**spoiler alert** Brilliant. One of the best fantasy books I've ever read. Brett has it in him to become one of the genre's true masters. The book had...more**spoiler alert** Brilliant. One of the best fantasy books I've ever read. Brett has it in him to become one of the genre's true masters. The book had structure, meaning, deep characters who acted through thoughtful motivations. The complexities of desires and goals kept the story from being predictable. The story itself moves naturally, with no gimmicks are cheap plot devices to keep it moving (i.e. no prophecy or magic that resolve all problems - I'm looking in your direction, Night Angel Trilogy.)
It begins with Jardir, a minor character from The Warded Man. Jardir was not a sympathetic figure in that book, and the opening scenes of The Desert Spear don't improve his image. This sets a challenge for Brett since Jardir is the protag for the first 186 pages. I immediately hated him and wanted to get back to the characters I knew and loved from the previous book. But it is to Brett's credit that he was able to craft Jardir into a compelling figure. It would have been easy to leave him a one dimensional villain, but with his goals being so close to that of The Warded Man himself, we have to question whether he is a villain at all, or just a man with a different means to the same end.
And Brett does a masterful job of portraying the Krasian culture. It becomes both alien and familiar. He borrows heavily from Arabic and Islamic cultures, but much of it is his own, woven in seamlessly. The trickiest part, I think, was when he had to show the members of the Krasian society bending their traditions to allow for Jardir's rise, yet while at the same time not destroying that thin creation of a fictional culture he had painted in our minds. It would have been a mistake to make the leaders of Krasia as well as Jardir's followers step in line too easily, and Brett handled it perfectly. I never lost my belief in them as real people coming to terms with changes they never expected to see in their own time.
When we meet up with Leesha and Rojer again, they are much as we left them at the end of The Warded Man, only they have become much stronger in their skills. Leesha is a delight for anyone who looks for strong female characters in fantasy novels (which is unfortunately rare enough that I feel the need to call it out when I see it). Leesha is struggling with some of the events of the last novel as well as her own desires and needs. What Brett does so well is use those conflicts in her as a driving point in the later story. It isn't merely some set decoration painted on Leesha to make her seem more rounded; her internal struggles become relevant to the choices she makes, which are in turn relevant to the war Jardir brings.
Lastly we have the Warded Man himself. Again Brett does well to not let his most important creation become flat. The archetype is there barely below the surface - a lone man given up his humanity to fight for a world which either loathes him as corespawn or worships him as their Deliverer. Brett doesn't overplay this aspect which would have been easy to do. Instead Arlen is torn, wanting both the night and the day. We are reintroduced to those relationships which keep him human, and all of which are well portrayed. None seemed forced or fake, instead giving the story genuine warmth. At least one reunion scene left me close to tears as Arlen had to confront what his lost humanity really cost him.
The novel ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. I would have preferred the story to be a bit more self contained, but as it was it was still very satisfying. Brett does find story arcs both in plot and in character development to tie up at the end.
Highly recommend. Go read The Warded Man first if you haven't yet, then pick this one up. I can't imagine any fan of epic fantasy being disappointed.
There's the reality that's true. There's the reality we believe. There's the reality we hope is true. The one we suspect is true. There’s the reality...moreThere's the reality that's true. There's the reality we believe. There's the reality we hope is true. The one we suspect is true. There’s the reality of faerie, which is all of these at once.
Science is metaphor. To describe the quivering vibrations of the universe in intricate models of dancing quarks, attractions and repulsions, decay and fusion, is poetry.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane takes literature and circles it back around until it almost meets science. It achieves something at its end which touches on truth.