Analysis, inspiration, Reading, Reviews

Review: The White-Luck Warrior

TLDR: R. Scott Bakker’s fiction is out of this world.

Someone said that the secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. Well I’m on to you Bakker. It says on the inside jacket that you study philosophy and ancient languages. Lucky for you I don’t have time or inclination for those subjects.

The White-Luck Warrior is an astounding work of fiction. The mass of ideas crammed into this book (and all the preceding books) puts an aspiring author like me in a jealous heat.

The writing is dense at times and the names of people and places are unpronounceable for me, but I am utterly enthralled by Bakker and his writing. When he’s not dropping thought-provoking ideas,

Cruelty is only injustice in the absence of necessity.

he’s describing the scenery with prose poetry.

Dusk rolls the plain’s farther reaches into darkness and gloom. The wind buffets, hard enough to prickle with grit. Thunderheads scrawl across the sky, dark and glowing with internal discharges, but rainless save for the odd warm spit.

When he’s not doing either of those things, he’s putting complex and interesting characters in dire straits and describing their pain with heartbreaking comparisons.

You cannot stroke a beaten dog because it sees only the raised hand.

I ate up The White Luck Warrior the same way I devoured the Prince of Nothing trilogy that came before it. Bakker has so many skills as a writer that I wonder if he himself is Dunyain. It would explain a lot.

I could go on and on… so I will.

In my writing critique group, the writers who excite me the most are writing at the bleeding edge of language. They try new things, experiment with sound and metaphor, and a lot of the time their writing is a mess. Ingenuity requires experimentation and experimentation implies repeated failure.

I simply do not understand how Bakker can write something like the following and never also chuck a turd.

We are a narcotic to them. They eat our smoke. They make jewelry of our thoughts and passions. They are beguiled by our torment, our ecstasy, so they collect us, pluck us like strings, make chords of nations, play the music of our anguish over endless ages.

Though I said the writing is dense at times, I never had trouble reading it. I even relished re-reading pages I had just read.

All men are born helpless, and most men simply grow into more complicated forms of infancy.

Bakker is certainly borrowing heavily from historical accounts of the crusades as well as other fantasy pioneers (notably Tolkien), but he adds his own voice.

The stream glittered, a ribbon of liquid obsidian in the gloom. The air smelled of clay and cold rot.

I thoroughly enjoy his writing, but I shouldn’t forget how much his characters propel the reader forward. Human frailty is practically a thesis of these books.

Sometimes she felt little more than a cloud of coincidences, face and hands and feet floating in miraculous concert.

These are books that aspiring writers should avoid comparing their own writing to, lest they make themselves feel like ridiculous boys.

Suddenly the assembled men were nothing but ridiculous boys, their pride swatted from them by the palm of a shrewd and exacting mother.


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