The Desert Spear
“‘Ent here to deliver anyone that would put a girl out in the night!’, he roared.” The Desert Spear, p. 497
As indicated in the earlier post about Peter Brett’s The Painted Man/The Warded Man, I very much liked the book, more for the fairly original plot than the style or the characters. I have now finished the second volume in the trilogy, The Desert Spear. While I still enjoyed very much reading it, some of the shortcomings pointed out in the earlier post started to weight upon my reading. The great starting point of the novel is to have some of the earlier events in The Painted Man re-analysed from Arlan’s (former) friend, Ahmann Jardir, which is the leader of the desert tribes and also a contender for the Deliverer title. While Arlan rejects this title (as in the above quote), Ahmann claims it from the start and this is the reason he breaks their friendship to gain a Warded Spear he considers his. This action is “justified” in this second volume by the different culture of the desert tribes where fighting the night demons (the corelings) is the primary goal (“We fight to live and you live to fight”, says Leesha) and the collective wins over the individual. If this sounds like cheap sociology, it is indeed how I feel about the whole theme..! The previous post mentioned my uneasy reaction at what sounded like a charicaturesque depiction of Arabic cultures (religious fanaticism, cruelty to the weaker members of the tribes, sexism, hatred of other cultures, &tc.) often found in fantasy books these days and this book reproduces this caricature several-fold, centring upon the Jihad raised by Ahmann who invades the North and its divided kingdoms with his usual cruelty, a feature which makes him hard to like. (I am not the only one mentioning this negative feeling, see, e.g., this blog and that forum.) The author is trying, hard, esp. by introducing a love triangle of sorts between Ahmann, Leesha and Alan, but this does not work too well and leads to additional caricaturesque representations of harems and women attitudes. Add to this demons of higher order taking control of some characters’ minds (a plot trick that always annoys me in fantasy novels as there is no bound to what they can do!) and this book does not look so appealing…
Now, the above critcism is a wee harsh in that the book, while not perfect, is enjoyable. In the last part, I simply could not let it go despite late hours and many things to do. My son also read it in a few days and loved it, stating that very few novels could make us fear the dark that way! The novelty has somehow worn out, when compared with The Painted Man and the creation of this demon-infested world, and the invasion of the North by Ahmann is rather anticlimactic since the northerners do no stand a chance, but there are enough interesting developments, e.g. the build-up of a resistance to those night demons led by Leesha, to make The Desert Spear a very good read. While Leesha is (once again) an only-half successful character, another female central character, who was only tangential to the first volume, takes a life of her own and an important role in the story as a female counterpart to Arlan. So I am looking forward the conclusion of the series in The Daylight War. Which is announced for early February 2013. In the meanwhile, you can check the author’s webpage.