The Daylight War review

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Daylight War is the third book in the Demon Cycle series by Peter V. Brett. It hardly needs an introduction, as I'm convinced that this novel was one of the most expected releases of 2013 for many Fantasy readers.  The author still has two more books in mind to finish the story.
On the night of the new moon, the demons rise in force, seeking the deaths of two men both of whom have the potential to become the fabled Deliverer, the man prophesied to reunite the scattered remnants of humanity in a final push to destroy the demon corelings once and for all. 
Arlen Bales was once an ordinary man, but now he has become something more—the Warded Man, tattooed with eldritch wards so powerful they make him a match for any demon. Arlen denies he is the Deliverer at every turn, but the more he tries to be one with the common folk, the more fervently they believe. Many would follow him, but Arlen’s path threatens to lead him to a dark place he alone can travel to, and from which there may be no returning. 
The only one with hope of keeping Arlen in the world of men, or joining him in his descent into the world of demons, is Renna Tanner, a fierce young woman in danger of losing herself to the power of demon magic. 
Ahmann Jardir has forged the warlike desert tribes of Krasia into a demon-killing army and proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer. He carries ancient weapons—a spear and a crown—that give credence to his claim, and already vast swaths of the green lands bow to his control. 
But Jardir did not come to power on his own. His rise was engineered by his First Wife, Inevera, a cunning and powerful priestess whose formidable demon bone magic gives her the ability to glimpse the future. Inevera’s motives and past are shrouded in mystery, and even Jardir does not entirely trust her. 
Once Arlen and Jardir were as close as brothers. Now they are the bitterest of rivals. As humanity’s enemies rise, the only two men capable of defeating them are divided against each other by the most deadly demons of all—those lurking in the human heart.
In The Desert Spear, we were witness to the back-story of Jardir.  It covered almost the first half of the book and created a significant dichotomy in tone, pace and perspective.  In The Daylight War, the same kind of pattern is used.  This time, it's Jardir's wife, Inevera, who gets the spotlight from her young days as a basket weaver to the head of the Krasian matriarchy.  The Shar'Dama Ka's first wife earlier days are insightful, they give us yet another perspective of the Krasian society, but for several parts of it, it's the third time we hear about the same account.  Variation on the same theme has its limits and its cost even if Inevera is now a more elaborate protagonist.

In some measure, for the third book, that return to the past isn't the longest part of the story and the switch to present day is less sharp.  The complete main cast eventually get the center stage and the story evolves slowly but steadily toward the next waning since the last attack from coreling princes. Most of the time is spent on preparing the defenses for the dreaded coreling invasion while some events lead to a sizing up of the enemy armies for the Daylight War as the Krasian put it. However, I'm not sure why the author kept The Daylight War title for the book, aside from the return ride of the Hollow representatives from Everam's Bounty and the plans being elaborated for the next target for Jardir's army, the focus is more on Sharak Ka, the First War with the demonkind.

My feelings toward some characters changed in The Daylight War.  Rojer finally woke up and stopped being the unsuccessful boy with complexes focusing on his failures, about time. His storyline starts with a bang and he rides on it throughout the book, creating an arc with an interesting blend of humor and gravity. On the other hand, it's now Leesha who's becoming kind of annoying.  After Jardir's account in The Desert Spear, she and Abban became the most compelling characters.  However, her frustration, her insecurity and mostly the way she deals with those felt somewhat wrong.  Maybe I misjudged her character before.

With the narrative concentrated around the two would-be Deliverers, gone are the 'good old tales of farmer wives'.  Finally, Renna is now an active member of the cast without all the disturbed family bickering and unhealthy behavior.  She ought to be the character needed to confront Arlen and falls just short of doing it. However, alongside Rojer and Leesha decisions, she creates an interesting situation in term of love affairs.  Things couldn't be more complicated now and the time spent on each relationship as they clash together while the world is at the mercy of monsters or global warfare is intriguing enough.  Humans will always be humans.

In my review of The Desert Spear, I mentioned: "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.".  In The Daylight War, the two heroes are now at the top of their game, their powers transcending the balance that ought to be present if we want to continue to believe in their struggle.  The corelings may try new tricks and offer a substantial challenge for a time, in the end, both Deliverers deals with them with too much ease. It was hard to believe in their possible demise.

While choreographic combats between good and evil or men and coreling if you prefer are still present, I think that the real battle now is between the ego, personality, tactic, friendship and resolve defining the two men.  The duality between their realities and the way they face the same kind of predicament is the core element driving the whole tale forward and keeping it captivating.  Sadly, for both of them, the point of view they deserve is seldom used.

Warding is now a natural element of the world Brett created. With the insights from the princes, even the corelings don't sound so much out of this world. The variety of drones now found in the book is testament enough of the author's work on his particular species of demon.  Combine all this with the rich society of the Krasians, which more than ever feels unique, not simply an imaginative substitute of the Muslim world and you get a nice accomplishment in term of world building.  The cohesion the author achieves in this third book is a palpable amelioration from The Warded Man.

The Daylight War still has a bridging/middle novel feel but that's not an absolute problem when I think about the evolution of the meta story. Parts of it could be considered as an unnecessary stretch, the result of switching from a trilogy to a longer series. By the way, the conclusion feels rushed but I can only applause the cliffhanger ending. There you have it. I think that Brett's latest book is probably his best work so far, showing good writing skills but still not without diverse lacks that can be improved in the future.  However, if the previous novels in the series didn't charm you, this book won't do much to make you care more.  All things considered, I still gave the book the same score as Brett previous novels.

Technically, I love the cover with Inevera casting the dices, the work of the talented Larry Rostant. The Del Rey hardcover edition of the novel stands at 768 pages, a simple map is included and a useful Krasian Dictionary is present for reference at the end of the book.

The Daylight War
 review score :

World building
Magic system 

Overall (not an average)


Peter V. Brett page
The Warded Man review
The Desert Spear review


Bob/Sally said...

Sounds like we had very similar feelings regarding this third volume.

I thought he did a much better job of weaving Inevera's story into the overall narrative this time, although I suspect Jardir's structure may have been deliberate. It certainly makes her a most sympathetic (and dangerous) character, but what I found most fascinating was seeing the truth of her castings, and not just how she interpreted them for Jardir.

Couldn't agree more on Rojer and Leesha. I really liked the way Rojer developed, and the way in which his wives became characters, not just plot devices. Leesha really annoyed me this time around, and while she clearly has a huge role to play, I hope there's a redemption of her character coming.

Faust said...

I was expecting The Forge of Darkness review first.
Well,i look forward to read this.

Phil said...

@Faust: I'm writing Forge review now and in should be up in the upcoming days, but since it was the release day of The Daylight War, I thought it was fitting to put it up fist.

Cursed Armada said...

I think I'm in the minority here but I couldn't stand this series! To the core with you Phil ;)

John Iscariot said...

I'm torn.

I really feel that this book failed to deliver[er] ... as it were.

What, I feel - other than the magic system - has been the strength of this series, has been the characters; and the characterisations of such.

Now, there seems to have been an epidemic of 'stupid' cast upon the land. These folk have little to worry about from the corelings, I'd be more concerned that, by the fifth book, these people are will be unable to walk upright and chew gum at the same time.

Of the main characters, Arlen is, perhaps, the sole exception, except when that walking synopsis of the the DSM-IV (Rena) is at his side - then he becomes as impaired as the rest of them. (...and what the hell is up with Rena? IN book two, she was little more than a 2-dimensional mess, now she's a walking collection of psychoses, primal urges and poorly-written homilies about relationship building.

Leesha is paper alright, paper-thin ... yes, yes, an obvious and weak pun. Leesha would redeem herself mightily if she simply poisoned her mother; all that time in the dama-ting palace and she can't even learn how to poison someone correctly.

Sorry, this is supposed to be a comment, not an ongoing character assassination

My main issue, overall, is that everything has become so horribly contrived. When I read the first two books, my feeling was that the structure - albeit written very differently - reminded me of Stephen Donaldson's 'Gap Series'. The first book - The Gap into Conflict: The Real Story - set a scene (much like The Painted Man) it introduced some characters, established a world and set a stage and left it at that. The second book, as the The Desert Spear, built upon that adding layers of complexity, character and narrative depth and started outlining strands of plot/dramatic tension etc. The third book: The Gap Into power: A Dark and Hungry God Arises, got into the meat of things plot strands were developed further, politics, machinations, conflict, developed; where was this in The Daylight War?

Nowhere in sight.

We got Inevera's story: which was trite and uninteresting. I'm well aware that the Damajah (and the politics/ etc ad infinitum of the women's palace) is supposed to be AN IMPORTANT PERSON, and you would have thought that the development of her story would have also acted as a reveal for a degree of depth and direction behind the politics of the dama'ting ... but no ... if anything, Brett, to use a favourite expression, 'vagued it up'.

Essentially, it boiled down to - the ways of women are not the ways of men.

Really? Well, duh.

...oh yes ...and it would appear that Inevera's role is to:
[1] Be more Delphic than the delphae (and they were sitting on a volcanic vent with all the gases therein)
[2] Wear diaphonous clothing so that she can act like a teasing bitch... because she can.
[3] Snarl like a petulant, hormonal teenager at anything that challenges he plans ...or her captive penis...

Dear god, I could throw rocks at this all day (and it's presenting a bigger target than a Piers Anthony novel) but, nonetheless:
- the protagonist, Arlen, is one of the best protagonists to appear in fantasy in a long time.
- The magic system is interesting and can realistically evolve to meet new challenges without looking like a deus ex machina. - The corelings have a lot of potential for development as does the wonders and technology of the hidden/ lost city (which Arlen is going to go back to ...what will he discover).

But I look towards the next book with trepidation, The Daylight War (and let's be frank, it was more of a small border incident) was a step backwards, I hope Brett can revive things.

...and seriously...WTF was up with that ending...

(Notes: Apologies for the rant. Apologies if this comes out a com[plete mess, the comment window was so small that it made it difficult to actually parse and tidy what I had it's probably terribly unfocused.

bobby said...

I really started to hate reading about arlen and renna it did my bloody head in love you arlen love you renna ffs is this a teenage romance story now? renna was an extremely annoying character thats all there was to her. I did however love reading about jardir his story was interesting and had a lot of depth. the hollow and arlen renna leesha (used to be a great character) rojer became very dull and predictable. I must admit i really wanted jardir to win the end fight but arlen being the main character was obviously going to win even if he had to cheat. I just hope some how jardir has survived otherwise I cant see myself reading 2 more books of Love you renna love you arlen!!!!! repeated over and over. The books started amazing but are in my opinion taking a dramatic decline. I dont mean to insult peter brett he is or should i say can be a very good writer i just dont know whats happening to his style now but i do not like the change.
still good characters (hopefully the best is not dead but thats wishful thinking) and the so called main characters seem to have lost all depth and personality to become one uninteresting teenage girl.

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