Review: The Judging Eye

Posted: August 10, 2009 by in Books that are Mediocre (3/5 single_star) Meta: R. Scott Bakker, Dark Fantasy

It was hard to approach this book without wetting our pants in excitement. R. Scott Bakker is Nick’s favorite author, by far, and owes Steve for introducing him to The Prince of Nothing series.

After reading the book a number of times we have decided how we can proceed on this review. We will make a concession right here and now. As much as we’d like to, it is completely impossible to review this book without comparing it to Bakker’s earlier trilogy set 20 years prior to the events in, this, the beginning of his second trilogy.

We love Bakker and his work, but the heartbreaking truth is that THE JUDGING EYE (Amazon) doesn’t even come close to the powerhouse of his first trilogy. If this is a sign of things to come Nick may just have a breakdown.

Let’s start with the action. It is overblown to the point of ridiculousness. In the first series there was maybe a handful of characters that could do what was done by nearly every character in combat in THE JUDGING EYE, lending weight to the fantastical action sequences. We also know, pretty much from the get-go, who is going to survive the action scenes. They were frenetic and deadly, but at the same time they were disappointing and lackluster.

The characters must have had some sort of intellect draining disease over the 20 years since The Prince of Nothing series leaves off and THE JUDGING EYE picks up. Kellhus is one dimensional, and utterly boring in this installment. Achamian is irritating with his relentless self pity and hatred (which is a MAJOR disappointment – Achamian was THE MAN in the first trilogy). There is a complete lack of female characters who have not been sexually taken advantage of. Bakker’s misogyny is quite evident here.

Kellhus and Esme’s children make no sense. Kellhus has… certain abilities… but they came from both thousands of years of genetic sifting, as well as training. His children not only share their genes with Esme, who isn’t exactly a genetic trophy winner, but they haven’t had the specific training Kellhus has. Despite this however, all his kids are basically emotionless replicas of him. Makes for a confusing and boring read. Not to mention, if they are all intellectual superheroes, like Kellhus, how come they can’t figure out why certain things (avoiding spoilers, remember?) happen to and around them?

THE JUDGING EYE showcases Bakker's vocabulary, and ability to write descriptions, but little else that was positive.

The plot was almost all set up. Of the few things that actually happen, some are beyond the suspension of belief, which is saying something while reading a dark fantasy like this.

The entire book really just hearkens back to Bakker’s reverence for Tolkien, and it shows just a little bit too much. His own plotting ability seemed to get lost and he just took his own world and fit it to THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (Amazon). You see, there is this wizard, he has a team of warriors, they go into deep, dark caverns, they fight an endless horde of nightmares, and there is even a giant demon. Sound familiar? It should, to anyone that has even heard of fantasy before, and it especially should have sounded familiar to Bakker. So this begs the question… how did Bakker think he could get away with this?

Final conclusion. Bakker spent 20 years writing his first trilogy. We don’t think he was prepared to write his newest entry into the series this soon. THE JUDGING EYE showcases Bakker’s vocabulary, and ability to write descriptions, but little else that was positive.

If you are a Bakker fanatic like both Nick and Steve, go and pick it up, just don’t expect it it compare to The Prince of Nothing Trilogy. If you don’t know who Bakker is, pick up his first novel, Go grab his first stuff off – start with THE DARKNESS THAT COMES BEFORE (Amazon), and treat yourself to the beginning of the deepest fantasy trilogy available right now. If you are somewhere in the middle, we say wait on THE JUDGING EYE for the trilogy to be finished and see where Bakker goes with it.

  • Recommended Age: 18+
  • Language: Plenty of it
  • Violence: Yep. Its here, but it is so overblown it could be read like comic book action.
  • Sex: It is present, both in act and allusion. Nearly every female character has a history of sexual exploitation. A few of the main characters are ex-prostitutes and have recurring issues because of it.

Special Note: What you have to understand about Bakker, and specifically his Prince of Nothing Trilogy, is that he doesn’t pull any punches. This is the darkest of dark fantasy. THE STEEL REMAINS (Amazon) by Richard K. Morgan has nothing on Bakker. There is a huge amount of violence, language, and sex in Bakker’s work, not to mention a VERY deep study on manipulation. Bakker’s work, but the very aspects of it that make it so much more than any other fantasy novel also make it very hard to recommend without worrying that we are going to offend the people who trust our recommendations. Just keep this in mind when you are deciding on the purchase of Bakker.


  • OnlyTheBestSciFi/Fantasy says:

    Yea, crash and burn so far for the second trilogy… here is to the hope that he doesn't suck in the next two. Of course, I will read them either way.

  • OnlyTheBestSciFi/Fantasy says:

    Your comment box has some kinks that you might want to look into. Seems you tried to embed it, but it won't let me scroll down to the submit button. Luckily I know how to press tab, but not everyone is as smart as me.

    • Hmm, I don't see any issues with the submit button. We'll ask around and see if anyone esle is having issues.

      As far as Bakker goes, personally I'm hoping he just used this book as an effort to grab some more mainstream fans. Perhaps now he will get back to his awesomeness. In addition, we have the US release of his novel NEUROPATH coming in October. You better believe I have high hopes for that one…

  • Anonymous says:

    The first trilogy was crash and burn for me. I an, frankly, boggled as to how you gave these books sure good reviews.

    The writing was amateurish at best. The pacing was insanely slow. There was little introduction to the characters or setting.

    I am boggled. Usually I agree with your reviews. Not this time.

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