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A Review of The Great Ordeal, by R. Scott Bakker

“Everything I have taught you is a lie”:

A Spoiler-Free Review of The Great Ordeal, by R. Scott Bakker

 

Introduction

Scheduled for release in the United States on July 12, R. Scott Bakker’s The Great Ordeal is the third installment in The Aspect-Emperor series, which is a continuation, set nineteen years later, of Bakker’s earlier Prince of Nothing trilogy.  Bakker, as well as his fans, refer to the story as a whole as The Second Apocalypse, though the title is (as of now) unofficial.

 The Prince of Nothing

  • Book 1:  The Darkness That Comes Before
  • Book 2:  The Warrior-Prophet
  • Book 3:  The Thousandfold Thought

 

The Aspect-Emperor

  • Book 1:  The Judging Eye
  • Book 2:  The White-Luck Warrior
  • Book 3:  The Great Ordeal

It is important to bear in mind that the two series are indeed a single monumental narrative.  Readers would be nearly as ill-advised to begin with the first book of The Aspect-Emperor as to begin with The Great Ordeal.  Too much has already happened—a fact underscored, perhaps to excess, in the laborious “previously on…” section that opens the book.  This recap, entitled “What has come before,” clocks in at over 11,000 words.  It is, to put it mildly, exhaustive—as well as potentially exhausting.  Still, even readers coming directly to The Great Ordeal from its lead-in, The White-Luck Warrior, are likely to benefit from the recap’s distillation of the many-faceted story, though perhaps not enough to justify its length.

Each of Bakker’s fantasy novels (after the first one) begins with a similarly extensive recap, but the practice is especially needful now, given that five years have passed since the appearance of The White-Luck Warrior.  (Compare that to the two-year gap between The White-Luck Warrior and the previous volume, The Judging Eye, or the three-year gap between that book and the final volume of The Prince of Nothing trilogy.  Remarkably, however, even given the five-year wait for The Great Ordeal, Bakker has managed to produce his entire series so far in the time it took George R.R. Martin to follow up with Tyrion Lannister after the events of A Storm of Swords! [1])  From what I understand, the delay was due partly to artistic considerations (that is, Bakker’s determination to get the story right) and partly to complications with his publishers.

Thankfully, none of that matters now, since The Great Ordeal has at last arrived.

 

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