Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book Review: "The Warded Man" by Peter V. Brett

"There's our friend again," said Gaims, gesturing into the darkness from their post on the wall. "Right on time," Woron agreed, coming up next to him. "What do you s'pose he wants?" "Empty my pockets," Gaims said, "you'll find no answers." The two guards leaned against the warded rail of the watchtower and watched as the one-armed rock demon materialized before the gate. It was big, even to the eyes of the Milnese guards, who saw more of rock demons than any other type. While the other demons were still getting their bearings, the one-armed demon moved with purpose, snuffling about the gate, searching. Then it straightened and struck the gate, testing the wards. Magic flared and threw the demon back, but it was undeterred. Slowly, the demon moved along the wall, striking again and again, searching for a weakness until it was out of sight. Hours later, a crackle of energy signaled the demon's return form the opposite direction. The guards at the other posts said that the demon circled the city each night, attacking every ward. When it reached the gate once more, it settled back on its haunches, staring patiently at the city. Gaims and Woron were used to this scene, having witnessed it every night for the past year. They had even begun to look forward to it, passing the time on their watch by betting on how long One Arm took to circle the city, or whether he would head east or west to do so. "I'm half tempted to let 'im in just t'see what he's after," Woron mused. "Don't even joke about that," Gaimes warned. "If the watch commander hears talk like that, he'll have both of us in irons, quarrying stone for the next year." His partner grunted. "Still," he said, "you have to wonder..." ~Excerpt from The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett Peter V. Brett has gained quite a following in the last year since the debut of "The Warded Man," and as a lover of good, solid fantasy writing I have to add my name to the list of reviewers who think Brett may prove to be an exceptional talent. For hundreds of years humanity has been cowering in the dark against the relentless onslaught of the corelings-- demons who rise up through the earth as night falls and exist only to destroy human kind. As their numbers dwindle, the only defense people have against the corelings are magical wards that repel the demons. But the wards are often weak and the demons are relentless when it comes to pounding against the wards to get to their prey. Arlen has never known life without the constant threat of the demons. As a young man he knows he doesn't like cowering in fear and desires to fight back. But the fear of demonkind is so ingrained, it isn't until a tragic series of events occur that Arlen has a chance to test his resolve. "The Warded Man" follows the story of three main characters: Arlen; Leesha--a herb woman; and Rojer-- a young jongleur (minstral) who was maimed by the demons as a child. But "The Warded Man" is really Arlen's story and it's a coming of age story in many ways. What Brett does in "The Warded Man" is take a simple idea and develop it to the fullest extent. The corelings are an implacable enemy that could be vague in less skilled hands, but Brett somehow finds a way to give mindless destruction a personality. And every character has a compelling story. Arlen, Leesha and Rojer don't cross paths until well into the story, though you know that Brett is building that narrative for a reason. Rather than bog the story down, it gives each story a chance to flourish. But ultimately it's Arlen who intrigued me the most. Like most heroes in fantasy fiction he becomes a man with a legend and possibly a figure of prophesy. But Arlen isn't a character of convenient attributes or unusual magical talent. He's just a driven man who pushes himself harder than most would think humanly possible. And there's something really wonderful in that characterization. There are no shortcuts to Arlen's development and that makes him a particularly believable protagonist. Everything about "The Warded Man" is well thought out. The corelings, the wards and the world of Brett's creation are all described in detail and there are no moments where you feel as if there are gaps in logic. Brett proves that fantasy doesn't have to be overcomplicated and it doesn't have to follow fantasy tropes of sword and sorcery. It's just a great book that has everything you want; good heroes, believable villains, suspense and solid world-building. "The Warded Man" easily slips onto my 'most recommended' list.


T.D. Newton said...

I felt the same way when I read it last year :) Far superior to The Way of Shadows, which I finished during the same trip.

SQT said...

"Way of the Shadows" is a good book IMO, but not nearly as skillfully done as "Warded Man." I would have read this sooner-- I was supposed to have gotten a copy. But then that didn't work out so I ended up waiting. The good news is that I already have a copy of "The Desert Spear."

Sullivan McPig said...

Sounds interesting. Thanks for the review