I recently completed the second book of this series, Desert Spear, and am looking forward to when the third book will be published. The first book, The Warded Man, was one of my great ‘discovery’ books last year. I’m not sure if I even would’ve learned of this series in my pre-blogging days, but I randomly happened upon a gushing review of it at Borough of Books last fall and figured I’d give The Warded Man a chance. I was not disappointed and have since recommended the books to several friends, and they were well received by them as well.
***very minor spoilers may follow***
This type of book (fantasy) is admittedly not my normal, preferred genre, but it comes alive for me because the main characters are so well conceived and heroic, and not necessarily heroic in the traditional sense. The basic setting is a (possibly) post-apocalyptic world which is plagued by demons on a nightly basis. These are not the “demons” of our familiar religious tradition, however. They’re not trying to possess humans (although the introduction of a “mind demon” in the second book may be a similar concept, I guess). They rise in a mist at nightfall, searching for prey, but they are destroyed in the presence of daylight. They come in different forms: wood, fire, rock, sand, wind, etc., to plague humanity on a nightly basis.
So how has humanity survived? Well, in this fantastical world, the demons are held at bay and helpless in the face of “wards” – magic symbols drawn or painted on the walls and doors of dwellings, drawn in the sand or dirt by those left out at night, and so on. “Warding” is naturally a much honored and valued skill in this world. Myths also abound of a prior time, where demons (often called “corelings” since they live at the world’s core, and return there nightly after their ravages) had been defeated by humans using “battle” wards and other mysterious technology only hinted at. Somehow, this knowledge has been lost to time though, and the nightly demon plague is once again upon the world.
This cycle of stories centers around the concept of a “deliverer,” who will lead humanity out of the plague and defeat the demons. The main character (and the title character of the first book) is Arlen, a young human who “has had enough” and is dedicated to fighting against the demon plague rather than cowering behind warded walls, as he disgustedly watches his father do. He becomes a “messenger,” one of a hearty breed who travels between the towns in spite of the obvious danger. Other great characters are Leesha, a “herb gatherer” who becomes a leader in her village, and Rojer, a “Jongleur” (a kind of traveling entertainer or jester) who is able to charm the demons by playing his violin and protects his fellow humans that way.
Add to the mix the “Krasians,” a warlike desert people who have always fought the demons in a nightly ritual of “alagai-sharak,” which is costly in lives but has led to a complex society where prowess in battle is revered to an amazing degree. Among these people we meet another of our main characters, Ahmann Jardir, ambitious and convinced that he is the “deliverer” of myth. Great minor characters also abound as author Brett has created a tidy, functioning fantastical world for which it is easy for the reader to become immersed.
What about you? Have you read – or even heard of – either of these books? You may want to check them out, even if on first blush you suspect they aren’t your cup of tea. I did and am glad…
(above: Author Peter V. Brett)
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