Full disclosure: I’m a scholar of religion and literature. So when a series like R. Scott Bakker’s The Prince of Nothing or The Aspect-Emperor comes out, I get very excited. Bakker is one of the most original voices working in epic fantasy today, and his novels revolve ceaselessly around issues of religious belief and metaphysics. For example, the first three books of The Prince of Nothing revolved around a religious war that looked suspiciously like the Crusades. Furthermore, the narrator of the series in general adopts a tone and vocabulary that are by turns historical, scriptural, and epic. The characters act out of a fascinating mélange of motivations, an amalgamation of passion, intellect, and belief. They are concerned with metaphysical questions in a way that not many literary characters are. My nerdish qualities in this regard probably blind me to some of the artistic blemishes of these books. Whatever. I love them.
The Prince of Nothing consists of three books: The Darkness that Comes Before (2003), The Warrior-Prophet (2004), and The Thousandfold Thought (2006). The Aspect-Emperor, picking up the narrative thread, consists of The Judging Eye (2009) and now The White-Luck Warrior (2011). Both series weave together a complicated narrative, but one that draws the reader in rather than pushes her away. No summary of this series can do justice to the sprawling narrative, and in fact many events that have occurred in the series have multiple and conflicting interpretations. So I will merely sketch the outlines, and let the chips fall where they may. What follows contains some minor spoilers for those who have not read the first series, though I am intentionally trying to leave the major revelations to the reader. Still, if you intend to read the first series, you might want to stop reading.