The Desert Spear review

Monday, June 21, 2010

Peter V. Brett was formerly known as the guy who wrote his first novel on his Blackberry. Peter V. Brett is now the author of an ongoing popular and acclaimed fantasy series and he deserves the title. I enjoyed quite enough his first work (The Warded Man review) to become really eager for the sequel, The Desert Spear.

In Krasia, the rise of the Shar’Dama Ka, the deliverer reborn is recounted up to the invasion of Thesa. In the North, the Warded Man is teaching his people to defend themselves and strike back against the coreling invasion forming up from the mist every night. With his friends, Leesha and Rojer, he will undertake a quest to spread the knowledge of the newly found battle wards throughout the old Thesan free cities. In the darkness of the night, the coreling princes watch patiently, waiting for their moment.

The Desert Spear is literally and fundamentally a middle book. Brett chose to concentrate on placing his characters exactly where he wants them and prepares the ground for something bigger in scale, a great convergence. However, because of this, the book suffers a bit. First of all, there's clearly two parts to the novel. The first one is a catch up/alternative PoV of the story from the first book for Jardir (from birth to his betrayal of Arlen). The second part is what I just detailed as "a middle book".

It felt kind of weird for me to switch from the first part to the second. Jardir's story is captivating, the more so because it's set in a tightly constructed and imaginative substitute version of the Muslim world. Being able to see the other side of the mirror and get a hold of the Shar’Dama Ka perspective deepens the narrative and creates a vibrating new ambiance. The knowledge of the Krasian deliverer goals, hardships and origin was a necessity to make the remainder of the story believable. Nonetheless, the switch of setting is a rough one.

One of the things I disliked from the first book was the too numerous chapters about those "good old tales of farmer wives" (dubious choice of term from yours truly but I think you grasp my meaning). Even though I initially thought it actually gave the protagonists their motivations, there was too much of it. I was disappointed to find out that it's still not over in the follow-up. However, the author eventually gets on to business adroitly and brings on to the front lines Renna. A welcome addition to the main cast that will probably shine through the next book. She's probably the only one who could stand up to the Warded Man.

The best improvement in term of writing was the pace. In the Warded Man, it was uneven and the story wasn't evenly told with the same amount of details. This is corrected in the second novel. The writing is more fluid, the world feels richer in details and the characters really have the time to think and act consequently. This great progression can only mean one thing, a finely written conclusion.

I still have some problem with Rojer. I'm not really sure that it's actually possible to like him, at least in my case. His jealousy, his guilt and feeling of failure.... I'm simply unable to connect with his situation. That being said, I don't think it's the author fault. Then, there's a lack of Arlen as a PoV. The Thesan deliverer is at the heart of the tale and I would have given him more spotlight. However, I'm not the author and I'm sure that Peter has very specific and captivating plans for him. Since he is the sole protagonist who actually has insightful interactions with the corelings, it would have been fun to have him go down deeper in the rabbit hole. Hopefully, the hero still has his moments, as when he confronts all his past relations, an heartbreaking succession of trials that will define the man that will probably lead the upcoming war.

Corelings and warding. In this case again, kudos to Mr. Brett, more so for the new additions to the alagai cast. The new coreling princes and mimics expand the bestiary in such an interesting way that elevates the combat to new heights. With both the deliverers getting stronger and stronger with the help of all those new wards, they ought to have more terrific foes to fight, and they have. I would have hoped to have a glimpse of them earlier but they send a signal that a glorious challenge is coming.

Speaking of warding, I would finish with Leesha. She brings innovation to the table and helps in integrating the wards to the background. This special touch is the most compelling element of Brett's world. Moreover, she brings sensuality and desire. All the aspects of her flirting are exploited with finesse and used in just the right dose by the author. She and the khaffit Abban, augment significantly the quality of the cast.

The book was pretty hard to judge as far as numbers goes. I would probably have given the novel a better score if it wasn't for the "middle book" factor I felt a bit too much. Yet, I will watch and wait for the last opus intently.

Technically, I can only praise the cover art by Larry Rostant. The Del Rey hardcover edition of the novel stand at 579 pages and is still lacking a map. The Daylight War should be out in 2012 to finish the trilogy.

The Desert Spear
review score :

Characterization............. 7.5 /10
World building............... 8 / 10
Magic system................. 8 /10
Story.............................. 7 / 10
Writing........................... 8.5 / 10

Overall (not an average) 7.5 / 10


Peter V. Brett page


Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Great review. I have this on my shelf now to read. I am looking forward to it after reading The Warded Man. But I am wondering about the change in writing view. I really liked the way The Warded Man was done. So, now I am curious for this one. Thanks for the review.

Phil said...

Thanks, always a pleasure! :)

I'll look forward to your take on it.

Utkarsh said...

Hi Phil...
Nice review. Started this one about 2 weeks back and I'm currently approaching 300 pages. Enjoying it so far.
I believe this is going to be a 5-book series, not a trilogy.
I sometimes really wish all fantasy series should end in 3 books max. Unlike Mr. Robert Jordan whose saga just goes on and on and on.

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