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Review: The Desert Spear Review by Peter V. Brett

By / May 31, 2011 / no comments

The Desert Spear is the second in Peter V. Brett’s Demon series and continues to follow Arlen Bales in his fight against the demons that plague his world. It is a world filled with forgotten magic and abandoned science, where people live simply but fight every night to survive the hoards of demons that rise from the core of the earth.

This second book devotes much of it’s time in following the rise of Ahmann Jardir as he enters into the sacred warrior world of his people, the Karsians. This first part of the book moves at a much slower pace than readers of the first book have come to expect, and almost feels tedious at times – particularly after the shocking ending of The Painted Man which left many hanging on the edge of their seats. You will soon find yourself immersed in the world of the Drasians, their way of life and all the subtleties and artistries of their fighters gently building into an intricate knowledge for the reader. A sense that is vital as the book progresses.

Although readers will already be familiar with Jardir from the first book they are now treated to an entirely different side to him, shown his weaknesses and how he has been manipulated and pressured by many: beginning with his community’s beliefs, then by his peers and finally his wife, Inevera.

The Desert Spear allows you to slip easily back into the world of demons, however you do find yourself forcibly reminded that you are reading a sequel, as Brett has a habit of recalling things that are blindingly obvious to anyone who has read The Painted Man. This can be frustrating at times, particularly when Brett becomes over indulgent in his descriptions. Often this is not necessary as we know how beautiful Leesha is and how shocking Arlen’s appearance has become, yet this is vital information for the few who have not read (or ashamedly forgotten) the prequel. For seasoned readers however, Brett seems intent on repeating himself in the mid section of the book, when the worlds of the Drasians and the Greenlanders finally begin to collide. It is more than worth powering through this section however, as the rest of the plot is most certainly a payoff.

The Drasian story is a more blood thirsty one than that of the Greenlanders in the first book, and their beliefs have a distinctly Eastern feel to them, their scapes and traditions reminiscent of traditional East Asian and Muslim imagery. This helps to make their ways seem all the more alien to the typical Western reader, particularly after the familiarity of the The Painted Man. Yet their behaviour and beliefs still carry the darkness that exudes from the original. This darkness is more precise, more exotic and ultimately more deadly than anything previously encountered. Yet Brett writes the epic and calculated battles in such a way that they exude beauty and strength whilst the desert heat becomes almost palpable.

The Desert Spear delves further into the mythology of the demon world, bringing out the deep set religious beliefs of Jardir and his people and how this has impacted on their race. It is ultimately these beliefs that turn Jardir from the determined and promising young man to the power hungry warrior and would-be leader encountered in the first book.

Jardir slowly climbs the chain of command in Drasia; eventually, armed with the warded metal spear he stole from Arlen in The Painted Man, proclaiming himself Shar’Dama Ka – the Deliverer. Armies are gathered under his name, and Jardir marches out of the great walled city of Krasia, on a quest to regain some of the ancient battle wards and unite the people of the world against the demons. Jardir’s unification approach far from peaceful and can only be accomplished by waging war on the unsuspecting cities and villages he reaches: forcing boys to take up arms and fight demons, raping women in order to breed warriors and torturing authority figures into submission.

The Desert Spear is not simply a series of battles and war mongering however; the relationships between the characters are what keep you truly interested, their bravery and private oddities lying at the heart of the book.

As the book progresses the other characters from the first book are re-introduced: Leesha Paper, Rojer Halfgrip and Renna Tanner all make an appearance and have a significant impact on the narrative. Leesha, having led the Hollowers into battle against the demons, with Alren and Rojer at her side, finds herself courted by Jardir, as he and his army move across the Greenlands.

Whilst the roles or Rojer and Renna in the inevitable great battle become both more significant and curious. The strength of Brett’s characters allows them to flow fluidly through the book, passing through the various towns and cities encountering people – both old and new – in a way that is always familiar yet unexpected. Almost as if you are hearing the story straight from the lips of a close friend.

The final act of the book is filled with tension and curiosity, there are many possible outcomes laid out before you but one by one the characters choose their paths, making foolish decisions or achieving great things, all of which ultimately lead you to two integral moments in the plot: both of which surround a brutal, yet strangely intimate, battle between man and monster.

It is here that the book properly introduces you to villains of the piece, as you stand beside Jardir and Arlen as they face the two Demon Princes, sent up from the Core to monitor the humans as, for the first time in 300 years, they begin to fight back. The ensuing battles between the heroes and the Mind Demons are some of the most tense moments in the book, drawn out and nail biting but also action packed.

Like the first book however, The Desert Spear is undeniably long. With long expanses where very little seems to happen other than seemingly unimportant conversations and long journeys to far flung cities. This time passes by almost un-noticed, however, as you feel as though you are simply accompanying the characters on their travels. There is also the issue of plotting. The author does seem to jump around with the plot — from one minute the characters are doing one thing and the next minute, they decide to do something drastically different (without leading the story in a natural sort of progression). My same complaint goes with HOW the romance is handled with some of the characters. Frankly, the romance between several of the characters seemed quite contrived. I was left scratching my head, wondering what the author was thinking. Peter Brett can create an amazingly exciting world with great action. But I’m convinced he can’t write female characters nor can he write credible romance between characters.

However, the strength of the other parts of the novel help to make up for the weak plotting and romance. The novel, on a whole, is exciting. This is where the writing ability of the author shines the brightest: Brett’s writing envelopes you wholly, taking you into a world so vivid that the you can hear the conversations, smell the air and feel the fear as though you were Leesha or Arlen yourself.

About the author

Ben

Blog editor, admin and founder of BestFantasyBooks.comYou'll find me on the BestFantasyBook forums and spending my spare time reading fantasy books and writing lists for this site. In fact, I have no spare time -- running this site IS my spare time!

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