"The Darkness That Comes Before" is the first volume of a mere three volume fantasy trilogy by Canadian R. Scott Bakker. I discovered its existence during my recent hunt for non-crappy and non-standard fantasy books (see the earlier post on "Shaman's Crossing"). I read a few very cool interviews with Bakker and his defense of epic Tolkien level plotting and traditional fantasy so I decided to give the man's books a shot.
This is definitely one of the best and more original fantasy books I've encountered in some time. The world is more Mediterranean and Middle Eastern in its appearance than European. There is a tremendous feel for the world's history, cultures and languages. There are also no kitchen boys who are really heirs to some throne or brave sword maidens or even witty dwarves. There are wizards who are all considered heretics, there are truly horrific barbarians, devout religious men who range from humbly so to fanatically so. There are conniving emperors and plotting hierophants. The whores don't have hearts of gold and some men are simply cowards.
I don't really want to give any plot away. There's ancient evil as well as present day venality. A crusade is called to recapture long lost holy lands from the heretics and secret monastic orders re-enter the world for goals that are inscrutable.
This is a series that I look forward to finishing with tremendous relish. I keep getting the Games of Thrones stuff pushed at me and I'll probably go at it at one point, but I can't help it, it doesn't look like it holds anything to this in originality or overall originality.