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Friday, April 16, 2010

"The Desert Spear" by Peter Brett (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu and Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Peter Brett Website
Order The Desert Spear HERE
Read FBC Review of The Painted Man(UK) aka The Warded Man(US)
Read FBC Review of The Great Bazaar and Other Stories

INTRODUCTION: In My Anticipated Books of 2010 post, I said the following about "The Desert Spear":

"Demons and glyphs, magic and survival, avoid the night at all cost and darker, grittier writing made The Painted Man (UK) aka The Warded Man (US) the debut of Peter Brett and of the series, a big time favorite last year...", so "The Desert Spear" was a natural book to be included in a high position.

The Desert Spear stands at almost 600 pages divided into four sections and 33 chapters, all named, while there is a prologue featuring some new kinds of demons.

The Desert Spear has about 6-7 POV characters namely Arlen, Leesha & Rojer from the previous book and Jardir, Renna and Inevera [Jardir’s principal wife] who is one that will trigger reader emotions as to the level of her prescience. The readers will also get a clearer look into the life of Abban, the trader who was friendly with Arlen and features so prominently in the novella The Great Bazaar.

The ending is at a good stopping point for a series currently projected at 5 volumes, while
The Desert Spear is epic fantasy that combines traditional qualities (heroic heroes and villainous villains so to speak) with the darker, grittier style of the "new epic".

Mihir : The Desert Spear was my top 2010 anticipated novel after last year’s The Painted Man took first place in my 2009 reads. So with such high expectations I started The Desert Spear wondering whether Peter Brett would be able to duplicate his success and give us a worthy sequel.

The Desert Spear prominently features Jardir a minor but very important character in the debut novel and it focuses upon his journey from childhood to adulthood in the same way as it was done with Arlen in the previous book. The author also gives us a very detailed look at the Krasian way of life and warrior culture in the process and makes that world much more alive while precluding Jardir from being just an Arabian warrior stereotype. The story then progresses to catch up with what has occurred previously and then expands as Jardir and his Krasian warriors look to emulate the path of the first Deliverer Kaji. However the Krasian way of getting allies is a brutal one and more than often it antagonizes the subjected population.

The story then turns towards the geopolitical spectrum as Arlen and Jardir go about their individual ways and in turn meet other crucial POV characters. We get a story which becomes much more than just a battle of survival. While the basic premise of the series , namely defeating/understanding the Corelings is always present, The Desert Spear features a lot more the mystical aspects of its universe and the powers they can grant to their bearers . The Krasian magic system is very fascinating and the seemingly powerful magic of their women makes us reconsider the Krasian culture to a large extent.

The Desert Spear is darker than "The Painted Man" and it was more fascinating in the sense that the magic system was explored further, we were given a viewpoint into the enemy both human and non-human and lastly the POV character interaction just sets the pace for the next book nicely. On the downside the action levels in this book are bit more muted than before and by this I mean that while The Desert Spear does have lots of action scenes, they are more on a personal level rather than the "men against demons" in "The Painted Man".

The one niggle I had was that of three different characters who recognized Arlen in his painted avatar, two choices seemed logical but the last one however seemed a bit stretched.

Overall The Desert Spear was a worthy sequel to "The Painted Man"; it wasn’t as addictive as the debut but it had its own dark edge to it. Especially since this can be considered as a transitional volume and sets up a lot of events for the third book “The Daylight War” and as the title clues us in we are in for a bumpy ride. The Desert Spear will be a worthy contender for my year end lists.

Liviu: I quite liked The Desert Spear end to end though the first 200 or so pages that focus on the Krasian culture and on Jardir's rise to power have an intensity that is unmatched later. However I thought that pretty much the whole novel was on the quality of the best of The Painted Man as writing goes; The Desert Spear was much more focused on the cultures of Krasia and The Free Cities than on the Demons per se, with Jardir emerging as a great main character in addition to Arles, Leesha, Rojer. We also saw new kinds of demons too and there were some superb action sequences that complemented nicely the political aspects and the intrigue.

The one downside for me is still the lack of subtlety in most characters which in the first volume was more than compensated by the freshness of the setting as it was here in the Krasian part, but later the one dimensionality of most POV's showed a bit. However I have big hopes that we will see "sentient demons" that may have some rationality for their action beyond pure hunger and the series will take the one step higher as nuance goes. A strong A from me and the sequel will be another highly anticipated novel..


Nate said...

I picked up The Warded Man at the library upon this site's recommendation, and I'm so glad I didn't rush out and waste my money on it. Granted, I didn't get past the first 100 pages, but it was just terrible. Characters interactions were so contrived, info-dumps so sloppy, it really read like an amateur fan-fiction piece. I may be in the minority, but I think I'm right on this one. The opening sequence where the foreigner just spills the beans on the demons/wards/etc. to the little kid was ridiculously sophomoric. So, Caveat Emptor.

The Reader said...

Hi Nathan

I'm sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy The Painted Man. Its interesting that you mention you couldn't enjoy the 1st 100 pages as some readers experienced similar thoughts & as they read ahead and onto the middle and latter thirds of the book. They had a change of opinion.

So its up to you whether to give it retry or not. But if PBV's book didn't do it for you, then there are plenty more books to read. Have a good day mate.


Anonymous said...

Agree with Nathan, the series leaves a lot to be desired in terms of character interaction, they can feel contrived at times just used as tools to move the plot. I Can't stop reading it even though I don't think it's that good.

Liviu said...

"I Can't stop reading it even though I don't think it's that good.'

This begs the question 'what is good'? Something you read a page at a time and them put down for a month?

Narrative energy, page turner, however you want to call the quality of "can't stop reading" is something I appreciate a lot and for me it constitutes a large chunk of "good".

Anonymous said...

OMG!! I can't believe there are readers out there that did not enjoy this book. It took some time but once I got halfway through it I realized how great the character development was. The story is great and the second book was even better.

Anonymous said...

This book was.... weak (that's the word) the final was meh and I wanted more of the Golden Trio, I liked how Jadir was introduced (but it was quite boring sometimes) and how Leesha is some kind of SuperWoman. I didn't like how Arlen fought his inner demons, and the same applies to Leesha... sometimes I wonder if any woman in this book has a bit of selfrespect! I won't say anything about Renna just that I hate her personality and love for Arlen (wake up for god's sake!)

Anonymous said...

I was going to get this book since I enjoyed the first; until I found out that this book focuses on the history of characters and cultures that I came to despise from the first book. I wanted Arlen to go get his spear back and lay waste to those backstabbing good for nothing Krasians. Instead I get to read about their past? I will write a better second book:

The Krasians failed to properly copy the battle wards from the spear they stole and were behing annihilated by corelings. Arlen arrived, saved his merchant friend and left the rest of the buggers to die. The End.

Liviu said...

Thank you for your comments!


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