Archive for Peter Brett

The Daylight War

Posted in Books with tags , , , on April 27, 2013 by xi'an

This book by Peter Brett is the third in the Demon Cycle. It is so long (656 pages) that when a friend brought it to me here in the hospital I first thought it was a new trilogy! Then I imagined the book was long to allow the author to conclude. Only to realise at the last sentence that it was not the final volume!!!  This was not clear for me before starting reading The Daylight War… Even though I would still have gone through the book if only because this is an easy sickbed read.

There is so little action in this volume that one wonders why it took the author so many pages! And it seems that most of the space is taken by the same characters bickering again and again, and by the repetitive and boring details of their sex life… What happens is that Brett again chose to tell the same story but from another character’s point of view. This time it is Innerva, who is indeed a central figure in the series, but because she is very close to Jadir, on which the previous volume was based, the current feels very repetitive and not that necessary. I dread the incoming volumes if the author continues in this vein..! (I fear one book will be set from the demon’s viewpoint, when the structuration of those demons still is the weakest point of the novel.) The novelty in the plot is not much (warning, spoilers!): the Southern army led by Jadir does not make any move, settlers in the North not-led by Arlen (The Painted Man) are creating greatwards to protect their new cities and reluctantly fall back into a feudal system run by a far-away ruler, and the demons are getting much better organised (but only at full moon!) While Innerva gets a depth and consistence that the other female characters (like the ludicrous Leesha Paper) miss, and while the female counter-power in the sexist desert society is explained through her story, it does not bring much excitement simply because there is so little action. Furthermore, the nice scenario trick of having two prophetic saviours in competition somewhat wears out as they both grow into new powers that make both of them fit for the descriptions found in the holy books. The very final scene (spoiler!) fells very wrong because of those powers: what is the point in having a “fair” fight if your opponent can draw at will on his superpowers?

Hence, The Daylight War is not a terrific book in my opinion, even though it could have been, had the author built more on the complex societies he had devised and less on rather caricaturesque characters that have not deepened enough since the beginning of the series. Read at your own risk, considering that two more volumes are in the making!

The Desert Spear

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , on September 1, 2012 by xi'an

“‘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…

“‘The only thing that it proves is that we need more tests,’ Leesha said.” The Desert Spear, p. 236

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.

the painted man

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel with tags , , , , , on June 9, 2012 by xi'an

Another of those fantasy books I bought on the spur of the moment, without prior information, and that I ended liking very much! Indeed, when I was in the UK in April, I bought a few books for my son in Fort William, of all places!, and The painted man by Peter Brett was one of them. My son got very enthusiastic about it and read it within a few days. Then kept asking about the sequel… (Note that the book strangely has an alternative title in the US, The warded man. With the same so-so cover. Why?! Because UK readers could not understand the word warded?! Because US readers would think The painted man was about American indians?!)

So I took the book with me to Guérande to see how good this was and I got hooked as well, finishing it in three days. The sequel, The Desert Spear, is already sitting on top of the to-read-pile! The central theme of the book(s) is a variation on the “fear of the dark” theme, when darkness is full of real dangers, also found in, e.g., Sanderson’s Mistborn series or Terry Goodkind’s (rather annoying) Wizzard’s First Rule or yet Barbara Hambly’s mosy enjoyable (if older) Darwatch trilogy. And, of course, the forerunner H.G. Wells’ Time Machine where morlocks feed upon elois… Not a very promising start, then, especially when the three main characters are three (pre-)teenagers embarking upon their own quest and of course doomed to meet at some point in the story. However, Brett manages to turn this classic in the genre into something different and highly gripping. One of the attractions of the story is that the demons (or corelings) that come out of the ground when the sun sets down are not described into painful details, only their deadly power matters and it seems so overwhelming that the notion of fighting them does not make sense, either to the inhabitants of this universe or to the reader. When one character, Arlen, decides to, nonetheless, it is a major surprise (mild spoiler warning!) that he survives the first night, the first month and then the whole book! Although there are several deus ex machina interventions to make this possible, the story flows rather nicely and Arlen turns into the major character in the book, Further, his growing powers against the night demons come at the price of distancing himself from the other people and (stronger spoiler warning!) getting more similar to the beings he obsessively pursues. Which is why the other characters are destined to meet him. And help him recover his humanity.

Of course, this is not a perfect book. Besides the recurrence of happenstance moments, some characters are too caricatural. For instance, as in several recent fantasy novels (Richard Morgan’s Cold Commands to just pick one!), one desert-related part of the world follows an Islamic-type culture that carries all the clichés about Muslim countries. This makes the book sounds quite ethno-centric, with the bigoted and superstitious but good at heart communities from the North getting the better part over the fanatic, sexists and untrustworthy denizens of the South. I am actually afraid the second volume The Desert Spear will see more of this simplistic opposition as the southern desert tribes start an invasion very much reminding me of the Muslim invasions of the 7th and 8th centuries… The female character, Leesha, is also rather inconsistent, from strong to weak to strong again, a flaw in the story, esp. against the much more coherent Arlen. But, all in all, this remains a terrific first book and many readers seem to have felt the same way from the mostly positive reviews on line. I am eagerly waiting to get my Desert Spear back so that I can read it!