R. Scott Bakker – The White-Luck Warrior

I have read some strange works of fantasy over the years but The White-Luck Warrior (2011) by R. Scott Bakker, the second book of The Aspect-Emperor Trilogy, which is the second cycle of the Second Apocalypse series, can certainly be marked as quite unusual. He reaches a new form of characterization, as no characters seem to be untouched or wholesome. I would describe it as an orgy of insanity. Nobody behaves normally and as madness goes there is a great variety in them with different degrees of sanity. Even when you think some persevere and get back on track they are unable to hold on and have to let some go. One can only be baffled or stunned by the ongoing sequence of minor events that are impossible to predict. You can stagger, but not stop going on.

An even so, even so, the plot itself is not that complicated. The trilogy is about a great crusade and the main journey before reaching the goal. There is thus not much of a beginning or an end. In the wake of the great crusade there are several minor crusades that have different aims. These are no less in their horrific nature. They are bloody and brutal and not so different. There may be, to some extent, unpredictable events, the general course is rather straight. They are not really twists. At a certain point you start expecting something crazy to occur again at certain junctions and you are only disappointed if there doesn’t.

It may sound somewhat depressing. How can this be an enjoyable read? Much is compensated by three things. The first thing is the prose. Bakker writes imaginative and in a clear way. The reader is drawn into the many spectacular scenes and the often haunting course of events. The second thing are the details. The world that Bakker has created is well crafted, be it in ancient history, philosophy, poetry or religion, all in a range of different cultures which are unique and original. The third thing, which I already mentioned earlier, is the characterization. There is a broad cast of characters and even many of the minor ones are clearly depicted with hidden depths and different faces. An within all the mad events all are changed.

For some The White-Luck Warrior may be a tough read. One has to see and experience the many things that make it worthwhile to keep going on. It is hard to call it a great novel. Plot-wise Bakker does not provide much development. The first novel of this trilogy, The Judging Eye, was similar and there is no improvement here. The reader knows where things are going, we are just not that certain how it will all end. It is the shocking journey and the craft of the novel that give the book an unusual edge. It is not a rollercoaster ride but everything goes through a slow meatgrinder where you have no clue who will survive and how. That makes it recommendable.

 

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