The Desert Spear, by Peter V. Brett (Demon Cycle #2)

  • TITLE: The Desert Spear (The Demon Cycle #2)
  • AUTHOR: Peter V. Brett
  • PUBLISHER: Harper Voyager (UK)
  • PUBLICATION DATE:
  • RATING: ★★★★★

desert_spear_cover_smAfter reading The Warded Man I didn’t know whether to expect something on par with the first book—an excellent story, but a story that had reached its peak and could climb no higher—or an utter flop that would leave me wanting. In the end, neither expectation was realised, as The Desert Spear proved just why people talk about Peter V. Brett.

Because his work is awesome.

Stories of the “Warded Man” abound; his story is on everyone’s lips and where he treads people cry, “Deliverer!” Yet another walks the same path as Arlen Bales, the young man beneath the tattooed wards, cast out in the Krasian desert, with his legendary demon-killing spear stolen and his friend’s knife in his back. Jardir, with Arlen’s excavated spear in hand, has declared himself Shar’Dama Ka and he intends to wage war—on whomever he must to free Ala of the demons that plague it.

Legend tells that before Sharak Ka can be waged and won, just as Kaji did centuries ago, that the world must be united under one banner to face the demon plague. Jardir thus begins his campaign of Sharak Sun—The Daylight War—with the greenlands in sight. Meanwhile, following the Battle of Cutters Hollow (now calling itself Deliverer’s Hollow) Leesha finds herself in charge and begins to build upon the success of the battle. But with The Warded Man eager to travel and spread the knowledge and weapons he has amassed, things aren’t as easy as they might be, despite the fresh buzz of courage throughout the Hollow following their stand in the night.

A great measure of the book handles, in the same vein as The Warded Man, Jardir’s upbringing and the foundations of his rise to power. We see deeper into the heart of Krasia and find that whilst at first he might appear villainous following the events of the first book, Jardir in fact is just as driven as Arlen towards the destruction of the demons and a free world. Only they believe in different methods and in the end, with two pillars of power, each calling (deliberately or otherwise) their own armies, it’s as like as not that before the demons can be conquered, they must conquer themselves.

There’s a lot to say about Brett’s handling of character. He spends much of his time detailing the upbringings of his characters, showing us their lives from a young age, right up to the present date. In many ways this is engrossing, but it does become heavy after a while and somewhat expected. It makes it feel as though the story takes a while to really get going. But…on the other hand, the opening of The Desert Spear, walking us through Jardir’s difficult life, did not leave me aching to move onto to present events: it was just as compelling as I’ve come to expect from Brett and therefore leaves me at a sort of impasse regarding what I think of his time-hopping. Regardless of how much time it takes or how many pages turn, you grow to love his characters, regardless of which side of the fence they stand on.

Furthermore, there are a lot of POVs in this book. I’m used to writers such as Anne Lyle, who switch POV easily and fluidly, so I found the switches easy to handle and clean, but at times, when changing viewpoint mid-scene, it might become a little confusing and difficult to keep up. Sometimes the switch can feel a bit like whiplash, but when it all adds to the tension and pace of a scene I tend to just go with it and keep pace.

The Desert Spear really feels like two sides of a story and that’s probably why it surpassed even the brilliance of The Warded Man. It is a complex weaving of two stories—the stories of two men—the outcome of which might decide just who is the Deliverer (whether he’s born or made) or if the world needs a Deliverer at all.

Both stories are gripping and exciting and the characters that surround the two lead males are astoundingly addictive. Constantly, you want more.

Jardir’s Jiwah Ka, Inevera, steps further onto the stage, as do the inhabitants of Deliverer’s Hollow, including Gared Cutter, the boy to whom Leesha was promised before she became Bruna’s apprentice, the archer girl Wonda Curtter, alongside a new POV character for the occasion, hailing from the very same place as one of the would-be Deliverers.

I didn’t especially warm to this new character, though their place in the story is definitely necessary and justified. I found their story less exciting and intriguing than the character arcs of other characters and found myself constantly flicking through pages more quickly than normal, eager to be back with those more familiar in the cast. The story was sound, it simply did not resonate with me.

A character that does resonate is “fiddle wizard” Rojer Inn. Easily my absolute favourite character in the series, Rojer is enjoyable to read and engaging, whilst offering a younger, lighter POV to contrast with and balance out the heaviness of the “leaders'”  POVs.

Arlen, Leesha and Jardir are brilliant, but after a time it’s refreshing to read someone not prone to giving orders and throwing their weight/reputation around.

There is a lot of depth to this book and a lot of meaning flickering beneath the surface. The Krasians, with their harsh and ultimately flawed culture, face off against the Thesans, an equally flawed culture. With each showing its share of eccentricities and sometimes downright abhorrent behaviour, Brett is a master at never painting one side the villain. The Demon Cycle isn’t about good versus evil; it’s about people and the world they live in. It’s a good message and truthfully it’s the best kind of fantasy.

Just like it’s predecessor, The Desert Spear demonstrates a true master at hand. I hold still that it’s got nothing to do with the style. Readers of this blog will know I wax lyrical about the poetic prose of Elspeth Cooper (The Wild Hunt series) and her like (Anne Lyle, Pat Rothfuss, etc). Their style resonates with me; makes me feel swept away in a great, warm tide of words and enveloped in images and excitement. Brett’s prose is nothing to write home about. In fact, it’s plain. However, it’s his characters and complexity that I keep coming back for. Reading about the lives and experiences of people is one of the reasons people read at all and Brett effortlessly nails just how his characters live, breathe, hate and love. He knows them to the very last blemish and damn if it doesn’t show. In that respect, Brett is a genius.

Generally, despite the whiplash POVs and maybe a few too many people to juggle at once in one book, I preferred this to the Warded Man. It was rich and exciting and completely unputdownable. I found myself reading on my phone Kindle app just as frequently as my Kindle proper, just to squeeze in a few tiny pages of text in every spare second I had.

Brett is a master at weaving his story and having finished The Daylight War (the eARC of which was kindly provided by the publisher through NetGalley, the review of which will be published closer to the release date) I can promise that things can only get better and better and better.

An astounding yarn that miraculously outdoes its predecessor. Utterly compelling and dark in all the right places, with just the right amount of light and hope dolloped on top for sweetness. Brilliant.

★★★★★

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