The Thousandfold Thought - R Scott Bakker
A long walk followed by a big fight. Bakker's analogue of the Crusades finally approaches its destination, the Holy City of Shimeh, and Kellhus draws closer to the father he was sent out to kill. Actually, all I really wanted to see from this book was some more righteous unleashing of the Gnosis, and in that I wasn't disappointed, but overall it was a bit of a letdown after the awesomeness of Book 2.
With Kellhus now in (almost) undisputed command of the Holy War, we move away from his viewpoint for the most part, and the bulk of the story is carried by Achamian. While Akka's character is far more interesting now that in was in the first book, he unfortunately doesn't have that much to do for most of this one, beyond generally being heartbroken, so his viewpoint chapters are duller than they should be. Cnaiür's chapters have more action in, but now he's away from the main plot, guarding the disgraced Ikurei Conphas, and I didn't find his mad ramblings particularly convincing. Conphas himself was an evil delight as usual, but again, his distance from the Holy War proper made his storyline seem a little irrelevant. Esmi, now the prophet's consort and spymaster, looked fine and strong from other peoples' viewpoints, but once we were in her own, she was disappointingly wet and whiny.
After the slow progress down to Shimeh, full of political intrigue, bickering Schoolmen and assassination attempts, we finally get the last assault on the city. This is where the action all took off, but I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I had no idea what was going on for the most part. The strange and confusing names of characters, nations and factions were less of a problem earlier in the march, where you could figure out from context what was going on, but when all of them were embroiled in the same huge battle, there were pages and pages where I had no idea who was doing what to who(m). Death came swirling down a lot, but it was difficult to tell whose. I could probably have found out by consulting the 150-page glossary at the back, but I didn't realise this was there until I was caught short by the ending, expecting at least an hour's more reading than was actually available. Be warned!
The ending was also inconclusive as it only wrapped up the Holy War storyline; there's no further progress on the bigger tale of the impending Second Apocalypse - unless it was all resolved in the middle of the battle, but I'm sure I'd have noticed. Probably. Obviously, this leaves the field open for Bakker's next trilogy, currently under construction (as far as I know); for all my complaints here, that'll be a must-read when it comes out. All in all, this series has been quite hard work but very rewarding; despite the slow bits and the opaque battle sequences, it's more than worth it for the intelligent writing, the unusual setting and the snippets of philosophy. And if you've already read this far, of course you're going to read Book 3. Now all I need to do is wait for the next one.