Review: The Desert Spear

If you have yet to read The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett or even read The Painted Man (the book that precedes it and also known as The Warded Man in the US) you may not want to read any further as it can be somewhat harder to avoid spoilers in a review for the second book (or at least I think it is). If you can’t read further, just keep in mind that it is an excellent book and I highly recommend it. I also highly recommend The Painted Man, but if you’ve read The Painted Man already and plan on reading The Desert Spear keep in mind that The Desert Spear is somewhat different, but still an excellent read.

Synopsis

The sun is setting on humanity. Demons rise each night to prey upon a dwindling population. Legends tell of a Deliverer who once drove the creatures away, but those times are long past and the return of the Deliverer is just another myth…. or is it?

Out of the southlands rides Ahmann Jadir, leading an army of desert warriors and proclaiming himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer. Sworn to follow the path of the first Deliverer, he has come to bring the scattered city-states of the north together in a war against demonkind – whether they like it or not.

But the green-landers claim their own Deliverer. The Painted Man, whose skin is tattooed with wards so powerful they make him a match for any demon. He teaches men and women to face their fears and stand against the creatures that have tormented them for centuries.

Once the Shar’Dama Ka and the Painted Man were brothers in arms, but betrayal has turned them fierce adversaries.

As old allegiances are tested and fresh alliances created, a new breed of demon waits in the shadows, more intelligent – and deadly – than any that have come before.

It was yesterday that I finally finished The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett, but I started writing a review for it after the first 100 pages. The reason being is I was very impressed with it’s start which was following the Krasians and their culture told via the lives of two of the main Krasian characters. I wrote so much about that first section (the novel is written in several sections, lives of the Krasians being one of them) it became one of the longest reviews I had written in some time and that was only a small part of the book.

There are several reasons why I was so impressed and was going to number them, but I’m all over the place today so will just type them up as I go and see what happens. I also want to point out that there are some things I’m disappointed about which I’m going to mention because there are a lot of things to mention about this book, but at the same time on sites that I rate this book I have been rating it 9 and a half stars out of 10. Apart from The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Painted Man was one of the best fantasy series starters I had read in the last few years and I still really enjoy the trilogy thus far so these disappointments are slight, but enough to grate on my nerves at times. I’m not sure if that’s personal taste and preference or more generalised so please read it and make up your own mind.

The Desert Spear kept me up very late. I found myself not wanting to actually pick up the book and start reading because I knew if I did I wouldn’t be able to put it down and the first thing I wanted to do when I woke in the morning was pick it up again. It is a very engrossing book and it drove me up the wall because of it. I think some of that is, thanks to it’s previous book, I already found the story and idea very entertaining. Even though for me it was a predictable story, which was unfortunate and I started to predict the story back during Painted Man, but even so it wasn’t so predictable it was off putting. Then again, maybe I’ve read so wide and so much that it’s too hard to surprise me anymore so that might be something you should see for yourself.

I think it’s great that the first section is dedicated to Krasia the desert and warrior culture in the story.  It fascinates me because it is a very Spartan culture and one of the main characters it follows is a very interesting character who is so determined and strong, but at the same time he ends up being a puppet for someone else. Yet I don’t feel sorry for him. In fact, compared to the first book, there’s only one character I actually feel any sympathy, empathy, and pity towards because to me the other characters deserve the tight spots they get themselves into. They’re quite daft characters in a way, but I’ll get into that a bit later.

The detailed story in the beginning with the Krasian perspective helps to give the whole story a new twist and it was refreshing reading it from another perspective, particularly when you come across dialogue with certain characters that had been in the previous book because in this instance you get to see it from the Krasian’s point of view and what their intentions were.

I think the author has done some great, solid character work within the first 200 pages (the Krasian section) which seems like a small part (the novel itself is just shy of 600 words in a tall softback), but really it’s quite a fundamental part of the story and influences the rest of it. I think this is where my disappointment begins because even though I still enjoy the story and there is some great detail after this section, I feel towards the end of the novel the characters had started to meld to a degree. Characters that I felt had charisma early on in the whole story (including the first novel) lost it at some point, especially Jardir who really is such a great character to read. He sets out on this holy expedition that he so fervently believes in and has set his whole life around yet he gets so tricked up later on. All the characters seem to, what I thought were smart characters end up making some very dumb decisions, and they don’t end up coming across as very well defined anymore.

Which is why I’m really grateful for the introduction of the new species of enemy and a re-introduction of an older character. One is very intriguing and adds a new element to the story. The other (which explains the new picture on the author’s website – check it out at your own risk because it is a potential spoiler), even though I could see it coming from a mile away and at some point she turns out to be very similar to a lot of the main characters, she’s still refreshing and charismatic.

Around the time I noticed the characters melding I also noticed how much the language changed and it frustrated me because yes it’s two very different cultures, but the writing style was affected in such a way that it grated on my nerves. I don’t like saying anything bad about the author’s writing because I really do like this author, but it was frustrating because it felt like the two different cultures influenced the style when I don’t see why it should have. It felt like reading two different books at times. Then there was change in dialogue which drove me bananas, but this is the part where I’m not sure it’s personal preference or is really something others are going to notice so you have to read it for yourself to decide.

There’s also one aspect about this book that highly amuses me. If I had an opportunity to ask the author one question about this book I’d ask him if he was watching Firefly at all while writing it. Sure it could be just a coincidence and most probably is, but towards the end I started noticing more and more how the characters used the term sunny because they did use it more (another thing I noticed about the dialogue). I know that night is used as a curse and exclamation, so too with sunny, but in the beginning (after the Krasian section) sunny wasn’t used as much as night was and as the story drew on it seemed to appear more often along with sunny. I’m not going to say it was a reference, because the use as sunny as a term makes perfect sense in this story, but it still did remind me of Firefly. I kept expecting characters to come out with shiny, goram and even the way they cursed with corespawn and variations of night made me think of Firefly.

I think this review is long enough and even though I have some gripes with the book it is one of my top ones. If anyone reads it please let me know what you think. I’d love to read your thoughts on it, even if you completely disagree with me.