Matt Larkin's Reviews > The Desert Spear

The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett
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's review
Oct 27, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: epic-fantasy
Read in October, 2011

I quite liked the first novel, The Warded Man, and I was surprised to see the Desert Spear getting lower reviews. After reading it, I do think it's a great book. The book continues Arlen's emotional journey. He's spent so much time fighting demons, he's begun to become one himself. Despite help from those he cares about, he sees more and more reason to become disillusioned with humanity. Brett brings back all the characters from Book I, and adds a new point of view in Renna Tanner, a minor character in Book I, but now much more important. She goes from weak victim to an independant and strong woman.

But all this happens in the last 2/3 of the book. I can understand why people enjoyed this book less: the first 1/3 of the novel follows Jardir exclusively. The writing is still very good, and the story begins to become compelling--Brett has a talent for making every viewpoint interesting. But the problem is Jardir himself. I, and I think most readers, can never really support him. We know from his few scenes in Book I that he claimed to be Arlen's friend and then betrayed him horribly, stole from him, and left him to die.

And while Brett does a good job of showing how Jardir got to that point and why he did what he did, it doesn't excuse it. My wife made me do it does not justify a heinous crime--particularly against a character the readers already loved. Moreover, Jardir's culture and mindset are not sympathetic, really. He's appointed himself Deliverer, and thinks that justifies mass murder and mass rape. Early in the story he allows or even sanctions his men killing or levying all the men in his conquered territories, and forcing themselves on every single woman, so they will have strong sons. No possible justification for this--not even that he wants to unite mankind against the demons--could make such a man likeable for most readers.

So Brett sets Jardir up as a viable and deadly opponent for Arlen. And I truly hope Arlen destroys the self-appointed god-king.

But that I care so much about the outcome of the series, tells me Brett has done such a great job in creating real-seeming characters, and in creating Arlen as a flawed but very sympathetic hero.
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