Book Review: The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker

I was recommended to read this book over and again as its philosophical fantasy. While the writer toyed with the concept, especially through Kellhus, I wasn’t quite satisfied. Where was the philosophy I was promised? Or maybe, for me, it was buried under all the world-building and high/ epic fantasy setting. Which I have learned isn’t really a fantasy genre for me. Keep that in mind, when you read forward my review.

The beginning was slow and chaotic. I hated when Kellhus was left behind as he and the whore, Esme, were the only two interesting characters and only because they had a tone. I was going to add that they felt humane, but that is questionable when it comes to Kellhus or even Esme. Other characters were one-sided and flat. I wanted to like the book as the concept was interesting and the setting of holy war (idealism is one path to evil) has so much to offer philosophy-wise, but the book felt bulgy, slow, chaotic, and heavy, and I couldn’t get past that. And it felt like the world-building and the idea came first and then the characters and the story. I’m drawn more to the characters and story than anything else. A setting doesn’t make a plot.

Maybe the story will open up and come together with the second or third book, but based on what I read with the first, I won’t be reading them. Not a book for me. I know others have liked it. So I know this is a matter of taste, and if you love epic/high fantasy, then give it a chance.

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