April 11, 2008

The Prince of Nothing #2: The Warrior-Prophet (2004 novel)

Written by R. Scott Bakker.

The Holy War marches on.

Once again, I find my pathetic reviewing skills put to the test as I try to sum up this, the second in a truly astonishing trilogy of books.

Bakker, through the intimate relations of characters and the broader sweeps of armies, paints a true image of Holy War as the invading army plows through city after city, committing the very atrocities they accuse their enemies of. But not without sacrifice. Skirmishes, in-fighting, disease, and an epic trek through deserts chip at their numbers until this once unconquerable force finds itself holed up in a sacked city, enemies surrounding the walls, slowly starving them to the point of eating books and clothing.

And among its varied soldiers, a new hero begins to rise. Anasurimbor Kellhus, trained from birth to read and manipulate those around him, works his way to the head of the Holy War and assumes the title of Warrior-Prophet. It's fascinating to see an army march into battle in the name of an old Prophet, only to find their attention drawn to a seemingly new savior within. Of course, as is so often the case, those in power fear his increased following and conspire against him.

That's the broad plot of this novel. Once again, there's oh so much more. So many twists and turns and loves and hates and bonds and battles... so much depth and complexity to this grand masterpiece.

And magic! Only glimpsed in volume one, the world of the supernatural finally makes its presence felt as sorcerous schools take their sides in war, and inhuman creatures, capable of manipulating their appearance, infiltrate the armies' ranks. Though the origins of such beings and powers are still shrouded in mystery, Bakker incorporates them into his world in a believable, intelligent fashion. And let me tell you, there's an unforgettable battle between sorcerers near the middle which leaves in its wake destruction worthy of a Katsuhiro Otomo film.

These books must be read. It's as simple as that.

My review of The Prince of Nothing #1: The Darkness That Comes Before (2003 novel).
My review of The Prince of Nothing #3: The Thousandfold Thought (2006 novel).

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