Paul Williams's Reviews > The Warded Man

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett
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Jun 29, 12

bookshelves: fantasy
Read from June 19 to 28, 2012

This was a very solid 3-star review. Not 2.7 or 3.2, just 3. There's a lot of good, and a lot of less-than-stellar in this novel, and it comes out to something worth reading if you're big on contemporary fantasy and just don't have anything else to read. Allow me to explain.

The Good:

Brett has taken some less-frequented roads in writing this story, in particular the world he's built. Brett has made it no secret that he's a big fan of Terry Brooks, and that shows (from what little I know of Brooks. At the time of this review I haven't actually read the Shanara books); magical world that is the ruins of a post-apocalyptic technological society. It works out well enough and it's thus believable why the world is in such incredibly horrid condition. As a result, Brett has given us the single most merciless world I have yet seen in fantasy--if you are foolish at night, or if the wards fail, or anything else goes wrong, you WILL die. It's not a likely event, it's almost guaranteed. It's really unnerving (in a good way) and helps simplify the way this world works.

The magic is really cool, using wards in an unconventional way. It's pretty transparent without having to get overly technical, allowing Brett to just give us the concepts rather than hard theory. I like that in a magic system.

The main cast is pretty solid. They all have their own problems, their struggles, weaknesses, etc. Through them, Brett is able to make quite clear the single most important element of heroism: the courage to face fear rather than hide away, waiting for the day the monsters get a lucky upper hand over you.

Also, there's some pretty complex character work hidden in here. The first couple of chapters are the best in that respect, when we see some individuals who appear to be one thing, but still have an interesting layer of humanity (for good or ill, depending on the person) behind that.

Unfortunately, this also brings us to the Bad:

While the viewpoint characters are legitimately complex, just about everyone else (minus about five side characters) are really two-dimensional, in that they start out seeming like decent people, only to flip the coin later in the chapter and reveal they are a skuzface. It happens again and again: nearly every man is a horrid lecher putting on a good face, most of the women are control-freak whores, and anyone else from this part of the cast (aside from Ragen and a few others) are just bullies. Thus we don't care when these characters "change", the horrid things they do are less impaction because they aren't life-changing decisions for them, etc.

Also, here's where Brett doesn't do as good a job as I think he'd hoped with balancing his influences. At times I felt him directly pulling from Orson Scott Card or, most frequently, Robert Jordan. In fact, there are 2 distinct sentences during the chapters in Krasia that were almost directly lifted from Jordan (talks about "water and shade" and how the one Dama is "a part of all and none of the tribes"). They weren't horrid, but they were noticeable, and thus hurt the narrative a bit. There were other examples, but those were the most obvious.

And finally, there's the sex. I'm a bit conflicted about this part of my critique. Frankly, the one full-on sex scene is one of the best I've ever seen. It wasn't about the sex, but rather about the characters, and so it worked really well. On the other hand...why are Leesha and Arlen so suddenly going at it? Yes, we saw signs of attraction brewing, but granted the events of the previous chapter it's amazing that she was so willing to even consider any degree of intimacy with any man just a couple of days later. It was just so forced.

Sadly, most of the other sex really doesn't need to be there, at least not in the detail it is...which, oddly, isn't much. But scenes like when Gared, and later on Marrick, try to deflower Leesha are needlessly graphic and undermine the men as a characters. They aren't human, they aren't interesting, they're just lechers who want to get their jollies NOW rather than wait a few hours and have a long night with the girl instead. Yes, I know this is a post-apocalyptic world and thus people are bound to be more carnal, but there's enough civilization established to convince me that people wouldn't be this depraved. This isn't The Road.

And don't get me started on the incest in the first portion of the book.

So yeah, I don't know if I would really recommend this book to anyone except someone who judged a story primarily by the amount of grit it contains. It is Brett's first book, so I'm honestly planning to read the sequel and see if he improves, but I'm in no rush. I'll be reading many another tale before I get around to the Desert Spear.

If swearing bothers you, there's only a tiny handful of instances, but they are there. If talk about sex and incest bother you, don't read this.

Still, it's a decent book, if it falls into your lap.
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Reading Progress

06/20/2012 page 27
6.0% "Channeling the spirit of Robert Jordan in your own way is never a bad thing!"
06/27/2012 page 315
76.0% "Finally getting pretty good, though few characters outside the main 3 are honestly complex, and that's annoying. Should finish tomorrow, no problem."
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