The Warrior-Prophet


R. Scott Bakker


Fantasy / Science Fiction


Date Reviewed:

August 25, 2006

akker continues his compelling and original fantasy series with The Warrior-Prophet, the second book in the Prince of Nothing Trilogy. The Warrior Prophet in the title, of course, is Anasurimbor Kellhus, the Dunyain monk who has joined the Holy War as it marches into battle with the Fanim empire of the southwest. Kellhus' real goal is to meet his father, but whether the meeting will be a confrontation or a reunion we have yet to learn.

The Warrior-Prophet is divided into three sections, each one describes one of the Marches by the men of the Holy War as they invade the Fanim Empire. Mengedda, Shimek, and finally Caraskand fall before the men who worship the Inrithi faith. There are some terrific battles in this book - sword fights, calvary charges, sorcerous weapons - the Fanim put up a desperate fight to defend their homeland. This is epic scale warfare, with banners flying and knights charging, with heroic last stands and grand strategies. The brutality of warfare is also on display, with bloody dismemberments, men being trampled under, the slaughter of innocents when a camp or city falls to one party or the other.

What I like about this series is that the men of the Tusk are not simply united in one monolithic army bent on winning one grand goal. Instead, their plots are directed against each other, as each strives to bend the Holy War to their purpose. It is pretty clear that Conphas, the nephew of the Nansur empire, has some treacherous scheme up his sleeve - he and his uncle hope to use the Holy War to seize lands that were lost to the Fanim ages ago. Will Conphas betray the Holy War to the Fanim if it means he can retain the conquered territories? Proyas is a devout man of the Inrithi faith, he fights because the Maithanet of the Thousand Temples commands it - but why did the Maithanet call this Holy War, who is this man who can see the Few? Unfortunately, we see the Maithanet in only one brief chapter where he confronts the emperor, Xerius III. The final book in this series will have a lot to reveal regarding Maithanet.

Eleazaras is the leader of the Scarlet Spires, a dreadful school of sorcerers who have joined the Holy War because they seek to destroy the Cishaurim, who are the eyeless priest-sorcerers of the Fanim. Eleazaras thinks Drusas Achamian is in league with the Cishaurim - Achamian was with Conphas when Skeaos, the Prime Consult for the Emperor, was unmasked as inhuman creature. But Achamian is not a Fanim spy, he believes that Skeaos is a servant of the Consult, the cabal that seeks to bring forth the second Apocalypse. Achamian hopes that Kellus' appearance is no coincidence, that Kellhus is here to stop the Consult. Achamian has become so seduced by Kellhus smooth talk that he even considers betraying the Mandate School. Kellhus, of course, has his own agenda - he wants to march to Shimeh where his father is based. Meanwhile, the Scylvendi chieftain Cnauir wants to meet Kellhus' father so he can kill him as vengenance for the death of his own father.

All this may sound confusing, but keeping the story lines straight in the novel is not difficult. The Holy War lurches its bloody way forward, and the Grand Leaders conspire against each other. Great stuff. One thing I enjoy is the portrayal of Kellhus. He isn't that sympathetic, but Bakker does succeed in making him sound intelligent. Kellhus spouts mystical sounding advice and insights, he uses his Dunyain monk skills to talk and act exactly as a true prophet would. Kellhus is more than a mighty warrior slaying his enemies with a broadsword, instead he seems like a cold, intelligent character trying to solve the mystery of his father.

I found this book to be real page-turner. Hopefully, the final book in the series matches the spectacular achievement of the first two books. I would rank this series right up there with the other elite fantasy novels: the Chronicles of Amber, the Fafhrd & Grey Mouser books, The Saratine Mosaic, The Worm Ouroborus and The Book of the New Sun, The Riddle-Master of Hed, The Dying Earth, and of course, The Lord of the Rings. (I haven't read the George RR Martin series yet, nor Steve Erickson's series, so I don't know if those highly regard books belong on the list of best fantasy novels.)