Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review: The Desert Spear

The Desert Spear (Demon Cycle, #2)The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, here I go.

I started reading this book immediately after I read The Warded Man because it was teasing me from my shelf for about a month. I picked my copy up at a used book store, intending to read the series, but it took forever to get the first book. I'm glad I read them back to back. It made remembering everything so much easier.

The following contains spoilers. Please read responsibly.

The book opens with a new class of demon. I applaud Brett on this decision. Upping the stakes in a sequel is a good move as long as it makes sense, and this makes perfect sense. Mind controlling demon princes and their shapeshifting pets add the perfect creep factor. I loved it and appropriately weirded out.

New demon aside, Brett went in an entirely different direction with the first part. He rewound the tape, relocated the story to Krasia, and gave us everything about Jardir. You remember Jardir, right? The jerk off that beat up Arlen and took the spear after saying they were friends. As it turns out, he felt horrible for it because of his highly ambitious first wife, Inevera.

Jardir was a poor kid raised to fight the demons as all Krasian boys are. You make it, you're set for life. You fail, you're disgraced into the lower caste like Abban. All Jardir is really good at is war. He's relatively intelligent, but pretty impulsive, which has a tendency to cloud his judgement. Skipping a bunch of character development, grown up Jardir comes across as fervent in the beliefs of his people and his mission, but yet he doesn't seem to quite "get it" when it comes to anything outside of blood or sex.

When the Krasian's invade the north, he blunders horribly by invading Rizon at night where he kills the men that resist and has the women raped. It is needless to say that the northerners don't take too kindly to this. In fact, when Jadir wants to unite them all under him, they're quite upset (understatement) because of his entrance. This pretty much sets the tone for a majority of the book.

This book is all about clashing. There are two "Deliverers" (Arlen and Jardir), two cultures, and the choices the characters must make. Many of them are torn in some sense between direction and another. There is a couple sentences that Jardir says that really sum up the struggles the best: "It seems our cultures are a natural insult to each other.... We must resist the urge to take offense, if we are to learn from each other." (p.167)

My general reaction to Jardir, last book aside, I didn't know whether I wanted him to die stick around so I could laugh at his misfortune in the form of his powerful wife. Brett gives him a bit of the "awkward foreigner" vibe in the scenes when he's in Cutter's Hollow to see the strange northern people who fight the demons. It sounds like a horrible gimmick, but Brett makes it work with his personality. Jardir always tries to understand the strange in his own frame of reference, as all humans do, and Brett understands that well. I applaud him for it.

As for Inevera, I loved to hate her. She's a well rounded, strong female character, but I felt bad for her husband. Bitch is manipulative.

Cutter's Hollow is where the stories join together since Leesha and Rojer are still there perfecting their demon slaying skills. It's been a year, and the only things that have changed is that Leesha is running the village. Rojer still doesn't believe he's important and Leesha has stopped trying to hook up with Arlen since he refuses to let anyone in because he's absorbed too much demon magic and it doesn't burn off in the sun like it's supposed to.

Arlen, now with so much ink it would make a tattoo convention jealous, is trying to share his battle runes with the people until he shows up in the places he was raised. This time around, Arlen's story is more introspective than before. He struggles with the idea that his time left may be limited. I usually don't like mopey characters, but I understood where he was coming from. He screwed up, and he doesn't want anyone to make the same mistake.

Until Renna comes along. There really isn't anything like a spunky, corn-fed girl to make everything better for our sad sack protagonist. She keeps him on his toes. I like her.

The extra view points are nice outside of the previous three. Brett arranges them artfully enough that I didn't feel like I was head hopping.

The previous world building is intact. Since it was so well done before, all he can do is add to it.

Oh, before I forget. One niggle. "... his face was a sandstorm." I rolled my eyes. I really did.

Over all, just as good as the first. Brett handles culture clash well, which only adds to the tension. The new characters are structured well and the character progression for the previous ones is logical. They don't stagnate. Going back to familiar settings is also a good call.

So, I guess I'm going to have to read the next one.

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