In Praise of Peter V. Brett’s “Demon Cycle” of Books

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)

Sent from my iPad

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May Reading: The Month Ahead

Well, April was not a stellar month for me as far as blogging frequency goes, but I got a decent amount of reading done.  In May I will try to do better about blogging, but here’s what I have on tap to read this month:

Desert Spear by Peter Brett

I feel like I’m kind of cheating here, since I had hoped to finish this in April, BUT… I have just over 100 pages to go, and the story is really picking up.  This is the second book of a trilogy (book three due out sometime this year? <fingers crossed>).  The first of the trilogy was The Warded Man (known as The Painted Man outside of America).  A fantastic (post-apocalyptic?) world populated by great characters and plenty of ‘demons’ to be killed.  A great adventure.

Life by Keith Richards

This is my book club’s May selection.  The biography of the iconic guitarist from The Rolling Stones promises to be entertaining reading, and I can’t wait to get started.  Our club has also read Eric Clapton’s autobiography, which was not surprisingly met with mixed reviews by my eclectic group…

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I’m participating in Allie’s read along over at A Literary Odyssey.  I actually cracked the book this afternoon, reading the introduction to my 1969 edition.  I’m supposed to have Part I (about 175 pages) read by the middle of May for the first of four scheduled posts in this read along (it encompasses both May and June).  Can’t wait to read this one either.  I’ve already read Crime and Punishment years ago and felt it was quite good.

We Make a Life by What We Give by Dr. Richard Gunderman

Late in March, I went to a lecture by the author (who also happens to be a former college roommate of mine!) and was quite impressed and moved  by his thoughts on philanthropy and ethics.  It was somewhat of a reunion for me as well, since I hadn’t seen my old friend in many years.  The book is actually a collection of essays, several of which I’ve read already, but I need to give it my full attention for a few days and finish it.  It is very thought-provoking and full of ‘deep thoughts’ – and I don’t mean the Jack Handy kind…

The Fear by Peter Godwin

I’m about a third of the way through this book already (somehow I got entangled in April, reading more books at one time that probably ever before; I’m trying to right my ship in May).  It’s the disturbing story of Zimbabwe under the despotic rule of Robert Mugabe.  I first heard of this book on NPR and “just had to read it…”  Oh, and I’ll also have a Vonnegut title for the KVML Book Club meeting on May 26th.  I’m not sure which book we’re reading this month though, as I had to leave the last meeting a little early.

That’s it.  (Isn’t that enough!?)  How about you?  What are you reading in May?  (You know I can only read about five books a month, so I need to live, er… read vicariously through others to get enough of a fix…)

April Reading – The Month Ahead

I’m a little behind schedule here with what has become a traditional monthly post, but here’s what’s on tap for me in April:

“Obligatory” reads: I have two. My book club is reading I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I am actually the one who put this book on our club’s “bookshelf” after reading so many great things about it from my blogging colleagues last year. Someone else picked it to read, but in a sense it is “my” book. The way my club works, usually every three or four meetings you’re either reading a book you added to our shelf or a book someone else added but you picked. I like that, as members have a “connection” with double the books than a normal club where everyone just takes turn picking a book they recommend. In our club, you have to pick a book someone else recommends. My other book club, the KVMLBC, is reading Slaughterhouse Five this month. It’s the second month in a row we’re reading a book I’ve already read, but I plan on reading it again to refresh my memory for the meeting.

Other books? Well, I’m about 200 pages (out of over 600) into Trollope’s The Small House at Allington now, and have gotten more into the characters and more used to the writing style. I’m likely to finish this one in the next couple weeks. I’ve also started and paused Desert Spear by Peter Brett, the sequel to one of last year’s more pleasant surprises, The Warded Man. I’ve also started the depressing book, The Fear, by Peter Godwin. I heard about this on NPR on the way home one day, and it sounded interesting. It’s a non-fiction book about Robert Mugabe’s “reign of terror” in modern Zimbabwe. (A lot of unpleasant material in it, but hard to put down)

Let’s see… What else? Oh, a former boss gave me a copy of a non-fiction book his sister wrote about hiking the Continental Divide Trail. I’m really looking forward to this one as well, since I have hiked a lot in the mountains myself. Another non-fiction book I hope to get to is Dr. Richard Gunderman’s book about the nature of philanthropy, We Make a Life by What We Give. This book is a little out of my comfort zone as far as reading genre goes, but Gunderman happens to be a former college roommate of mine and one of the smartest people I’ve ever actually known personally.

Well, I’m sure I won’t get to all of those this month, but probably four or five will be completed. I also have my ongoing short story reading project. I drew a new card Saturday, and it turned out to be Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” but I haven’t read it yet. I’ll have that one and probably three more stories to be randomly determined as the weeks unfold.

What about you? What are you reading in April? Are we reading any of the same things? Is there anything you’d recommend I consider for my may list?

Oh, I almost forgot: Go Butler Bulldogs!!