The Judging Eye by R Scott Bakker
Review by George Roesch
This second series of Eärwa, titled The Aspect Emperor, continues twenty years after The Prince of Nothing series ends. The Three Seas are on the march under the leadership of Anasûrimbor Khellus. Khellus has spent these last twenty years conquering the various nations and forming the largest force he can to assault Golgotterath, the home of the No-god and his Consult, before they can gain full strength and begin their own assault on The Three Seas. A lot has changed in these years. Khellus and Esmenet have become Emperor and Empress and now rule the Three Seas completely since his half-brother Maithanet is the Shriah of the Thousand Temples, the dominant religion of the Tusk.
As Khellus is marching on Golgotterath with his two hundred and fifty thousand warriors, we see Esmenet running the empire and dealing with the day to day ceremony of the Empire. We are also invited into the lives of their children who most chillingly seem to have been born with Khellus’ ability to look into people’s faces and see their thoughts and emotions with just a glance. But most disturbing is that they also were born without the attachments and emotions of humans, and with the youngest, voices in his head.
And re-enter Drusus Achamian. He has been in isolation in the wilds for these twenty years trying to decipher the dreams of Seswatha that he still has every night even after denouncing his sorcerous school. But this has also changed the dreams and now he sees different aspects of Seswatha that he never saw as a Mandate Schoolman. This gives him the information he needs to begin his quest to destroy Khellus. Armed with his dreams and a group of Sranc hunters, Akka journeys through the wilds looking for the Coffers, a legendary treasure trove from the ancient Kûniüri Empire, where he feels he will find the answers to Khellus’ past.
This first book is a very strong lead in to the second trilogy of Eärwa. I believe it is meant as a standalone series, but I feel that if I hadn’t read the first series The Prince of Nothing, I would really have had a lot of questions and not enjoyed my reading as much. So I was happy that I didn’t have to drag through the first hundred page recap where everyone talked about what happened last week, but felt that a new reader may have been a bit lost.
And now I will take a moment to right a wrong. Remember a couple years ago Scott when we had those beers at The Wortly after that book signing? I said there was a list of authors that after reading them made me feel that I wasn’t up to the challenge. Well Sir, this book puts you on that list. Those chapters with Drusus travelling the dark path earn you a high five from Tolkien.
Jonathan from Wisconsin
Easily the best fantasy series to emerge in the past 5 years. The Second Apocalypse series blends history, philosophy, theology, and a healthy does of imagination with a high-caliber and captivating writing style. The characters are multifaceted and the ideas and themes are engaging and thought-provoking. Set in a realistic fantasy world similar to ‘The Song of Fire and Ice,’ ‘The Judging Eye’ is epic, triumphant, gritty, and thoroughly immersive. It is a must read for fans of adult fantasy (e.g., the LOTR, The Song of Fire and Ice, The Steel Remains).
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