Peter V. Brett – The Warded Man
Length: 416 pages
Started: 23 January 2014
Finished: 31 January 2014
Where did it come from? LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Why do I have it? Oh, man, I requested it the first time it came up on LTER, but didn’t win until they were giving away the paperback.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 16 December 2013.
The constant demon
attacks are good reason to
be scared of the dark.
Summary: Every night, once darkness falls, the corelings rise. Humanity used to know the secrets of how to fight them, but they have been long since lost to time. Now the only things that hold the demons back are wards, carved or painted or drawn, and even the wards can fail. Only the bravest or most foolhardy would spend a night out of doors, so most folks are isolated in small villages, barely dreaming of the warded cities, and their population numbers are dropping. Arlen is a young boy when his mother is killed by a coreling, and he flees his village, disgusted by the cowardice of his father, and seeking some way to fight back. Leesha is a young woman in another village, bitten by small-town small-mindedness before apprenticing herself to the local herb woman. Rojer is little more than a baby when his parents are killed in a coreling attack, and he grows up in the care of a traveling magician and storyteller. These three young survivors must somehow find a way to resurrect the secrets of the past, if humanity is ever to defeat the demon plague.
Review: This book was a solidly enjoyable epic fantasy. I’ve seen a lot of work out there comparing it to The Wheel of Time or The Kingkiller Chronicles, etc., and I think that that is spot on. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I liked it as much as I liked those other two books, but they are very definitely hewn from the same stone. Part of The Warded Man‘s charm is how immediately and comfortably familiar the world feels, how easy it was to sink into it. (Although more than once I rolled my eyes at the description of a “jongleur” and their itinerant juggling and singing and storytelling and multi-colored patched cloak and thought “Just come out and call them “gleemen” already.”) The story isn’t quite a standard quest story, but it’s not quite not a standard quest story, either. (There’s a prophecy but no sense of a predestined hero, and no Dark Lord (yet).) Brett builds his world, the rules of how the corelings work and how the wards work, very well, almost invisibly, with details interwoven with the action and no trace of an info-dump. The demons are effectively scary, and the isolated, regressive world feels organic to the story, although I don’t know that I’d really classify it as fantasy horror.
There were a few things that bothered me about this book. First is the pacing feels a little bit off, mostly Brett’s juggling three POV characters, and he tended to give each of them multiple chapters in a row, which works in some ways but also meant that sometimes hundreds of pages would go by between a character’s chapters (mostly Rojer – we’re introduced to him relatively late, then he’s mostly forgotten about for a hundred pages at a time… more than once). Each individual segment of Leesha’s or Arlen’s was smooth, and totally absorbing, and the story really picks up once the three of them were together, but some of the shifts in the first half of the book were a little jarring. I also wasn’t crazy about the writing style. It’s straightforward, with no ornamentation, and something about it felt like it was geared towards a younger audience. It’s mostly unobtrusive and focused on the action, but there were times when it felt a little dumbed down. And finally, some of the gender politics in this book squicked me out a little bit. This wasn’t enough to put me off – probably because it felt like the misogyny was legitimately the characters’, not the author’s, and some of the icky-feeling gender roles did at least make sense as a part of the world Brett was building, and played a role in the story. But even when the misogynists are clearly the bad guys in the story, their presence still made me a little uncomfortable. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: The Warded Man isn’t breaking any new ground in the epic fantasy realm, but it’s a worthy debut that should make fans of the genre feel right at home.
First Line: The great horn sounded.
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