on 2 October 2012
Everyone here reading this review must have read and enjoyed the first book, otherwise they wouldn't bother to move on to the second. It's really a shame for me to write about how it disappointed me, as the Painted Man was one of the best fantasy releases I've seen in a while.
While I, to a certain extent, enjoyed reading the first half of the book, which is a recount of Jardirs life, I can imagine a lot of people will find it grating that the first half of the second book, in terms of time line, only brings us to the end of the first book again. I can see why it was done, we need the introduction to Abban, Jardirs Jiwah Ka and to a certain amount the culture they live by (It's a shame we don't get much more out of Jardir that we hadn't gleamed from book one). However, for a section of the book that was, in all essence, a character introduction. So while important it stole a lot more of the book than seemed entirely necessary.
We then move on to the second half of the book, dedicated to Arlen. From here on out until they leave Angiers, the books pace takes on a snail like quality. There are a lot of words dedicated to nothing in particular, we're introduced to how the Hollow has changed, charged glass, Rojers apprentices and a few other bits and pieces. But seeing as the whole first half of the book made no attempt to continue down the plot line, I would hope that some attempt to do so would start appearing at this point.
During the meeting with the duke in Angiers there at last seems to be a feeling of movement, yes we have to sit through the meeting twice, which holds a certain amount of comedic value, but little else, and by this point in the book I was hungry for development, as I was starting to become aware I'd read a lot more than I hadn't.
From there we go down two forks, one for Arlen, and one to unite Leesha and Rojer with Jardir and Abban.
Arlens journey takes him back to Miln, and eventually his old home. It's interesting to see the old faces from Miln again. While, again, a bit long for the amount of relevance it held it was nice to return and see some of the old favourites from book one, and develop the cliff hanger Arlen left when he left.
Until this point in the book the only complaint I have is substance. I've made a huge point of it so far as I think anyone picking up this book should be prepared to switch from the fast full of information pace of book one to the exact opposite in book two.
However it is at this point I started to find problems, mostly concerning Reena. Who's soul purpose in the book seems to be as a medium for the Mind Demons, and to punch holes in Arlens character. I'm being careful here not to delve too deep for fear of dolling out too many spoilers, but fears that Arlen has been grappling with the entire book, and fears that he's made previous decisions on, seem to evaporate where Reena is concerned.
The road Leesha and Rojer take also has some issues. While being (in my opinion) more interesting and seemingly more immediately relevant than the road Arlen takes, it too brings up some problems. Again, I won't say too much for fear of spoilers. But what I will say is the path they take is based upon Leeshs desire to protect her 'children' of the Hollow. However, at the end of the book, her selfless desires seem to evaporate entirely for want of a monogamous relationship.
Unfortunately for me the negatives of lack of development for such a long book, empty chapters, and a few (either badly explained, or contradicting) character decisions, really outweighed a book which in its essence had a strong mix of epic battle and scheming politics with a lot of rich cultural contrasts and detailed explanation.
In short I could read the Painted Man twice, but not the Desert Spear, I sincerely hope book three holds more to the standards of book one then two.
What a shame that this book is so poor quality when the first novel in this series was (in my view anyway) a tremendous success.
The first and most important thing to know about this book is that it is far too long. It opens with 186 pages of the back story of Jadir which is incredibly tedious and other than the extra insight it gives to the character it doesn't really add a great deal to the progression of the story. The culture of his people and his place in it might have been interesting if it weren't at the expense of a the rest of the story that I had bought this book to read.
When finally the other characters who stared in the first book return to the main stage we find ourselves locked in an endless and repetitive cycle of pining love interests, self denial from the main character and pretty much the same stories that we were told in the last edition in this series. Other than the possession of fighting runes by the characters in this novel the story was much the same as the previous novel only not nearly so well written.
The only area in which this story really progresses is that the Krasnians begin their invasion of the rest of the world (something that is written in the blurb of the book) but even this story line comes to an abrupt halt when the characters from Deliverer's Hollow meet the advancing army. What follows is a drawn out romance between two of the title characters that has no place in this novel as both characters have to forget who they are and their histories in order to progress with it. Eventually they return to the status quo anyway so it is another distracting sideline that could have been ignored.
To be honest I can sum the important parts of this book of 300,000 thousand plus words into 3 sentences, all of which we can learn from either the book jacket or the previous novel.
1. The Krasians have stolen the spear and the fighting wards and they now want to conquer the world before taking on the next demon war.
2. Arlen wants to spread the fighting wards free of charge to anyone who will have them and also deny that he is the deliverer in the process.
3. Two demon princes want to stop both of these things from happening but wont even try to do so until the final two chapters.
The final chapter in this book was the most interesting part of this novel and it seemed to come from nowhere and then eventually lead nowhere.
I will buy the next book sheerly out of loyalty that The Painted Man earned. However if it is anywhere as tedious as this book was then I will not be reading any more of the Demon Cycle. I can only hope that the Daylight War is more like the first one where a lot happens with a small amount of words rather than the second book where very little happens in great number of words.
I will finish this review with an imploring request to the author and a warning to the kind of repetitive themes that take place in this book. Please understand Mr Brett, that not all men are rapists!
Even in the harsh world that they live in not every messenger is looking to steal a woman's virtue, not every farm boy of less than fifteen years needs a sleeping draught to be trusted alone at night with a beautiful woman who does not wan to be touched. Just off the top of my head I can think of Gared, Marick and the Bandits who wanted to or did rape Leesha at some point. Then there are Harls daughters and of course even poor ugly Wonda can't escape at the hands of the Krasians. Rape is a vile crime but I am confident to declare the overwhelmingly large proportion of men are not rapists. Every instance that this appears in these books only forces me to take a step back from the story and think that maybe these demons are just what this world deserves if everyone acts like this.
In the city of Krasia a young boy grows to manhood and becomes a skilled warrior and charismatic warleader. His name is Jardir, and he feels destined to become the new Deliverer, a warrior who will lead humanity to victory over the murderous demons who rise from the Core every night. A man comes from the green lands to the north, Arlen, who impresses Jardir with his fighting skills. When Arlen finds a cache of weapons belonging to the first Deliverer, Jardir feels he has to betray Arlen, steal his weapons and leave him to die in the desert.
Several years later, the army of Krasia boils out of the desert and begins conquering the green cities. But Jardir heads rumours that the northerners have their own Deliverer, a mighty warrior known as the Painted Man who can fend off demons with wards etched into his skin. As Jardir continues his conquests, the Painted Man is forced to confront the sins of his own past as well as a new breed of demons, smarter and more cunning than any who have previously appeared.
The Desert Spear is the second volume of the five-volume Demon Cycle, following up 2008's The Painted Man (aka The Warded Man in the USA), one of the stronger fantasy debuts of recent years (although the amusing fact the novel was almost entirely written on a Blackberry on the author's morning commute seemed to attract more attention). This sequence is interesting because Brett has created a 'points of light' fantasy setting, where areas of civilisation are few and far between and the lands in between are infested with monsters and dangers. Few fantasy novels have codified the concept as well as Brett has done in these two books, where simply walking down a road at night is suicide. The result is an atmosphere of oppression and paranoia that worked well in the first novel and is being eroded in the second, as humanity gets better at fighting the demons and finding ways to survive.
Of course, the story of humanity simply gaining the upper hand and winning would be dull, so Brett ramps up the threat level convincingly in this second novel, with the Krasian invasion giving the northlanders a new enemy to worry about at the same time much more intelligent and canny demons, their princes and generals, start appearing. The escalating threat and stakes is well-handled by the author, who also laces some additional clues about the nature of the demons and life in the Core into the story.
Characterisation is well-handled, particularly of Jardir, Abban and the Painted Man, but Leesha remains a befuddling protagonist whose motivations and decisions seem hard to follow, whilst Rojer isn't given very much to do. Structurally, the novel also works well. Like Steven Erikson's House of Chains, the book opens by concentrating on a single minor character from a previous volume and exploring their backstory in-depth up to the point that it rejoins the main narrative, from where it presses forward. Jardir's story, which makes up roughly the first third of the novel, is gripping stuff, although the Krasians do occasionally veer too close to being Klingons (albeit with institutionalised male rape) for comfort, with much talk of honour and hideous abuse of the apostrophe being perpetuated. Still, it's a tightly-focused narrative that works well.
After this, the story returns to the northlands and continues the tale of The Painted Man. This section is more mixed, with the Painted Man being forced to return to several of his previous homes to confront the aftermath of situations he abandoned and walked away from in the first novel. This section is fairly well-written, but reminds the reader The Painted Man that moved very fast, with the sections in the Painted Man's homeland and later in Fort Miln being set up, developed and resolved with pace and energy. In contrast, these sections in The Desert Spear tend to plot a little, with the Painted Man falling prey to the enemy of good pacing, angst, as he agonises about his decisions and motivations at length.
Nevertheless, these sections remain readable, even though we are clearly in set-up mode for the third book (The Daylight War, which certainly sounds more dynamic) and little is resolved in this novel. One issue that does arise here is Brett's use of rape in the novel (of both men and women), which he employs as a blunt instrument of character development to push characters down a new path. Whilst war is ugly and Brett's world is certainly cold and harsh and it would unrealistic to suggest that rape would not happen in such an environment, it is also the case that he employs it a little too readily, and it doesn't entirely fit in with his prosaic and straightforward prose style. In contrast, Bakker uses it as an actual, horrifying weapon of war by the Consult whilst Martin and Jordan keep it (mostly) firmly off-screen and more effective for being so.
Another major issue is the lack of resolution. The book has something of a finale (two relatively small skirmishes with the new, more powerful demons) but it ends almost randomly, with the final page being rather less dynamic than the ending of may previous chapters. The book simply stops rather than climaxes, which is, as with all things, rather disappointing.
The Desert Spear (***½) is an readable and slightly different epic fantasy novel set in a well-realised world with some great ideas and solid use of action. Unfortunately, the excellent pacing of the first novel has been mostly lost and the author's over-use of rape as a narrative engine is dubious, whilst the book's lack of an ending is problematic. For this reason, it is a less satisfying novel than its forebear. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.
on 7 July 2010
I've just finished reading the second book in the Demon War sequence (Peter's very clear it's not a trilogy, but that message doesn't seem to have got thru to the marketing and sales people). I'd really been looking forward to this book, cos I'd enjoyed the first one (The Painted Man) so much.
How did it compare to the first? Well, the Painted Man's (i.e. Arlen's) thunder is stolen a bit by Jardir, who believes himself to be the Deliverer rather than Arlen. Thus, we get a strong theme of `dualism'. There are two Deliverers, two main female leads (Leesha and Jardir's first wife), two coreling princes, twin versions of Reena at the end, and so on. The parallelism kinda works cos it hints at two paths for prophecy. It echoes the polarisation of good v evil, light v dark, friend v enemy, etc. It creates a consistent pattern for the book. And the book is largely written in two parts - the first half describing Jardir's life, and the second half Arlen's. The two halves flirt with each other and nearly overlap, but our two protagonists don't actually meet in this book. It leaves things hanging a bit, making us eager for the next book, but also leaving us (well, `me' anyway) a tad dissatisfied. It could just be my personal preference, but I like to see more resolution in a book of so many pages.
Of course, no book is perfect. Some may find parts of the book a bit `domestic' or lacking in action - but others will like that balance. Some may think there's too much mention of rape, others may not. Some may think the handling of the `muslim' people in this book is a bit too obvious, others may not. Ultimately, the book avoids making any clumsy judgements and leaves you to reflect upon your own views of the world.
On balance, I think Desert Spear is more subtle than it might first appear. It's certainly original and fresh. I just hope the demons start becoming more formidable and sneaky in the next book, a book which I'm high likely to go out and buy as soon as it's on release.
on 17 September 2014
The first book in the series was enjoyable but I felt the second relies far to much on coarse plot devices in order to provide character motivation. A great idea for a series but uses lazy characterisation and its depiction of female characters is just awful. Sorry!
on 6 April 2010
I have waited eagerly for this book, having read the Painted Man twice and loved every page of it. Considering that this book has been delayed... and then delayed again... was it worth the wait?
Yes. And no.
This is a big book - weighing in the equivalent of a small planet. Which is a good thing, as the world that Peter has created and its characters are utterly compelling.; who wouldn't want more? This is a page turner and no mistake - despite its size, I polished this book off in two days because I just couldn't put it down. The writing is effortless, characters and places are well described and believable. At least for the most part.
A couple of very minor spoilers coming up.
One thing that surprised me with this book was its shift in focus to Jardir and Renna. For much of the first quarter/third of the book, Jardir is the central character. Which is good - as the Krasian culture is explored in detail and we get to see how Jardir becomes the 'betrayer' at the end of the Painted Man, and also his relationship with his wives and Abban. He is a really interesting, flawed hero - one that is as compelling as Arlen in The Painted Man.
So, it comes as a surprise that - in the last half of the book - this great character we have spent so much time with is reduced to a lovesick teenager over.... Leesha?? Yes. The whole Leesha/Jardir storyline brought this book crashing down for me. It just wasn't believable. Are we really expected to believe that Jardir would risk the wrath of his warriors, the hatred of his first wife and the future of his Holy War to bed Leesha? This guy has fourteen + wives and represents an army that is murdering, raping and pillaging across Thesa. He is something that should be feared - a powerful counterpoint to Arlen. But, with leesha, he is reduced to a lovesick, cow-eyed teenager. I just didn't get that whole story thread. I'm sure it will set up events for The Daylight War, although the way it ended made me think that it wasn't really necessary in the first place.
And that last point brings me to another nagging criticism. By the end of the book - not much has happened. I was expecting things to broaden out and become more epic, moving towards what I imagined would be the epic last book when the war is taken to the Core. But having read this one, really the focus has become tighter on character (not a bad thing, admittedly) but very little has progressed on the bigger world stage. I think that is why the Leesha/Jardir relationship jars so much - I guess that was meant to be something bigger than it was.
The corelings also take a backseat in this - their fear-inducing presence diminished somewhat by the fact that everyone now seems to be able to batter them into daylight ashes (including Renna). In the first book, they were the reason for everything - the fear they invoked was the driving force for much of the narrative. In this book, things appear to have shifted to the human stage - with the corelings just a 'minor' irritant in the background. At least, that is what it felt like at times.
That sounds like a lot of criticism. It isn't. This is a masterful work - another great installment of what I know will be a fantastic saga. However, the Leesha/Jardir scenario left a very bad taste in my mouth. It pushed the boundaries of both characters a little too far - it felt forced and ill-keeping with what we know about them.
But a great read all the same - and already counting down the days to the Daylight War. I just hope that the next book really shakes things up. I guess, going on the title, the next one will be more like the book I was expecting.
----Added March 2013----
Looking back over my reviews and find it very strange how many 5 star ratings this book has - please consider the quality of reviews written with a 1 and 2 star rating and compare and contrast them with the 5 star reviews.
The strength of the Painted Man was the Arlen character and the concept of demon hoard rising nightly to threaten mankind. Unfortunately the main character, Arlen, is mostly discarded in this follow-up. The author tries unsuccessfully to write from a number of different character perspectives. The Jardir character is not too bad, even the blatant copying of any number of fantasy novels using the same caste system to represent Muslims is forgiveable. The Leesha and Rojer characters though are very weak. In the end I skipped the chapters with these as the lead. The romantic side was getting very juvenile and boring, and to suggest a nonsensical relationship between Leesha and Jardir failed badly.
The female characters on the whole are very badly written.
I know what Brett was trying to do with the weird subplot regarding a farmer and his incestuous relationship with his daughter, but it should have been a few paragraphs, not chapter upon chapter of dull detail about a town council and trial. I skipped over all that nonsense, it was totally irrelevant to the plot. Brett is falling into the Jordan trap here of writing incredibly dull female characters and boring detail with no plot, undoubtably with the need to pad things out to make more books and more money.
The mind demon and his mimic was a good idea and the paths leading to the core are still intriguing, and the ending isn't bad. There is a skeleton of a good book here but the opportunity was wasted. I would like to know what eventually happens to Arlen, but I don't really want to read all the irrelevant and dull detail that I know will come as part of book three. Can't someone just kill Leesha and Rojer at the beginning? That would be a big bonus.
on 12 April 2016
The Desert Spear is the second book in the Demon Cycle by Peter V Brett. The first book is The Painted Man which introduces a world where demons rise at night and try to kill people, the only protection from them being to draw 'wards' which the demons are unable to cross.
I approached this second book in two minds. I liked the first book, the concept is excellent and well imagined. The main protagonist is interesting and the directions taken are unexpected. The only let down for me was that apart from the Painted Main himself, I found the other 'main' characters a little less interesting. Leesha's story was interesting and gave insights into Brett's world. However Rojer's story left me cold to be honest, he didn't seem to add very much to the book. I was a little concerned that this second book might be the same for me.
I needn't have worried. The first third of the book concerns the back story of Jardir, a desert warrior prince who appears as a second tier (though instrumental) character in the first book. In this book he is definitely a leading character. He has declared himself the Deliverer and is determined to unite all of humanity under his banner to fight the demons, as has been long foretold. He is determined and quite prepared to take cities by force if required. The back story explains what drives him and also the reasons for his actions in the first book.
Meanwhile the Painted Man is being called the Deliverer by the free peoples of the North, something he strenuously denies. But there can only be one Deliverer and as Jardir encroaches on the North their worlds will come into conflict.
This is a long book - the paperback I read ended on page 750 - and there is a lot to read. Brett is all about character development and there are a lot of characters in this book, some new some returning ones. Rojer is a much better character in this book, possibly because he is not required to carry the storyline but instead can provide a different point of view on events. Leesha is once again a main character and of course the Painted Man plays his part, fighting demons both physical and his own mental demons. There is a lot of dialogue as the story and plot are very much personality driven. There are of course scenes of demon fights large and small but they in no way make up the bulk of the book.
There is another plot strand that I won't give away here but adds more dimension to the demon threat and provides some excellent moments.
The writing is excellent and the characterisation outstanding. This is one of those books which makes you wonder why there is such snobbery in the wider fiction community for 'niche' genres such as fantasy. I would hold the writing and characters from this book against any established classic.
Despite my reluctance to pick this book up, I really enjoyed it and am very much looking forward to the third installment - The Daylight War. It promises to be an absolute corker.
If you liked the first book just for the demon fights and skimmed all the talking and character development in the middle then this is not for you. However if you found at least one character from the first book interesting and worth following, read this book.
on 17 May 2011
This book made me scowl until my cranium throbbed.
Seriously though, I get the impression it was really rushed. Personal interaction was rather repetitive and cliched, the constant scowling bugging me particularly. I had to laugh at one point in the book where it was stated that someone did not scowl - I'm surprised the other characters didn't die of shock at this grievous breach of normal behaviour. I feel the author may have also struggled a bit juggling point of view characters. He does fine when there is just one major character "in shot" but it seems like when there are two or more he doesn't really get inside the pov head, which I think is a shame.
The author also seems a little frightened by character development. Having in the first book skipped over the section of Arlen's life that changed him from a normal young man into "the painted man" I rather thought (hoped) this might be revisited, but alas not, while Leesha and Rojer were not really examined or changed in any significant way. I did enjoy the description of Jardir's past, but he really is an archetypal 2D warrior leader type, so not too much going on there.
I think Brett can write better than this, and I hope he is not being pressured into prioritising speed over quality.
on 26 September 2011
I have read a lot of mixed reviews for this book and just felt the need to add my opinion to it.
I have read the entire series so far (two novels and two novellas).
In my opinion this is equally as good as the first book. It moves along the story brilliantly, answers a lot of questions and the storyline is still completely gripping to the point you can hardly put this book down.
It does start off a little slowly, with a lot of background information you feel isn't absolutely necessary but as you get into it you hope for it not to end, learning about Jardir's past was thrilling.
Overall this book is an amazing read and I would recommend this and the entire series to anybody!