Tag Archives: Magic

Review: The Line of Illiniel (Mageborn Book Two)

The Line of Illiniel (Mageborn Book Two)

by Michael G. Manning

Reviewed by JMD Reid

Mordecai, newly discovered to be both one of the last living mages and the heir to a small noble family, is trying to rebuild his family estate with the help of his adopted father and his fiancee, Penny. When people start disappearing in the night, Mordecai has to hone the craft of his self-taught magic to face it.

But a darker threat looms on the horizon: war.

When Penny has a vision that Mordecai will be slain in six months atop his castle walls, it’s confirmation to the rumors. The Gododdin are preparing for their invasion. Using what remaining time is left, Mordecai devotes it to protecting his people even if that means defying his king. Or his fiancee.

The Line of Illeniel expands on the world created in The Blacksmith’s Son, building on the magic and history hinted at. Mordecai has to face new problems, including his impending death. Penny’s visions are never wrong. That knowledge provides much of the tension between the characters. How can Mordecai have any hope of the future when his own fiancee is eager to die with him. He wants there to be something left to remember him, like any of us would.

Drowning in sorrow, you can feel his pain as he prepares to use his magic to kill thousands. The book mixes wry humor and harsh realities. It flows fast, the emotions bursting off the page, plunging towards the ending.

There is one subplot that is given a lot of weight in the beginning and is all but abandoned by the characters in favor of the war, with only a little tease that it’s going to be a much bigger problem in the future. It feels like a plot that could be excised from this book without changing it, but this is a larger part of a series, so I’m hoping for payoff down the road.

All in all, if you liked The Blacksmith Son, this gives even more of the characters you come to know and fleshes out a few who didn’t get much time in the last book. On another note, the epilogue and afterward were touching.

You can buy The Line of Illiniel from Amazon.

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Review: The Blacksmith’s Son (Mageborn Book One)

The Blacksmith’s Son (Mageborn Book One)

by Michael G. Manning

Reviewed by JMD Reid

Mordecai thinks he’s a simple blacksmith son, not knowing that he is the last scion of a line of wizards. Magic flows through his veins. He doesn’t know that a dark plot sought to snuff out his family line, but his mother’s dying act saved his life.

When invited by his friend James to stay at his castle and attend an upcoming ball, Mordecai is about to discover just who he is. While trying to pretend that he belongs, he inadvertently offends the dangerous Devon, the political rivals to James’s own family. Mordecai will have to develop his magic fast because his friends, including his childhood friend Penny, are in more danger than he knows!

The Blacksmith’s Son is a fast-paced fantasy novel that had some surprising twists. Manning doesn’t shy away from taking his characters into some dark situations despite the mostly light-heated tone of the novels. His characters are fun, he has some fun banter, especially between Mort and Penny, and you have lots of reason to hate his villain.

His characters are not the most complex, but they are endearing. His style was a little… unusual, mixing first person for Mordecai and third person for everyone else, often shifting between the two from paragraph to paragraph as opposed to using hard breaks. I’m not entirely certain it adds anything other than to set Mordecai as the main character.

I read through the book fast, often curious to where the story was going. He has some stakes to his writing and I find myself eager to reach the second book. This is the sort of series you could binge read, so I am glad there’s quite a number of books out.

If you’re looking for a fun, fantasy romp from an indie author, then check out this series. It’s a little rough along edges, but its polish shines through where it counts.

You can buy The Blacksmith’s Son from Amazon.

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Review: An Echo of Things to Come

An Echo of Things to Come (The Licanius Trilogy)

by James Islington

Reviewed by JMD Reid

After the dramatic revelation of who Caedon truly is after the end of the last novel, he has to remember what he’s done. Can he face the crimes of his past while uncovering the dangerous gambit he’s set in motion to defeat El? Will the demons of his past, the friends and allies he’s betrayed, prove his undoing? Or will his knew friends still trust them when they learn the truth?

Davian has traveled south, separating from his brief reunion with Asha and his friend Wynn. With Augurs no longer condemned to death but needed to save the Boundary, Davian has hopes that he and the others coming into their power will be enough to hold back the darkness. However, evil lurks in the hearts of men. Greed and ambition swirl around him as petty officials seek to use the crisis to further their own ambitions.

Asha, transformed into a Shadow, needs to understand just what she is. Why do her and the others like her exist? The answer to these questions go back to one dark truth: why did she survive the massacre? She will have to brave dangers on her own quest to find the truth.

And last Wynn is beset by political enemies. He has risen to the post of Northwarden and heads the Administration tasked with controlling magic users like himself. He faces resent me, even from those who should love him. Can he enact meaningful change to prevent the Boundary from failing? Or will his enemies tear him down out of fearful prejudice?

An Echo of Things to Come picks off where the last book left off. The entire balance of power has shifted with Wynn becoming Northwarden and changing the Oaths. As the danger of the Boundary nears, Islington delves into the past. He peels back the history of the world and the philosophy behind it.

How can you save the day when everything has already happened. When the past, present, and future were determined by El long ago? How can you stop inevitability from destroying world and does your actions even have consequences? Are you truly responsible for the crimes you commit if it is done at the will of God?

Islington delves into these questions. His philosophical discussion is woven into the foundation of his world. As he peels back the layers, it compels you to keep reading, to understand how Caedon hopes to fight this and if the glimpses of the future can be averted? Can you find redemption for being a monster? Can you save the world fated to die?

Fans of epic fantasy need to read this series. I am eagerly awaiting Book Three! I am glad I picked this one up, and you will be, too!

(Just don’t read the plot synopsis for book three as it spoils a major, and gut-punching, moment in this book. Sigh…)

You can purchase An Echo of Things to Come from Amazon!

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Review: The Shadow of What Was Lost (The Licanius Trilogy 1)

The Shadow of What Was Lost (The Licanius Trilogy 1)

by James Islington

Reviewed by JMD Reid

Two decades after the social fabric has been overturn. Once, the Augurs and the other Gifted controlled the world. But now the survivors of the war are chained to their nation, bound by oaths sworn on their behalves. Hated and feared, there are those who plot to restore their power to what it once was.

And to the north, an ancient evil lurks beyond the boundary.

Davian is in a panic. The testing is coming up. He is one of the Gifted, but he can’t access his magic. If he can’t learn to control it, they will strip it from him and make him one of the Shadows, forever marked. Without even his magic, he will be loathed by all. However, there are those in power who know what he truly is.

And they wish to see his destiny met. He can rise to meet it or he can gamble on gaining his power in time.

The Shadow of What Was Lost is an intriguing fantasy book. The world building is deep and the story flows fast. The plot twists and turns, with new revelations peeling back every few chapters. Islington builds up his story through his three storylines, dropping hints here, clues there as he builds towards the ending of the first book in his fantasy series.

An engrossing book that keeps you reading, wandering what happens next. With foreshadowing hinting at character’s fates via prophetic visions and time travel, these tantalizing clues keep you wondering what will happen to the characters to lead to these fates.

The plot turns can be shocking, but the story holds together well. It doesn’t feel haphazard but planned. Islington is in control, important when dealing with his themes of time travel and prophetic visions. The characters are heroic and villainous, cryptic and intriguing. I’m intrigued to where this story goes and glad book 2 is coming out next.

You can purchase The Shadow of What Was Lost from Amazon!

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Review: Queen of Prophecy (The Belgariad 2)

Queen of Prophecy (The Belgariad 2)

by David Eddings

Reviewed by JMD Reid

The quest to recover the Orb of Aldur continues. Garion, once a simple farm boy, finds himself thrust into the company of sorcerers, warriors, and conniving princes on a journey to save the world. As he struggles to find his place in the world, his true destiny begins rearing its head.

While traveling south through new lands, new members join Garion’s party. From the resolute Mandrollan to the flighty princess Ce’Nedra, the company continues following the thief into the dangerous lands of the serpent queen.

Those who know Garion’s destiny seek to seize him. He will have to grow into a man if he wishes to survive!

Queen of Sorcery picks up a few weeks after Pawn of Prophecy. Eddings skips us a farther south, not treading over familiar ground of Sendaria and setting us into a new country. His world building expands even more as he takes us into cultures new and varied from the solid lands Garion grew up in. Edding’s sardonic humor can tread into the macabre from time to time, but the series continues to be fun and adventurous.

Garion continues growing up, on the verge of true adulthood on this book. He’s in the last stages of that rebellious teenage phase as responsibilities of the world began to weigh on his shoulders. This series continues to be a fun romp and a great series for young boys to read as well as older fans. Eddings dialogue continues to be some of my favorite in Fantasy.

You can purchase Queen of Sorcery from Amazon!

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Review: The Crown of Stones: Magic-Scars

The Crown of Stones: Magic-Scars

by C.L. Schneider

Reviewed by JMD Reid

b00s05q722-01-lzzzzzzzIt’s been two years from the events of the last novel. And for those two years Ian Troy, a magic-using Shinree, has been a slave to the magic-suppressing drug kanyl. In a haze, he has worked in the mines, performing back-breaking labor for the man defeated him—Drakon.

Now Drakon and his Shinree ally are threatening to control the known world. Only the Crown of Stones can stop him. And only Ian Troy knows where it is. The resistance has no choice but to risk exposure to save him.

Ian Troy awakens to a world he may want to forget as he struggles to piece together the fragments of his life and deal with the acts he has committed. Again, it all falls in his shoulders. And he may be too scarred to carry them.

Magic-Scar is a great follow-up to Magic-Price. More nail-biting action, whirling plots, and characters whose true motivations are hidden. Schneider delivers another fast-paced fantasy novel, expanding her world building and revealing new secrets and mysteries to the Reth family and the truth about the ancient Shinree empire.

Again, Schnieder writes the book in first person from Ian Troy’s perspective. It keeps her protagonist in the heart of the action because anything he doesn’t witness has to be told instead of shown, and no one wants that. Again, it works great in this book, helping to drive the intensity of the plot.

Fans of exciting, fast-paced fantasy will enjoy the world Schneider has created with her Crown of Stones Trilogy. If you haven’t read the first novel, pick it up. And if you’ve had, why haven’t you dived into book three?

You can buy Crown of Stone-Magic Scars from Amazon!

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Reread of Storm Front: Part 5

Reread of The Dresden Files

Book 1: Storm Front

by Jim Butcher

Part 5

Welcome to Part 5 of my reread. Click here if you missed the Part 4!

Chapter 13

When Harry wakes up, a spring thunderstorm is sweeping through Chicago. Thunder rumbles through the apartment, and Harry realizes there was a storm the night Jennifer and Tommy died. Harry ponders whether the killer could be harnessing the storm. It would be difficult, the power unstable.

The storm is making Harry nervous, and he reaches for his gun, only to remember he left it in his lab downstairs before heading to the police station. Harry remembers that Linda is coming over soon when someone knocks at the door. Harry finds Susan Rodriguez, dressed up and ready to go on their date.

Harry invites her in and says he needs to take a quick shower. In the shower, Harry is trying to figure out how to handle both Susan and Linda without it blowing up in his face, or revealing anything about the murder case to Susan. Harry catches a flash of movement, someone is heading to the stairs that lead down to his apartment door.

Harry panics, and jumps out of the shower, shampoo still in his hair, and grabs a towel. He enters the living room as Susan reaches for the door. Mister, Harry’s cat, suddenly starts hissing at the door. With an amused smile, Susan opened the door.

As the door opened, I felt it, the cloud of energies that accompanies a spirit-being when it comes into the mortal world, disguised until now by the background clutter of the storm. A figure stood in doorway, rather squat, less than five feet tall, dressed in a plain brown trench coat, illuminated by blue lightning overhead. There was something wrong to the shape, something that just wasn’t a part of good old Mother Earth. It’s “head” turned to look at me, and sudden twin points of fire, as blue as lighting dancing above, flared up, illuminating the leathery, inhuman curves of a face that most closely resembled that of a large and warty toad.

Susan screamed. The demon spits acid at Harry as he dives behind the couch. Harry tells Susan not to get between him and the demon. Susan asks what it is. “A bad guy,” answers Harry. The demon manages to push past Harry’s threshold and enter the apartment as Harry tells Susan to head downstairs.

Harry uses wind magic to summon his staff. Staff in hand, Harry tries to use force to push it out and the demon resists it. Harry fills his strength failing and tells Susan to drink the escape potion. She does, but nothing happens. A moment later, she comes back upstairs with Harry’s .38 revolver and unloads on the demon. The bullets ricochet off the demon, only managing to knock it off balanced. Harry grabs Susan’s arm and drags her down into the subbasement.

Bob the skull asks what’s going on upstairs. Ignoring Bob, Harry and Susan clear stuff off Harry’s magic circle as Bob warns them a toad demon is heading down the ladder. Harry pulls himself and Susan into the circle and channels his will into it, just in time as some acid splatters against the circle’s protection.

The demon paces menacingly in the lab, unable to touch Harry and Susan within the circles. Harry explains that it can’t cross the circle unless one of them breaks it and they will have to stand there until dawn, when the sun’s energy should disrupt the demons form and send it back to the Nevernever.

Susan starts to get amorous as Bob warns she drank the Love Potion instead of the Escape Potion. Bob points out how well the Love Potion works. Harry is less than amused.

The demon watched what was happening in the circle with froggy eyes and kicked a section of floor clear enough debris for it to squat down on its haunches and stare, restless and ready as a cat waiting for a mouse to stick its head out of its hole. Susan stared up at me with sultry eyes and tried to wrench me to the floor, and consequently out of the circle’s protective power. Bob continued to wail his innocence.

Who says I don’t know how to show a lady a good time.

My Thoughts

This is the problem when you set up two dates at the same time. The girls are going to find out what’s going on and then you’ll have a frog demon spitting acid at you. I really hope Harry learns a valuable lesson from this.

It’s a shame when they made the Dresden Files TV show and adapted Storm Front, they left this entire sequence out. The visual of your hero, shampoo suds in hair, dressed in a bath towel, fending off a demon with his staff like Gandalf on the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm would have been interesting.

It’s an exciting sequence. Butcher has this set up so you expect it’s Linda coming, you’re getting ready for how Dresden will explain his way out of this mess only for it to be a demon and things to get serious fast. We get to see Dresden thinking fast on his feet. He’s already figured out the how of his enemy, just in time for said enemy to attack.

Susan is quite a trooper in this. I don’t think I would hold together half as well as she has in this situation. She seems to fall back into reporter mode as well. She constantly asks Harry questions. Doing something familiar probably helps dealing with the stress of the situation.

And Bob was right, that love potion worked great. Next time, Harry, remember to tell her to check the label marked Escape Potion.

Chapter 14

Susan continues her amours advances, making it difficult for Harry and her to stay in the magical circle. Harry asks Bob if he could throw the escape potion to him. Bob will for a twenty-four hour leave from his skull. Harry is reluctant, being responsible for whatever trouble Bob causes, but Bob has him over the barrel and Harry is forced to agree. Bob flows out of the skull as a cloud of orange light and throws the escape potion to Harry. Harry catches the potion and gets Susan to drink it.

It started in my guts—a sort of fluttery, wobbly feeling that moved out, up through my lungs and out along my shoulders, down my arms. It also went down, over my hips and into my legs. I began to shake and quiver uncontrollably.

And then I just flew apart into a cloud of a million billion tiny pieces of Harry, each one with its own perspective and view. The room wasn’t just a square, cluttered basement to me, but a pattern of energies, grouped into specific shapes and uses. Even the demon was only a cloud of particles, slow and dense. I flowed around that cloud, up through the opening in the ceiling pattern, and outside of the apartment and into the raging nonpattern of the storm.

Harry and Susan reformed in the street outside his apartment. Susan feels ill, experience a reaction to drinking to potions but is no longer under the effects of the love potion. Susan’s car keys were left in her coat in the apartment, so the plan is to walk to Reading Road which always floods in heavy rain. Running water grounds out magic, the demon won’t be able to cross it. Thirty yards from the flood, Susan gets violently ill from the potions, and starts vomiting.

I didn’t think you’d last this long,” someone said.

I almost jumped out of my skin. I picked my staff up in both hands and turned in a slow circle, searching for the source of the voice. “Who’s there?” There, to one side, a spot of cold—not physical cold, but something deeper and darker that my other senses detected. A pooling of shadows, an illusion in the darkness between lights, gone when lightning flashed and back again when it had passed.

The Shadowman taunts Harry, boasting that he’s the one who killed him, and its only a matter of time before his demon kills him. Harry reaches out his will towards the shadow and learns its a phantom projections and sends some will through it to metaphorically slap the Shadowman. The Shadowman demands to know how Harry did that. “I went to school,” answers Harry.

The Shadowman is angered and alerts the demon to where Harry and Susan are. The demon starts rushing towards Harry. Harry throws a counterspell at the projection and, screaming in pain, the Shadowman promises death before his spell fails. Harry turns to Susan and tries to get her up, but she’s still too sick and the demon is closing the distance too fast.

Harry searches for a plan. He’s exhausted and was caught unprepared. The rain will prevent fire magic. Harry realizes he can channel lighting throw his staff. He reaches up to the storm with his will and a bolt of lighting follows it down and he sends it through his staff at the demon which exploded mere inches away with blue flame.

Harry’s legs give out and he collapses on the road next to Susan. Morgan appears out of the darkness, accusing Harry of summoning the demon. Harry protests his innocent, saying someone else summoned it. Morgan arrived to late to see the Shadowman and doesn’t believe Harry. He tells him in two days the Council will be here to put him to death and Morgan looks forward to being his executioner. Morgan leaves. A patrol car rolls up, and a pair of officer approach, preparing to arrest them and Susan complains that this is her worst night ever.

I grunted. “That’s what you get for trying to go out with a wizard.”

She glanced aside at me, and her eyes glittered darkly for a moment. She almost smiled, and there was a sort of vindictive satisfaction to her tone when she spoke.

But it’s going to make a fantastic story.”

My Thoughts

The escape potion is really creative. Turning them into wind, flowing, surging. I really love the potions, but after the second book, they almost never make an appearance. And this one has to be so useful. I don’t know why Harry doesn’t keep making it. Butcher is good about Harry learning new techniques and using them again in later books.

The villain finally makes his appearance and clearly has never read How to Be an Evil Overlord. He monologued instead of just killing Harry. He is also not as well trained. He has more power from using the storm, but is not able to stop Harry’s counterspell.

Morgan continues to be a dick, and also has the worst timing. Come on, Morgan. The guy’s naked, not the clothing options I would choose when summoning a demon.

Susan continues to be awesome. Why to turn a horrible, life threatening experience into a career enhancing story. This is why I ship her and Dresden and why it sucks that this ship has sailed. My backup ship still has a chance though.

Chapter 15

The cop who finds them, it turns out, were sent by Murphy to bring Harry to another crime scene and are surprised to find him naked. Susan explains it away as, “Just one of those things, tee-hee,” and the officers let her go. Harry gets dressed and they take him to crime scene.

Murphy and Harry share their usual banter and he leads him into the crime scene. She gives him the run down, another victim, woman, same M.O. as Jennifer and Tommy. This confirms Harry’s theory about using the storm. Murphy reveals the victim is Linda Randall which stuns Harry. Murphy leads him through the apartment to her bedroom where Linda’s body was lying on her bed, phone in her hand, her chest burst open.

Murphy explains that Linda called 911, screaming that she knew who killed Jennifer and Tommy and the phone when dead. Murphy asks if Harry as ever heard of her employer, Mr. Beckitt. Harry just shrugs. Greg and Helen Beckitt’s daughter, Amanda, was killed three years ago. She was the victim of gang violence between Marcone and a Jamaican gang. She died after three weeks on life support. Harry is speechless, having a hard time dealing with Linda’s death.

Well, Harry,” she said. Her voice was hushed, like she didn’t want to disturb the apartment’s new stillness. “What can you tell me?” There was a subtle weight to the question. She might as well have asked me what I wasn’t telling her. That’s what she meant. She took her hand out of her jacket pocket and handed me a plastic bag.

I took it. Inside was my business card, the one I’d given to Linda. It was still curled a little, where I’d had to palm it. It was also speckled with what I presumed was Linda’s blood. I looked at the part of the bag where you write the case number and the identification of the piece.

Murphy waits for Harry’s reaction. Harry claims to have a psychic premonition and explains what Linda told him. Murphy is pissed. If Harry had told her yesterday or this morning when Harry saw her, Linda might be alive. Harry protests that lots of people have his card and doesn’t know how she got it. Murphy threatens to get a warrant to arrest Harry. She pleads with Harry not to make her do that.

Harry is fearful that if he tells Murphy everything, that will make her a target for the Shadowman. The White Council also doesn’t like mortals to know about them and may remove Murphy themselves. Harry pictures Murphy dead the same way as Linda and apologizes and tells her he doesn’t know anything.

I sensed, more than saw, the hardening around her eyes, the little lines of hurt and anger. I’m not sure if a tear fell, or if she really just raised a hand to brush back some of her hair. Then she turned to the front door, and shouted, “Carmichael! Get your ass in here!”

Carmichael enters and she throws him Harry’s card and starts treating Dresden as a suspect, asking him to come down the station for questioning. Harry politely refuses,a saying he doesn’t have time tonight. Murphy tells him if he doesn’t show up tomorrow morning, she will get a warrant. Murphy lets him go, promising Harry that if he’s responsible, she will get him. Harry walks out, feeling “like a total piece of shit.”

My Thoughts

Harry you are a stupid moron. Murphy is a cop, not a civilian. You accuse the white council of being arrogant and above the authority of the law, while you do the same thing. You’re working for the police, going behind their back and concealing evidence they need to solve the crime.

You can’t have it both way, buddy!

You need to either work in the constraints of the law or admit that you are as arrogant as the Council and not work with them and just work in the background. Murphy’s a smart gal, she would be able to handle it. Hell, she probably would be safer if you told her the score.

And now you’ve pissed her off, maybe forever. Idiot!

The plot thickens. Linda works for a couple that has a vendetta against Johnny Marcone, the Shadowman is in a drug war with Johnny, and Johnny’s enforcer was killed by the Shadowman. Linda starts talking to Dresden and is now dead. Me thinks there is a connection there.

The story about the Beckitts ties in to what Harry saw in Marcone’s soulgaze, the guilt that drives the gangster. Now it is interesting in a later book (book 9) we learn that Marcone, from his own lips, was attacked by the son of the then kingpin of Chicago fearing Marcone would usurp his father. It was an assassination hit. Now, the kingpin did cover it up, so maybe the Jamaican gang is the “official” story but it is not what actually happened.

So now Harry has the White Council, the cops, and the Shadowman all against him. Doing great, buddy. And you still need to solve that pesky Victor Sells job that has nothing to do with this case. Just a big ol’ coincidence that you’re hired to investigate a man “dabbling” in magic the morning after two people are gruesomely murdered.

Click here to continue on to Part 6!

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Review: Voices in Crystal (Children of Stone 1)

Voices in Crystal (Children of Stone 1)

by Mary R. Woldering

Reviewed by JMD Reid

B00OIYF39M.01.LZZZZZZZIn the 2500s BC, two men of drastically different background, separated by culture and geography, are linked by one event. The arrival of the Children of the Stone. Marai, a Semetic shepherd living in the shadow of Mount Sinai, prays to the Goddess Inanna like he has done every night since the death of his wife in childbirth many years ago. To the west, the the Land of Kemet (Ancient Egypt), Hordjedtef, one of the sons of Pharaoh Khufu (the guy who was buried in the Great Pyramid at Giza) studies with a wise priest, his bid to become the next Pharaoh failed.

Falling from another world, the consciousness of powerful beings arrive to the bronze age Middle East. Though Hordjedtef and his master sense the arrival of the Children, they are not the ones chosen to bear their knowledge. That falls to humble Marai. Called out of his prayers, Marai finds the fallen rock. When he enters it, he will never be the same.

Marai is charged to bring the knowledge to Hordjedtef by the Children. But will Hordjedtef respect the power or will he crave it for himself. Marai, joined by three women each broken in their own way, travels west to Kemet where he hopes he will find his destiny.

Voices in Crystal is a Historical Fantasy. It is set in our world, amid the mythology of the Akkadians, Sumerians, and Ancient Egyptians but with real, supernatural powers. It is well researched, illuminating the often harsh way of life of the bronze age near east along with the esoteric splendor that Kemet (Egypt) achieved. Though the novel took me a while to read (I kept being distracted by other books) the tale of Marai and the three women called me back over and over.

I greatly enjoyed the book, and while it has flaws, it kept me reading to the end, eager to find out more. And the ending left had me on the edge of my seat. I will definitely read book 2. If you’re a fan of mythology, Ancient Egypt, the bronze age, the mystery religions, or looking for a different story then what gluts the fantasy and historical markets, pick up Voice in Crystal.

You can buy Voices in Crystal on Amazon!

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Reread of the Darkness that Comes Before: Prologue

Reread of Prince of Nothing Trilogy

Book 1: The Darkness that Comes Before

by R. Scott Bakker

Prologue

The Wastes of Kûniüri

If you missed out on the introduction to the series, click here.

Section 1

It is only after that we understand what has come before, then we understand nothing. Thus we shall define the soul as follows: that which precedes everything.”

—Ajencis, the Third Analytic of Men

My thoughts

darkness-that-comes-beforeBakker opens every chapter with quotes from various fictitious philosophers, historians, or folk sayings of his world. To me, Ajencis is saying the cause of man’s actions is the soul. To understand men’s actions we need to understand the soul. Another reference, I believe, to the title of the book. The cause that comes out of the “darkness” is the soul.

Bakker is a philosopher in the field of human consciousness (read his treaties on thought, they are dense and make my head spin), in his series the soul is a very real phenomenon that he will explore over the course of the books.

2147 Year-of-the-Tusk, the Mountains of Demua

 The prologue begins in the citadel of Ishuäl. Months earlier, High King Anasûrimbor Ganrelka II fled here with the remnants of his household. Here they thought they would be safe and survive the end of the world. They were wrong.

“The citadel of Ishuäl succumbed during the height of the Apocalypse. But no army of inhuman Sranc had scaled its ramparts. No furnace-hearted dragon had pulled down its might gates. Ishuäl was the secret refuge of the Kûniüric High Kings, and no one, not even the No-God, could besiege a secret.”

Ganrelka was the first to die of plague. Followed by his concubine and her daughter. It burned though the fortress, claiming the lives of mighty knights, viziers, and servants. Only Ganrelka’s bastard son and a Bardic Priest survived.

The boy hid from the Bard, terrified of his strange manner and one white eye. The Bard pursued the boy and one night caught him. Crying and pleading for forgiveness, the Bard raped the boy. Afterward the Bard mumbled, “There are no crimes, when no one is left alive.” Five nights later, the boy pushed the Bard from the walls. “Was it murder when no one was left alive?”

Winter came and wolves howled in the forest beyond the walls. The boy survived alone in the fortress. When the snows broke, the boy heard shouts at the gate and found a group of refugees of the Apocalypse. The refugees scaled the walls and the boy hid in the fortress. Eventually, one of the refugees found him.

With a voice neither tender nor harsh, he said: “We are Dûnyain, child. What reason could you have to fear us?”

But the boy clutched his father’s sword, crying, “So long as men live, there are crimes!”

The man’s eyes filled with wonder. “No, child,” he said. “Only so long as men are deceived.”

For a moment, the young Anasûrimbor could only stare at him. The solemnly, he set aside his father’s sword and took the stranger’s hand. “I was a prince,” he mumbled.

The boy was brought to the refugees and together they celebrated. In Ishuäl they had found shelter against the end of the worlds. The Dûnyain buried the dead with their jewels and fine clothes, destroyed the sorcerous runes on the walls, and burned the Grand Vizier’s books. “And the world forgot them for two thousand years.

Thoughts

“One cannot raise walls against what has been forgotten.” Bakker opens the book with a warning about the need to remember. The importance of keeping and remembering history is a prevalent theme in the series. From the Dûnyain deliberately forgetting about the outside world, to the world forgetting about the Apocalypse. And, of course, the world forgetting about the Dûnyain for two thousand years.

Bakker then starts to give us hints of the Apocalypse that dominates the rest of the series. Of cities burning, dragons, and inhuman Sranc. This Apocalypse is so terrible that not just any king, but a High King has fled it and written off the world as lost. Now just hopes to survive. And finally the sadness that even in this refuge, they almost all die anyway.

Bakker displays in this section his ability to paint events in a historical context. His books change from the tight focus, limited third person POV common in most of Fantasy today, allowing you to get into the thoughts of a single character in any scene to vast, more omniscient third person sections where he tells the events of the story almost as a bard reciting the story of history. Not a dry text book, but a vibrant story that keeps you interested.

In the description of Ganrelka’s retainers as they die, we get hints about the world and the Apocalypse. Bakker doesn’t dump his world building on us, but teases us with names that are almost familiar. The five Knights of Tyrsë who saved Ganrelka’s after the catastrophe on the Fields of Eleneöt. The Grand Vizier who dies upon sorcerous text. Ganrelka’s unnamed uncle, “who led the heartbreaking assault on Golgotterath’s gate.” Golgotterath resembles Golgatha where Jesus was crucified. When I read this name, I always picture something like the Black Gate of Mordor with skulls.

Bakker is skilled at using the familiar trappings of Fantasy, whose modern roots extend from Tolkien It roots the reader in the familiar while his style and story clearly deviates from anything you would read in Lord of the Rings.

Without showing us a single scene of the Apocalypse, Bakker still conveys the horror of it. After showing large scale horror, Bakker narrows his focus to the Boy. Left alone, he is preyed upon by an adult. Nietzsche’s philosophy at work here. Humans are selfish creatures who pursue their own desires and its only the fear of the consequences that keep us from acting upon all of them. Whether fear of a higher power, fear of a temporal power, or just the fear of the opinion of others. Once those are removed, there are no crimes any longer.

And finally, the Dûnyain arrive. Another group of refugees who fled the Apocalypse. The Dûnyain have rejected the gods. They deliberately destroy there history and anything connected to the supernatural. They bury all the wealth and trappings of power. They have survived the Apocalypse and decide to reject the former world they come from. As they say, “Here awareness most holy could be tended.”

Section 2

Nonmen, Sranc, and Men:

The first forgets,

The third regrets,

And the second has all of the fun.

Ancient Kûniüri nursery rhyme

This is a history of a great and tragic holy war, of the mighty factions that sought to possess and pervert it, and of a son searching for his father. And as with all histories, it is we, the survivors, who will write its conclusion.

—Drusas Achamian, Compendium of the First Holy War

My thoughts

These two quotes began the second, much longer part of the prologue. Nonmen is one my favorite names for the “elf” race in a fantasy series. It also informs us about the most important part of a Nonman, they forget. Regret is definitely a large part of being human. And of course, Sranc just want to have fun—and by fun I mean murder and brutal rape.

The second quote is from a book written after the events of the Prince of Nothing trilogy and gives us a plot summary of what the overt plot Prince of Nothing series is about. The First Holy War is the obvious story, the one on which the true story hides in the shadows. The Compendium is written by Achamian, one of the main characters, and often a segment is before each chapter, teasing you about events that are up coming. The downside is you never can believe Achamian is in real danger because he has to survive the Holy War to write about it. But it does serve to keep you reading.

Now who is the son? Well, we’re about to find out.

Late Autumn, 4109 Year-of-the-Tusk, the Mountains of Demua

The section begins with dreams coming to a group of men. Dreams of clashes of culture, glimpses of history, and of a holy city—Shimeh. A voice “thin as though spoken through the reed of a serpent, saying ‘Send to me my son.‘” The dreamers follow the protocol they established after the first dream and meet in the Thousand Thousand Hall and decided that such desecration could not be tolerated.

The narrative shifts to Anasûrimbor Kellhus, transitioning to a limited, third person POV. He is on a mountain trail looking back at the monastic citadel of Ishuäl. He sees the elder Dûnyain abandoning their vigil. These Elders have been polluted by the dreams sent by Kellhus’ father. The Elders would die in the great Labyrinth beneath Ishuäl.

Kellhus has been sent alone on a mission. As he descends into the wilderness of Kûniüri, he wonders how many vistas he would cross before seeing his father at Shimeh. As he enters the forest he finds himself unnerved. He attempts to regain his composure using “ancient techniques to impose discipline on his intellect.” He wonders if this is the first trial. Kellhus is awed by the beauty of the natural world. “How could water taste so sweet. How could sunlight, broken across the back of rushing water, be so beautiful?

What comes before determines what comes after. Dûnyain monks spent their lives immersed in the study of this principle, illuminating the intangible mesh of cause and effect that determined every happenstance and meaning all that was wild and unpredictable. Because of this, events always unfolded with granitic certainty in Ishuäl. More often than not, one knew the skittering course a leaf would take through the terrace groves. More often than not, one knew what another would say before he spoke. To grasp what came before was to know what would come after. And to know what would come after was the beauty stilled, the hallowed communion of intellect and circumstance—the gift of the Logos.

This mission was Kellhus’s first surprise. His childhood was strict ritual, study, and conditioning. Out of Ishuäl he is constantly barraged by new sights, sensations, and creatures. His mind, trained to drink in stimuli in the controlled environment of his home, is overwhelmed by the chaos of the natural world. For more than a month he wanders south through the foothills of Demua. He stops talking care of himself or his gear as the endless walk continues. On his 43rd day he comes across an immense valley dotted with ruins.

Kellhus explores the ruins. They are ancient, overgrown by the forest. Kellhus wanders who were the men who built this place. Bending to drink from a pool, he sees his unshaven face reflected in the water

Is this me?

He studied the squirrels and those birds he could pick from the dim confusion of the trees. Once he glimpsed a fox slipping through the brush.

I am not one more animal.

His intellect flailed, found purchase, and grasped. He could sense wild cause sweep around him in statistical tides. Touch him and leave him untouched.

I am a man. I stand apart from these things.

As evening waxed, it began to rain. Through branches he watched the clouds build chill and gray. For the first time in weeks, he sought shelter.

Kellhus continues his journey but his supplies begin to dwindle. He set out with as much as he could carry. Hunger and exposure begin to take their toll of Kellhus. The snows come and Kellhus could finally walk no farther. “The way is to narrow, Father. Shimeh to far.”

Kellhus is found by a trapper named Leweth and his sled dogs. Kellhus is half buried by the snow and barely alive. Leweth takes Kellhus to his home and cares for him through the winter.

Neither Kellhus or Leweth speak the same language. Kellhus picks up the basics and begins to communicate with Leweth. Kellhus learns he is the lands of Sobel, the northernmost province of the ancient city of Atrithau. Sobel has been abandoned for generations, but Leweth prefers the isolation.

Though Leweth was a sturdy man of middle years, for Kellhus he was little more than a child. The fine musculature of his face was utterly untrained, bound as though by strings to his passions. Whatever moved Leweth’s soul moved his expression as well, and after a short time Kellhus needed only to glance at his face to know his thoughts. The ability to anticipate his thoughts, to re-enact the movements of Leweth’s soul as though they were his own, would come later.

A routine forms between the two men, with Kellhus helping with chores to “earn his keep.” Kellhus studies Leweth during this time and learns that through small labors Leweth learned patience. The only times his hands were still was when he slept or was drunk. Leweth would drink all day, and by the end become drunk. While Kellhus learned much from observing drunk Leweth, he decides a sober Leweth would be more useful. While Leweth is passed out, Kellhus dumps out all his whiskey.

After Leweth’s painful detox, they discuss old pains. Leweth came to the wilderness after the death of his wife in Atrithau. Kellhus observes that Leweth pretends to morn to secure pity. Leweth lies to himself about why he came out here. That Atrithau reminds him or his wife. He even believes his family and neighbors secretly hated her and are glad she is dead. This forced Leweth to flee to the forest.

Why does he [Leweth] deceive himself this way?

“No soul moves alone through the world, Leweth. Our every though stems from the thoughts of others. Our every word is but a repetition of words spoken before. Every time we listen, we allow the movements of another soul to carry our own.” He paused, cutting short his reply in order to bewilder the man. Insight struck with so much more force when it clarified confusion. “This is truly why you fled to Sobel, Leweth.”

Leweth fled Sobel so he could hold onto the ways his wife moved his soul—he fled to remember. Kellhus confronts Leweth with this truth. Kellhus does this to posses Leweth, but lies and says its because Leweth has suffered enough. They argue, but because Kellhus can predict Leweth’s reaction, he guides the argument in his own favor. In the end, Leweth breaks down and cries.

“I know it hurts, Leweth. Release from anguish can be purchased only through more anguish.” So much like a child …

“W-what should I do?” the trapper wept. “Kellhus … Please tell me!”

Thirty years, Father. What power you must wield over men such as this.

And Kellhus, his bearded face warm with firelight and compassion, answered. “No one’s soul moves alone, Leweth. When one love dies, one must learn to love another.”

Once Leweth regains his composure, the continue their conversation. Through his Dûnyain training, Kellhus could control the “legion of faces” that live within him. He can fake any emotional response with the same ease he can craft words. Pretending to happy and compassionate, Kellhus continues his cold scrutiny of Leweth.

Kellhus is disdainful of Leweth’s superstitions of gods and demons. To Leweth, finding Kellhus was fate. Leweth asks Kellhus why the gods sent him. Kellhus tells him of his mission to find his father Anasûrimbor Moënghus. Moënghus left when Kellhus was a child and has now summoned him to Shimeh. Leweth asks how that is possible since Shimeh is so far away and Kellhus answers through dreams. Leweth thinks sorcery explains the dreams. Kellhus doesn’t think that is possible. He dismiss Leweth’s talk of sorcerers and priests, of witches and demons.

Superstition. Everywhere and in everything, Leweth had confused that which came after with that which came before, confused the effect for the cause. Men came after, so he placed them before and called them “gods” or “demons.” Words came after, so he placed them before and called them “scriptures” or “incantations.” Confined to the aftermath of events and blind to the causes that preceded him, he merely fastened upon the ruin itself, men and the acts of men, as the model of what came before.

But what came before, the Dûnyain had learned, was inhuman.

There must be some other explanation. There is no sorcery.

Leweth tells Kellhus about Shimeh. It is a holy city far to the south in the Three Seas. Leweth doesn’t know much about the nations of the Three Seas since the Sranc controlled the lands of the north save for Atrithau and Sakarpus. What Leweth knows is they were young lands when the north was destroyed by the No-God and the Consult. The only contact between Atrithau and the Three Seas is by a yearly caravan. Shimeh is holy city in the hands of heathens. In Atrithau, Kellhus could secure the means of reaching Shimeh. Only after the trapper tells Kellhus everything, does he let him sleep.

Near the cabin, Kellhus finds an ancient stone stele with runes upon it. In Kellhus’s own language it records the deeds of Anasûrimbor Celmomas II. Kellhus had dismissed Leweth’s talk of the apocalypse as superstition, but the stone proves the world is far older the Dûnyain. On one of these trips he notices strange tracks in the snow.

Kellhus informs Leweth of the tracks, and in horror, Leweth says they are Sranc. Leweth is amazed the Kellhus can be from the north and not no what those tracks mean. Leweth explain the Sranc will eat anything, but they enjoy to hunt men to “calm the madness of their hearts.” The Sranc have found them, and Kellhus and Leweth flee.

A small group Sranc catch them. Kellhus stays to fight the Sranc and tells Leweth to keep fleeing. In amazement, Leweth watches Kellhus charge the Sranc and kill them “like a pale wraith through the drifts.” Then Leweth is injured by an arrow.

Another group of Sranc are killing Leweth’s dogs. Leweth wants to save them but Kellhus grabs his arm and half drags Leweth. Eventually, Leweth’s strength fails him and Kellhus questions him on the way to go to get to safety. Leweth answers and Kellhus abandons Leweth to the Sranc. Leweth sobs in disbelief as he watch Kellhus, a man he has come to love and worship, disappear into the woods. But for the calculating Kellhus, the decision to abandon Leweth is simple—he has no further use for him.

Kellhus leaves the forest and climbs a hill. The Sranc have caught him. Before the ruins of a wall and gate, Kellhus makes his stand. They fired arrows at him. Calmly, he plucks one out of the air and examines it. In a rush they come at him and he “speared the ecstasy from their inhuman faces.”

They could not see that circumstance was holy. They only hungered. He, on the other hand, was one of the Conditioned, Dûnyain, and all events yielded to him.

The Sranc fall back. For a moment they surrounded him and Kellhus faces their menace with tranquility. They flee. One dying on the ground hisses something in an unknown language. Kellhus wanders what these creatures are.

More Sranc come, led by a figure on a horse. The figure wears a cloak stitched with abstract faces. In Kûniüric, the figure praises Kellhus and asks his name. Anasûrimbor Kellhus, he answers. The figure thinks he is being mocked, but then sees the resemblance in Kellhus’s face.

Kellhus studies the figure and realizes the cloak is made from skinned faces, stretched flat and sewn together. The figure is powerfully built, heavily armored, and unafraid. “This one was not like Leweth. Not at all.”

The figure is surprised that a mortal is not afraid of him. Fear is what separates the figure from humans. Kellhus mocks the figure, trying to bait him and is surprised by the figures reaction.

Kellhus’s provocation had been deliberate but had yielded little—or so it seemed at first. The stranger abruptly lowered his obscured face, rolled his head back and forth on the pivot of his chin, muttering, “It baits me! The mortal baits me … It reminds me, reminds …” He began fumbling with his cloak, seized upon a misshape face. “Of this one! Oh, impertinent—what a joy this was! Yes, I remember …” He looked up at Kellhus and hissed, “I remember!”

And Kellhus grasped the first principle of this encounter. A Nonman. Another of Leweth’s myths come true.

The Nonman points to a dead Sranc and says this one was his elju (book). He laments the Sranc’s death, although they are vicious creatures, they are “most…memorable.” Kellhus sees an opening, and presses the Nonman. The Nonman reveals that while the Sranc are their children now, before humans were. He was a companion to the great Norsirai kings and enjoyed the humans childish squabbles (wars). But as time passed, some Nonmen need more exquisite brutality than humans can provide to remember. This is the great curse of the Nonman.

“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor … ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.”

“Then why,” Kellhus asked, “raise arms now, against a lone man?”

Laughter. The free hand gestured to the dead Sranc. “A pittance, I agree, but still you would be memorable.

They fight, trading blows. Kellhus fends off the Nonman blows, but his weapon own cannot penetrate the Nonman’s armor. The Nonman is surprised at Kellhus ability. Kellhus sword slashes the Nonman’s chin open. The Nonman is disarmed, on his back, Kellhus sword at his face. Kellhus begins to interrogate the Nonman.

The Nonman speaks a word and Kellhus is thrown back by incandescent. The Nonman rises up into the air. Confronted with sorcery, Kellhus flees into the forest. Behind him are explosions and fire. An unearthly voice yells his name. “RUN, ANASÛRIMBOR! I WILL REMEMBER!” Kellhus runs faster than he had before the Sranc and wonders if sorcery is one of the lessons from his father.

My Thoughts

When we first meet Kellhus he seems like a traditional hero of a fantasy journey. The quintessential character to go on the Campbellian Heroic Journey. A young man leaving home for the first time on a quest who is the unknowing descendant of kings. However, there are differences between Kellhus’s and the Hero’s Journey. While Kellhus has answered the Call of Adventure, he never Refuses the Call. Kellhus upbringing and training have left him with no doubt. This is his mission, and he will accomplish it.

The wilderness is not kind to Kellhus. The isolation and toil reduces Kellhus to a beast with only one thing on his mind: reaching Shimeh. Eventually, Kellhus realizes this and overcomes the Crossing of the First Threshold and becomes a man again.

Kellhus’s time with Leweth is where we see the products of Dûnyain training. They have embraced Nietzsche’s philosophy. These are the übermench he wrote of. They have trained their bodies and minds past the normal human limits. They have made of study of passions and have learned how to control their emotions. Kellhus listens to Leweth’s story about his dead wife and never once feels anything. Neither pity or compassion. Kellhus uses truth to make Leweth his slave and once Leweth is of no further use, abandons him to death without a second thought. The Dûnyain embody the Will to Power and have no morality to temper their methods. Kellhus will do anything to accomplish his mission.

Kellhus is a sociopath. To contrast Leweth and Kellhus: when Leweth first finds Kellhus in the snow, he thinks food for his dogs. Meat was scarce in the north. However, Leweth’s humanity cause him to show Kellhus compassion,. Leweth cares for Kellhus, using his own scarce resources.

We seen more of Kellhus’s abilities against the Sranc. He reminds me a lot of Bene Gesserit of Frank Herbert’s Dune series. Their bodies are so under their control and their ability to read the movement of their enemies makes them almost invincible. Kellhus has a lot similarities to Paul Muad’dib. However, Paul’s abilities was tempered with emotions.

When Kellhus plucks the arrow out of the air, I recognized him as a D&D Monk (it’s a common ability the player class monks get). The setting of these books were originally Bakker’s D&D campaign he created. The Nonmen are elves, the Sranc are orcs, etc. Bakker also draws a lot on Tolkien. I read somewhere on the internet that the Second Apocalypse is Tolkien done with Nietzschean philosophy, and that is not far off. But only in the broad strokes does this series follow the Lord of the Rings. Take the sexual imagery that is used to describe the Sranc. It is the first hint about the nature of their creators.

Finally, Kellhus confronts the Nonman. A race so long lived, they forget, only remembering the bad stuff. No wonder the Nonman (revealed by Bakker to be Mekeritrig) seems slightly mad. You can see the delight the Nonman has at finding such a memorable man as Kellhus. He is really looking forward to the fight.

Bakker’s description of sorcerery is always very minimal and ethereal. He uses phrases like “petals blowing from a palm” and “pale watery light.” The Dûnyain rejection of the supernatural have left Kellhus without the training on how to deal with it. There is no pride that holds back Kellhus decision to flee. It is instantaneous. He has determined he has no chance of winning and the only option is flight. Even then, his mind is still working normally, cataloging the event and shifting his world view. Kellhus has almost died and no fear assails him.

Kellhus is the reason I love this series. He is so different from any character I have read. Everyone of his POV’s is fascinating to read. As you shall see, he is our prophesied hero and his appearance ushers in the end of the world.

But will Kellhus be the one to save it or cause its destruction?

Click here to continue on to Chapter One

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Reread of the Darkness that Comes Before: Intro

Reread of Prince of Nothing Trilogy

Book 1: The Darkness that Comes Before

by R. Scott Bakker

Intro

darkness-that-comes-beforeMore than a few years back, I was in the Borders (yep, that far back, I miss you Borders) at the SeaTac Airport killing time before my flight. While browsing the fantasy section, the Darkness that Comes Before caught my eye. I read the description on the back with talk of an apocalyptic past and a gathering crusade. The book promised a mysterious traveler named Anasûrimbor Kellhus. I was hooked. I bought the book on the spot and devoured it on my trip. I have since come to love the Prince of Nothing Trilogy and its sequel the Aspect Emperor Trilogy. Together these two series plus a third as yet written series form the greater Second Apocalypse meta-series.

R. Scott Bakker is a controversial author. His books are deep in the genre of modern fantasy called Grimdark. And that is what it is. He has created a world whose roots mankind struggles to rise from. It is not a pleasant place. Very few people are allowed the luxury of agency, and those tend to be men. Like most of human history, women hold little power in his series. He is accused of misogyny. There will be no female character bootstrapping feminism and rising above the shackles placed upon her.

But calling his books misogyny is missing the point. R. Scott Bakker is showing just how bad humans can get. He is also writing this towards men, not to show them treating women is bad but to illuminate some of the darker aspects of male fantasy and thoughts while at the same time showcasing the misery most of human kind has toiled under through most of our history. If anything, I would say the books are more misandrist. The every man a rapist trope is almost a reality in this series.

But there is still hope and light to be found.

With the third book of the Aspect Emperor Trilogy, the Great Ordeal (formally titled the Unholy Consult), release approaching in July I felt the need to reread the series in preparation. Of course, there is no way for me to even hope to catch up before the release, but I’ll give it a valiant try. This is a repost of a blog series I never finished from four years ago on my original blog, the ReReid blog (see, I was trying to be clever). But no one ever visited my blog so after several months, well, my interest wained.

So without further ado, let’s dive into the Darkness that Comes Before.

SPOILOR WARNING: Please read the book before any of these posts. This is intended for those who have read the books. I will discuss both the events of the chapter and even their ramification for future events.

Bakker opens the book with a quote. Not a fictitious quote from his own setting, but a quote of the German philosopher Nietzsche.

“I shall never tire of underlining a concise little fact which those superstitious people are loath to admit—namely, that a thought comes when ‘it’ wants, not when ‘I’ want…”

—Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

My Thoughts

Philosophy is a large part of the Second Apocalypse and Bakker starting the series with a quote of Nietzsche informs us of one of the major themes he will explore in the series. Nietzsche was an atheist who promoted the philosophy that without God there is no moral authority upon man. Nietzsche believed in ideas like “self-consciousness,” “knowledge,” “truth,” and “free will” were inventions of moral consciousness. Nietzsche believed the “will to power” explained all human behavior.

According to Nietzsche, the will to power illuminated all human ambition—the drive to succeed, and reaching the highest position in life. In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche writes, “Even the body within which individuals treat each other as equals…will have to be an incarnate will to power, it will strive to grow, spread, seize, become predominant—not from any morality or immorality but because it is living and because life simply is will to power.”

The quote that Bakker opens his book is quite clear that we human have no control over the origin of our thoughts. This idea is directly related to the title of the book and one of the overarching themes of the series—the Illusion of Free Will.

If you haven’t gotten bored yet, click her for the Prologue

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