At night, the demons rise, terrorizing humanity for centuries until three grown orphans dare to fight back.
Warning: freak-out coming…
THE WARDED MAN ROCKED ROCKED ROCKED.
I mean, seriously. I am losing my mind over how good this book was. Why oh why oh why am I going to have to wait all the way until the end of the year to read the next book? I haven’t been this insane about a book since I read Assassin’s Apprentice. I was so sucked in I forgot how eager I am to read Dance With Dragons. It’s books like these that make me hate my superpower, because my time with Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer passed way too shortly. I wish the book had been twice as long, honestly!
The basic premise is that humanity is under attack from demons that rise up from the Earth’s core every night at sunset. Only painted or carved wardings can repel them, and like any human-made thing, the wards are prone to fading, chipping, or being covered by dirt. People have grown accustomed to living in fear, with only courageous messengers and their portable warding circles daring to travel between cities and hamlets. Folklore is replete with foretellings of a Deliverer, who will lead humanity in the next war against the demons, presumably to defeat them once and for all. But most believe the Deliverer is just a fairy tale.
One young man, Arlen, despises fear and dreams of a way to fight back. When he’s left orphaned and fostered by a Messenger, he discovers a talent for warding and a desire to seek out the lost cities of the first Demon Wars. The Warded Man is told through Arlen’s point-of-view, as well as that of Leesha, a privileged young woman with a talent for healing, and Rojer, another orphan whose fiddling is so sweet it makes the demons dance.
Brett makes these people real, constantly taking risks in their interactions with those around them. He excels at hinting at the stories taking place off-stage, as it were, and that gives his characterizations depth and breadth. I was drawn in as much by the emotional journeys of the characters as by the action scenes–not to take anything away from those, of course. The fighting and battle scenes are as visual as any I have ever read. Brett skillfully leads the reader through the action using emotional stakes that are just as high as the physical ones.
In many ways, The Warded Man is an origin story for a superhero, but there’s no “Chosen One” nonsense here. Brett realizes that the best heroes don’t know their own heroicism–like Neo in The Matrix–nor are they protected by those whose lives are deemed less important by the author. Brett lets every human life count and doesn’t make things easy for anyone, least of Arlen, Rojer, and Leesha. By respecting his characters enough to let them suffer, he crafts a story that is worthy of however many sleepless nights you’ll need to tear through it.
Incidentally, Brett wrote this on a smartphone, largely during his subway commute to work. How cool is that? I wasn’t surprised to learn that he is a fan of Stephen King, because the book that it resembles most is King’s Wolves of the Calla, my personal favorite from the Dark Tower series.
I need people to read this book so we can talk about it. It comes out on March 10th, but you can pre-order it on Amazon. Many thanks to Librarything‘s Early Reviewer’s program–I’m always amazed when I get a book because so many people request them. Some of the ones I’ve received have been real stinkers, but all is forgiven because I’ve now got a new epic fantasy obsession.
UPDATE–The Warded Man is out today!