Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Series You Must Read: Peter Brett's Demon Cycle

I love this piece of fanart, but I don't know what it's from. If anyone knows, I'd love to properly attribute it.

Sometimes a book series catches you by surprise, and by the time you're a few books in, you realize that it's become a favorite without your actually realizing it. The Demon Cycle by Peter Brett is quickly becoming that series, which The Daylight War (released in March) is the third book and is just as solid and high-quality as the two books preceding it.

The first book in the series was The Warded Man (called The Painted Man outside of the United States). I don't know what prompted me to pick it up initially, but I found it to be a heck of a ride for a shortish fantasy book. The premise was simple: the world is besieged by various demons, and wards can keep them out, but most of the wards have been forgotten. Our lone hero, Arlen, comes along, tattoos wards on him, may be "the Deliverer," the prophesized guy who'll save everyone, etc, and the book became a very riveting story in spite of some of the basic fantasy tropes.

The series moved from well-done and formulaic with The Desert Spear, however. I had specifically put off reading book two for reasons I can't pinpoint, but with book three imminent at the time, I decided to dive in, and I'm definitely glad I did. The book spends a significant amount of time with Jardir, a warlord who believes he is "The Deliverer." Arlen, the Warded Man, probably holds a better claim, but is only declared as such by those who follow him.

The book has a perfectly balanced approach of political intrigue, cultural narration, and basic action, and the nearly 600 pages glide by beautifully, give just the right amount of background into the first book, and lead things very easily into the third. For a book that, by its own nature, runs the significant risk of being lost in its own setting, it does a significant job in letting the setting compliment, rather than overwhelm, the narrative. That's a big deal for me. Also, as a reader who tends to dislike nontraditional fantasy on a whole? Nothing here threw me off in the least, it simply works from start to finish. The story is ultimately about the characters, with each significant character being his or her own person, with their own voice and actions. Nothing feels duplicated or half-finished. It's a great achievement.

The book takes place directly after The Desert Spear, but now we get some more backstory for another key character, Inervera and her dice of fate, as well as some good quality time with what I like to consider a battle bard, Rojer. The book spends a little time with everyone important, culminating in an epic climax that kept me up way, way past my bedtime.

I shouldn't like The Demon Cycle as much as I do. The starts of the books require a lot of buy-in to get rolling, even though the payoff is excellent. The setting is a more desert/Arabian feel, and I tend to like my fantasy more traditional. The book does its dialogue in English, but with the native inflections and accents, a literary choice I tend to hate, but find very appealing and immersive in this series. That a book can overcome so much for me in such a short time, and even still blow me away? That's the sign of something great.

I hate that the next book is probably years away. I hate that this book ended so quickly for me. I love that it has such an excellent magic system with the wards and the demons. I love the twist that the third book throws in with the magic system, that made me buy into it all over again. I love that the worldbuilding is so pronounced and yet feels so effortless at the same time. I love everything about this series except that I can't read book four yet.

Highly recommended.

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