The Darkness That Comes Before

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The Darkness That Comes Before
Darkness That Comes Before.jpg
First edition cover
AuthorR. Scott Bakker
Cover artistDavid Rankine
SeriesPrince of Nothing
GenreFantasy novel
PublisherOverlook Press (US)
& Orbit (UK)
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages604 pp (Overlook hardback)
813/.6 22
LC ClassPR9199.4.B356 D37 2004
Followed byThe Warrior Prophet 

The Darkness That Comes Before is the first book in the Prince of Nothing series by Scott Bakker. It was published in 2004.


Drusas Achamian (Droo-sass Ah-kay-me-on), a 47-year-old Mandate sorcerer. He is plagued by recurring dreams of the great Seswatha and the First Apocalypse, and of the nightmarish Consult and searches for evidence that they still exist whilst being dragged into the Holy War alongside Kellhus, Cnaiür and others.
Cnaiür urs Skiötha (Nay-yur), a 44-year-old Scylvendi barbarian, Chieftain of the Utemot. He is the first to encounter the mysterious Kellhus, who enlists his aid as a guide through the lands of Eärwa. Through a series of events, he is elevated to the role of leading the Holy War to Shimeh but slowly descends into madness as he struggles against the manipulations of Kellhus.
Anasûrimbor Kellhus (Ah-nas-soor-imb-or Kell-huss), a 33-year-old Dûnyain monk. Although he claims to be the son of the great Anasûrimbor Moënghus, and that he has been summoned by his father in a dream to go to the once Holy city of Shimeh, is this really the truth or is he merely manipulating others to accomplish his goals?
Esmenet (Ez-men-net) a 31-year-old Sumni whore. She has known and loved the sorcerer Achamian for a long time, but it is only when she encounters what might be the Consult that she is drawn into the Holy War bound for Shimeh.
Serwë (Sair-way), a 19-year-old Nymbricani concubine. She is rescued from slavers by Kellhus and Cnaiür, and although claimed by the warrior of the Utemot as his prize, she hates him and adores Kellhus.

There are also several 'supporting' characters who have significant roles throughout the books such as Achamian's old students Nersei Proyas and Krijates Xinemus and the Emperor's nephew Ikurei Conphas.

The Dûnyain - A hidden monastic sect that has repudiated history and animal appetite in the hope of finding absolute enlightenment through the control of all desire and circumstance. For two thousand years they have bred their members for both motor reflexes and intellectual acuity.

The Consult - The cabal of magi and generals that survived the death of the No-God in 2155 and has laboured ever since to bring about his return in the so-called Second Apocalypse. Very few in the Three Seas believe they still exist.

The Schools[edit]

The various institutions of sorcerers in the world of Eärwa are referred to as Schools. The dominant Schools are

The Mandate - Gnostic School founded by Seswatha in 2156 in order to continue the war against the Consult and to protect the Three Seas from the return of the No-God, Mog-Pharau. Their power is the Gnosis.

The Scarlet Spires - Anagogic School which is the most powerful in the Three Seas and de facto ruler of High Ainon since 3818.

The Imperial Saik - Anagogic School indentured to the Emperor of Nansur.

The Mysunsai - The self-proclaimed Mercenary School, which sells its sorcerous services across the Three Seas.

While it is made clear in the first book in the series that anyone who possesses the ability to wield magic is amongst the Few, it is also mentioned in book 2 (The Warrior-Prophet) that unless they are part of a School as sorcerers, they are merely wizards. To the rest of the people of Eärwa, sorcery is regarded as sacrilegious and is only tolerated because of its effectiveness in battle.

There are also numerous references throughout the series to ancient artifacts that shield their bearer from any magic so long as they are held. They are known as Chorae, Trinkets, and Tears of God and they are highly sought after by many, including the Schools.

The Inrithi Groups & Factions[edit]

Synthesizing monotheistic and polytheistic elements, Inrithism is the dominant faith of the Three Seas, founded upon the revelations of Inri Sejenus (c.2159-2202), the Latter Prophet. The central tenets of Inrithism deal with the immanence of the God in historical events, the unity of the individual deities of the Cults as Aspects of the God as revealed by the Latter Prophet, and the infallibility of the Tusk as scripture.

The Thousand Temples - The Institution that provides the ecclesiastical framework of Inrithism. Though based in Sumna, the Thousand Temples is omnipresent throughout the northwestern and eastern Three Seas.

The Shrial Knights - A monastic military order under the direct command of the Shriah, created by Ekyannus III, ‘the Golden,’ in 2511.

The Conriyans - Conriya is a Ketyai nation of the Eastern Three Seas, founded after the collapse of the Eastern Ceneian Empire in 3372 around Aöknyssus, the ancient capital of Shir.

The Nansur - The Nansur Empire is a Ketyai nation of the Western Three Seas, and the self-proclaimed inheritor to the Ceneian Empire. At the height of its power, the Nansur Empire extended from Galeoth to Nilnamesh, but has been much reduced by centuries of warfare against the Fanim of Kian.

The Galeoth - Galeoth is a Norsirai nation of the Three Seas, the so-called ‘Middle-North,’ founded c. 3683 by the descendants of refugees from the Old Wars.

The Tydonni - Ce Tydonn is a Norsirai nation of the Eastern Three Seas, founded after the collapse of the ketyai nation of Cengemis in 3742.

The Ainoni - High Ainon is the preeminent Ketyai nation of the Eastern Three Seas, founded after the collapse of the Eastern Ceneian Empire in 3372, and ruled by the Scarlet Spires since end of the Scholastic Wars in 3818.

The Thunyeri - Thunyerus is a Norsirai nation of the Three Seas founded through the federation of Thunyeri tribes c. 3987, and only recently converted to Inrithism.

The Fanim Groups & Factions[edit]

Strictly monotheistic, Fanimry is an upstart faith founded upon the revelations of the Prophet Fane (3669-3742) and restricted to the southwestern Three Seas. The central tenets of Fanimry deal with the singularity and transcendence of the God, the falseness of the Gods (who are considered demons by the Fanim), the repudiation of the Tusk as unholy, and the prohibition of all representations of the God.

The Kianene - Kian is most powerful Ketyai nation of the Three Seas, extending from the southern frontier of the Nansur Empire to Nilnamesh, and founded in the wake of the White Jihad, the holy war waged by the first Fanim against the Nansur Empire from 3743 to 3771.

The Cishaurim - Priest-sorcerers of the Fanim based in Shimeh. Little is known about the Metaphysics of Cishaurim sorcery, or the Psûkhe as the Cishaurim refer to it, beyond the fact that it cannot be perceived by the Few and that it is in many ways as formidable as the Anagogic sorcery of the Schools.

Critical Response[edit]

“Canadian author Bakker's impressive, challenging debut, the first of a trilogy, should please those weary of formulaic epic fantasy. Bakker's utterly foreign world, Eärwa, is as complex as that of Tolkien, to whom he is, arguably, a worthier successor than such established names as David Eddings and Stephen Donaldson.”

–Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

“[R. Scott Bakker is a] class act like George R. R. Martin, or his fellow Canadians Steven Erikson and Guy Gavriel Kay. He gets right away from the 'downtrodden youth becoming king' aspect of epic fantasy in his very impressive first novel - The Darkness That Comes Before, which will be published in the UK in April 2004. But he also reminds us of the out-and-out strangeness that fantasy can engender, in a way no one has since Clark Ashton Smith. No clunky analogy of medieval Europe here. Odd, fascinating characters in a world full of trouble and sorcery.”

–“10 Authors to Watch,” SFX Magazine

“The Darkness That Comes Before is something special... A stunning first book, brilliant setting and characterisation, and if this was just a warm-up then the entire series is going to set a new standard for fantasy writers everywhere. Go read it now, as the publisher's blurb proclaims - ‘Something remarkable has begun...’”

–The Alien Online

External links[edit]