The Warrior Prophet by R. Scott Bakker
|Book Name:||The Warrior Prophet|
|Author:||R. Scott Bakker|
|Publisher(s):||The Overlook Press (US)|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Release Date:||January 13, 2005 (US)|
The Warrior Prophet is an immense book. Bakker has pushed through the teething issues of his debut and flowered into an incredible effort as the story of the Prince of Nothing pushes into the Holy War that the whole first novel was building towards.
Though similar to Darkness in terms of themes and writing style, the plot takes quite a different turn as all the major players in the story are all together for the first time in this march through the lands of the Fanim. What’s great is being able to see each of the characters coming together and bouncing off one another as meetings and events that you’ve been waiting a whole book for finally take place. The vivid realisation of these characters created by Bakker’s well-executed writing is evident throughout as each and every one of them begins to feel like a fully rounded individual. There are humorous moments, deep moments, and heart-breaking moments as you truly begin to feel their solitary plights. The dialogue is fantastic in this book, with scenes between Achamian and Kellhus standing out in particular. I am a bit of a sucker for debates, musings, and crises of the soul, and through the dialogue between these two wonderful characters you can appreciate new ways of seeing the world. Bakker is ridiculously intellectual and his knowledge truly shines in his brilliantly philosophical discourses which are both beautiful and mind-blowing to read.
Kellhus’ character continues to transcend in this book. To see his growth as a person, as well as a renowned figure is absolutely fascinating. I loved every page he was on. His intelligence and perceptiveness is reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, and you can almost see Benedict Cumberbatch’s iconic performance in Kellhus’ emotional detachment from his companions. Looking through his eyes is like looking through the eyes of a god amongst men. Indeed, you can bring about many comparisons with the story of Kellhus and that of Jesus Christ as Kellhus climbs up the ranks from unknown vagrant treated with disdain to a central religious figure adorned with reverence. This book is a long volume (the longest of the trilogy) and this length allows this growth to be both gradual and fluid, making it difficult to perceive exactly where the change happens as the change is always so natural.
What this book does excellently is its investigation into perceptions of good and evil. For instance, Achamian throughout the entire story is working at stopping the rise of the Consult and to prevent the return of the demonic No-God. The Consult are depicted as an almost satanic force, they are seen rarely but mentioned often. They, in effect, assume the role of the stereotypical ‘evil’ force. They are the forces of Mordor, the Blight, the Seanchan, the Angaraks, or the minions of Darken Rahl. Yet, what you see in the ‘holy’ war is nothing that can be described as holy at all. Naturally influenced by the Crusades of the Middle Ages, and horribly reminiscent of contemporary issues such as Boko Haram or ISIS, this invasion is a bloodbath of slaughter and torment hiding behind a thin veil of religious justification. The conflict between their ideology of justice and the reality of their reaping death and destruction wherever they go is profound and an incredibly in-depth analysis into the mentality of people driven to monstrous actions in the name of faith. If anything, it is rather difficult to find any evidence of the existence of ‘good’ in this world as the whole land is consumed by murder, warfare, rape, and sacrilege, and in many of Achamian’s parts of the novel, one has to wonder whether their world is worth saving at all.
The worldbuilding is fantastic in this book, quite simply enhanced by Achamian’s dreams of the past. The culture is vast, and the factions uncountable. One can truly understand the animosity that has built up between the Inirthi and the Fanim. I absolutely loved the grand scale of it all and could truly get lost in the book for pages at a time absorbed by the fullness of its description and the living beating hearts found in each of Bakker’s vivid characters.
Furthermore, this novel is dark. Good grief, is it dark! Joe Abercrombie may be hailed as the Lord of Grimdark, but Bakker (who was published first) should be hailed as its menacing King. He certainly doesn’t hold any punches and a couple of the scenes in particular resonate in how disturbing they are (in which only the likes of Brent Weeks’ Shadow’s Edge or Mark Lawrence’s Emperor of Thorns can truly compare). This is not a novel for the weak of stomach. It is a novel that shows the harsh and barbaric actions that powerful people will stoop to in order to achieve their goals.
One last thing to mention is Bakker’s way of describing battle scenes, and even his recitation of interludes (for example when the army are travelling from one city to another). In these instances Bakker’s narrative voice pulls back from the action and overseas the military mass from an omniscient standpoint. His means of describing such scenes become almost Homeric in their casual observation of the War and how he wraps up important points of activity in a battle or the crossing of a desert in a few sentences, almost giving the feel that you’re reading a book of history. I liked it. You got the sense of the grand scale of the venture and it allowed the plot to not get bogged down too much in scenes that would likely take many pages if told from a character’s perspective. These parts of the novel were well written and helped to support the notion that this vast movement of people, and the ambition of the War’s leaders, is an insurmountably vast undertaking.
All in all, this is a superbly written book, with an intense plot, amazing characters, and scope to drown you in its sheer awesomeness. Excellent stuff.