The next book in the series begun with The Warded Man, set in a world where humanity is besieged by night by demons and await the promised Deliverer, who may be one of two blood brothers, one who shuns the name and the other who embraces it.
I freaked on Peter V. Brett‘s The Warded Man when I read it earlier this year and had the usual worries about whether or not the series would continue in the same exciting vein, or fail to thrill (I’m looking at you, Forest Mage).
Well, the only one who failed to be thrilled was Superfast Toddler, left to fend for herself while I sat glued to the book, dying with every page to find out what would happen next!
The Desert Spear proves Brett to be a gifted, imaginative, skilled writer who comes up with big ideas and more than pulls them off. In this continuation of a series (not sure how many more books to come), Brett weaves in the life history of Jardir, an ambitious tribe leader the Warded Man encountered in his travels in the South. We see Jardir’s side of the story, as well as learn about his rise to power, and glean disturbing details about the way of life in the desert. Men live to kill demons by night, and their reward is that they can rape any woman they want. At first I thought I was supposed to sympathize with Jardir, and the raping thing really got in the way, but then I realized that Brett was after something a lot more complex.
In later chapters Brett brings back prominent characters from the first book. Leesha, spurned by the Warded Man, has become a powerful healer and warder, with skills against the night that haven’t been seen in centuries. Rojer, the musician whose fiddle enchants and confuses the demons, pines for Leesha even as he years for something bigger. And Renna, the girl who kissed the Warded Man back when he was just a boy, wastes away under the thumb of her monstrous father. All three characters becomes swept up in the bigger story when Jardir’s forces travel north to subjugate all the land under his rule as self-proclaimed Deliverer.
Most people who have met the Warded Man think he’s the promised Deliverer, but the Warded Man repels such claims because he thinks he’s cursed. The powerful wards he’s tattooed on his body are turning him into something between demon and human. He struggles each morning as the sun rises to keep from diving down into the Core where the demons live. What Jardir doesn’t know is that the fabled Warded Man is the old friend he trained in the desert ways of demon battle. Needless to say, this is one confrontation that’s going to be electric.
Like my favorite fantasy novels, it’s the nuanced, complicated, fascinating characters that really kept me enthralled. I loved how Brett developed each one of them in surprising ways. He takes risks with them and isn’t afraid to have them do something unexpected. Leesha, in particular, is a woman to rival Daenerys Targaryen or Althea Vestrit–and if you know who I’m talking about, you best be ordering The Desert Spear pronto.
Many thanks to Del Rey for the advance copy.