Book Review – ‘Desert Spear’, Peter V Brett


Harper Voyager, ISBN 978-0-00-727616-5, April 2010

The sun is setting on humanity. The night now belongs to voracious demons that arise as the sun sets, preying on a dwindling population forced to cower behind ancient and half-forgetten symbols of power. These wards alone can keep the demons at bay, but legends tell of a Deliverer who once bound all mankind into a single force that defeated the demons. Those times, if they ever existed, are long past. The demons are back, and the return of the Deliverer is just another myth ….. or is it?

Out of the desert rides Ahmann Jardir, who has forged the warlike desert tribes of Krasia into a demon-killing army. He has proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer, and he carries ancient weapons that give credence to his claim. Sworn to follow the path fo the first Deliverer, he has come north to bring the scattered city-states of the green lands together in a war against demonkind – whether they like it or not.

But the northerners claim their own Deliverer. His name was Arlen, but all know him as the Painted Man: a dark, forbidding figure whose skin is tattooes with wards so powerful they make him a match for any demon. The Painted Man denies he is the Deliverer, but his actions speak louder than words, for he teaches men and women to face their fears and stand fast against the creatures that have tormented them for centuries.

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

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

What can I say? I’ve been waiting for this book ever since I read the first in the Trilogy, The Painted Man, last year (review is here). I’ve had it on pre-order on Amazon for what feels like forever, so I couldn’t help but dip into it immediately after it arrived yesterday. I started it at 6:30, and barring one small break to put Bella to bed, read straight through to the end at somewhere around 3 a.m. – good thing we didn’t have to get up for school this morning! My only complaint is that I now have another long, tortuous wait until the final installment appears – hopefully about 1 year from now. I almost wish I hadn’t snarfed it so fast, because then I could have prolonged the pleasure just that bit longer ….

I loved every word of this book.

The story picks up from where it left off, with the invasion of Thesa/the Free Cities by the Krasian army, and follows through on the aftermath of that, connecting us through the eyes of the pov characters from the first story and an important and electrifying new addition – Ahmann Jardir, the Krasian leader. The storytelling is immediate, powerful and personal, individuals making shift as best they can in terrible circumstances, but influencing and directing events by the light of their bravery and integrity. And woven throughout the attempts to forge new alliances is Jardir’s history and – indirectly – that of the Krasian people.

It’s utterly fascinating, and provides a compelling view of the ‘other side’ of the human conflict in this story. With an honour-based desert-living society it would be easy to slip into a standard muslim-bedu stereotype complete with moral judgements, but this is avoided by a total immersion in that society, giving an understanding of the imperatives driving their apparently harsh code, and the intelligent portrayal of Jardir, a fascinating man moulded into a hard warrior with little space for compassion, but at the same time a canny politician who knows the value of listening to more than one side of the story. The unfolding of his rise to power and his consolidation of position, one step at a time, spreads a broad understanding of his motivation for invading Thesa that takes him out of the region of ‘monster’ and makes him a very human man at the centre of momentous events, manipulating and being manipulated in turn, as he tries to drag all of humankind to a state whereby the demon invasion can be faced, and stopped.

His aims, therefore, coincide with those of the characters familiar from the first book – Arlen, Rojer, Leesha – even if his methods differ. But even amongst themselves, the northerners’ methods differ. Arlen pursues his head-on confrontation with any and all demons, whilst Leesha attempts a more peaceful – but no less determined – path with Rojer, devoted but hopeless, at her side. The tensions inherent in the relationships between the characters enhance and contribute to the overall conflicts, making a compelling and dramatic interplay against the background of the invasion and their attempts to rally an alliance against it. Will they be able to find common cause and stand together against the demons, or will the men destroy each other and any hope of a united, coherent defeat of the real evil? It’s a fascinating question, and set against the interplay of two conflicting cultures it packs a powerful punch and poses some important questions about the validity of moral judgements without true understanding of the underlying situation/culture.

And all the while, a new and deadly threat is rising from the demons as they begin to take notice of the resistance against them, and it becomes clear that there is a new level of threat beyond that which the humans already face awaiting, and that the demon core is starting to move against them in earnest – and the outcome is by no means cut and dried, even with the advanced wards they are learning and sharing.

But this is not totally an all-action power-packed political-military epic – there is room for the softer, more sensual side too, and that is fully exploited to deliver on a number of levels – from the straightforward eroticism of the Krasian women and the relationship between Leesha and Jardir to the hopelessness of the unrequited love Rojer feels for Leesha, and Leesha in turn feels for Arlen, and at every turn it’s well-handled and convincing, alternating between blatant sexuality and an almost coy drawing-of-the-veil, with rich and vivid description making a luxurious counterpoint to the spare harshness of their world.

The ending comes abruptly, too soon, on a note of hope, and left me desperate for more. Even now, a day after I read the book, I’m sick with story, snagged on elements of it, and wishing I could go back into that world to find out what happens next. I’m going to go back to the beginning, and re-read the two of them back-to-back. It won’t help any with the longing, but hopefully it’ll ease the craving a little.


4 Responses to “Book Review – ‘Desert Spear’, Peter V Brett”

  1. Excellent review!I also very much enjoyed this book.

  2. 2 Harimau

    excellent review. you said everything that i felt about this book. i just envy you for having finished it earlier and faster.

  1. 1 Tweets that mention Book Review – ‘Desert Spear’, Peter V Brett « A Mingled Yarn --
  2. 2 Peter V Brett :: Peephole In My Skull

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: