comes Before stating that it was “boring” and “too slow”, I totally get these points.. the start was freaking boring and so slow, I thought I was going to turn 90 before it got exciting, however it did get extremely interesting and I’m so glad I continued on with the story, I actually think I loved it by the end. The thing that annoys most people is the story starts in the middle of the story with no background information given, so you’re basically thrown in the deep end and its either sink or swim. I personally found it super confusing and had to read some pages three times and it still didn’t make sense, but yeah, cool shit happened so I stayed interested until the end, I was actually fascinated and couldn’t stop reading which doesn’t happen often. I actually just really enjoyed reading it, it did have a few issues which I will talk about later and those issues did prevent me from giving this novel a full ten stars. However there were so many new and wonderful ideas presented in this novel and I absolutely love new stuff.
Drusas Achamian fanart by Quinthane
“Faith is the truth of passion. Since no passion is more true than another, faith is the truth of nothing.”
The Darkness That Comes Before is Bakkers first novel in a three part series, the books are about an unfolding religious war which brings the world to the brink of an impending apocalypse. The story is told from multiple POVs from a cast of characters who are all on different sides of the war. The thing that made me love the story the most is the fact that all the characters are grey. No one is good and mostly everyone is an evil arsehole, what more could you ask for? Oh and the fact that the magic system is basically the COOLEST FREAKING MAGIC SYSTEM EVER, however it is so complex, hard to explain and weird, it is basically based on abstractions – powerful sorcerers can create lines and curves out of energy, weak sorcerers must rely on meagre resources like conjuring a dragons head to create flame and burn down a whole entire army…
Cnauir fanart by Quinthane
Well anyway I’m struggling to explain this story and write my own mini blurb so here’s the actual blurb;
A score of centuries has passed since the First Apocalypse. The No-God has been vanquished and the thoughts of men have turned, inevitably, to more worldly concerns…Drusas Achamian, tormented by 2,000 year old nightmares, is a sorcerer and a spy, constantly seeking news of an ancient enemy that few believe still exists. Ikurei Conphas, nephew to the Nansur Emperor, is the Exalt-General of the Imperial Army and a military genius. He plots to conquer the known world for his Emperor and dreams of the throne for himself. Maithanet, mysterious and charismatic, is spiritual leader of the Thousand Temples. He seeks a Holy War to cleanse the land of the infidel. Cnaiur, Chieftain of the Utemot, is a Scylvendi barbarian. Rejected by his people, he seeks vengeance against the former slave who slew his father, and disgraced him in the eyes of his tribe. Into this world steps Anasurimbor Kellhus, the product of two thousand years of breeding and a lifetime of training in the ways of thought, limb, and face. Steering souls through the subtleties of word and expression, he slowly binds all – man and woman, emperor and slave – to his own mysterious ends. But the fate of men – even great men – means little when the world itself may soon be torn asunder. Behind the politics, beneath the imperialist expansion, amongst the religious fervour, a dark and ancient evil is reawakening. After two thousand years, the No-God is returning. The Second Apocalypse is nigh. And one cannot raise walls against what has been forgotten…
This novel is basically a huge Prelude for the other books in the series, so if you do decide to read it please remember to be patient and keep on reading because you are truly in for a treat.
BUT in saying that there was a few things that I didn’t like about this book, firstly I’m going to talk about the pacing, yes I have crapped on about how good this novel is and how patient you must be blah blah but honestly, the pacing is freaking terrible I was so bored and confused for majority of the book, everything is all over the place and I guarantee you will not have a clue what is going on until the end, even then I’ll bet you’ll still be mildly confused. Secondly, a lot of effort has been put into the world building and the charactization is truly amazing (some of the best I’ve ever seen) but I just can’t get past how SHOCKINGLY SHIT the names of the characters are. I could not pronounce most of the names so ended up calling the characters nicknames. Thirdly, when going into this novel I heard it came across as extremely sexiest, I wanted to call bullshit but half way through I got sick of every male character stating how women were “weak” or teasing someone and comparing their weakness to a women, I also didn’t appreciate the fact that every man in this book EXCEPT ONE, thought all women were whores.. Yeah. DA FUQ. You think women are weak? Fight me and I’ll kick your arse mother fucker.. (jokes) but seriously, I’m not a feminist but I got sick of hearing this bullshit, YES I understand these views are not the authors and are the arsehole characters he has created and YES I understand it is a cruel harsh world, however sometimes you get sick of reading that bullshit. So yes if you are a feminist and easily offended by these themes you should definitely steer clear of this series. It stinks of masculinity. Oh and I nearly forgot to mention that the only two female characters were a whore and a concubine and both were weak as. Lastly… I feel like he just wrote violent scenes for the sake of being violent and I feel like he was just sitting at his writing desk and got bored and thought “hey I’m going to just add a torture scene here for fun and shock value”. (I love violence and I’m actually complaining that this was a tad too violent..)
One thing I absolutely adored was Kell *insert hearteyes and all the praise in the entire universe* he is an enigmatic, beautiful MONK, devoid of emotion and driven by purpose and stubbornness. He exploits and kills everyone who gets in his way, master of manipulation and full time badass. What is Kells true purpose? Who knows… is he evil or will he be a hero? (secretly hope he is a villain and will conjure himself into a real person and marry hers truly). I’m certainly excited to find out everything about him. Such an intriguing character and a perfect example of grey.
Kellhus fanart by Quinthane
“The world has long ceased to be the author of your anguish.”
So all in all a satisfying read. Bakker has a unique way of writing and I recently found out he is also a philosopher which totally shows through his writing. Some of his dialogue is dense and definitely hard to digest especially for a simpleton like me, I had googled open the entire time while reading and also found some of his sentences forced. There is a shit ton of sex scenes and they are extremely graphic just like the violence so if your made of rainbows, stay away… this novel will literally rain on your parade and crush your optimistic view on life. But in all honestly it did produce some of my favourite book battles ever (yeah I just went there) and it was full of politics and court intrigue.
Recommended to fans of GRRM A Song of Fire and Ice Series and also fans of Steve Eriksons Malazan Series.
Ps. I haven’t stopped thinking about this book for a whole entire month.
Pss. Literally can’t wait to keep reading because it’s mind blowing good.
Review by Luna
Read 29/Jul – 9/Aug 2017