The Desert Spear (Demon Cycle #2) by Peter V Brett
The sun is setting on humanity. The night now belongs to voracious demons that prey upon a dwindling population forced to cower behind half-forgotten symbols of power.
Legends tell of a Deliverer: a general who once bound all mankind into a single force that defeated the demons. But is the return of the Deliverer just another myth? Perhaps not.
Out of the desert rides Ahmann Jardir, who has forged the desert tribes into a demon-killing army. He has proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer, and he carries ancient weapons–a spear and a crown–that give credence to his claim.
But the Northerners claim their own Deliverer: the Warded Man, a dark, forbidding figure.
Once, the Shar’Dama Ka and the Warded Man were friends. Now they are fierce adversaries. Yet as old allegiances are tested and fresh alliances forged, all are unaware of the appearance of a new breed of demon, more intelligent—and deadly—than any that have come before.
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I have mixed feelings about this book. It’s a really good story with engaging and strong characters with flaws and strengths and in the main the writing is engaging and draws you along. However, the structure of the story almost broke the book and some of the subject matter is difficult to read and to justify.
The first book is written from the point of view of the Northern characters Arlene, Rojer and Leesha but the majority of the first half of this book focuses on Jardir, the leader of the desert tribes and self-declared “Deliverer“. He was an important element of Arlen’s development into “The Painted Man” but a relatively minor character. Here he is given centre stage and becomes one of the central characters. The author also does this later in the book with Renna from Arlen’s childhood in Tibbett’s Brook. Although she isn’t as central as Jardir I feel she will take on a much bigger role in the third book.
Jardir’s story goes all the way back to his childhood and shows his training as a warrior and his rise to supremacy. The depiction of this brutal, male dominated and extremist society is an intriguing blend of a medieval Arabic and Eastern society with a religion that sounds very like a form of extremist Islam. The warrior caste is the pinnacle of society with the religious leaders a close second. Everyone else is treated with complete disdain and especially the female population which are subject to regular abuse and rape and only valued for their ability to produce new warriors.
At the very beginning I thought I’d started reading the wrong book but once I realised what was happening I really got into this storyline and really enjoyed the depiction of the desert society and Jardir’s rise to power. It all sounded very familiar but completely new how the author put it all together. I also really enjoyed how the author re-told the relationship between Arlen and Jardir from the new point of view and especially how Jardir struggles to live with his decision to betray “the Par’chin“.
Eventually the Northern and desert storylines meet and this is where I struggled. The sudden shift from one to the other was disconcerting and clumsy and it runs the risk of turning readers away.
However, once you get into the new story (which is the old story!) it soon picks up pace and draws you back in. Having watched Arlen’s character break down and reform as “The Painted Man” in the first book we now see him regain a lot of his humanity as he revisits his painful past and comes to terms with many traumatic events in his life.
Leesha is back and as suggested in the first book, has become a strong leader for the Herb Gatherers and the renamed Deliverer’s Hollow. I really like her as a character but the author seems to struggle with her and makes a real hash of her relationship with Jardir. It sits badly with her depiction so far and seems to depend on her implausible difficulties finding a suitable lover.
My biggest struggle with this book is the author’s frequent use of rape as a character development tool. All of the main characters, bar Rojer, have experienced some form of rape by the end of this book. Depictions of male and female rape, incest and widespread sexual abuse are difficult story lines and while the characters needed trauma in their lives I feel that the author could have used a different method to do this.
Overall this is a really good book and despite some flaws follows well from the first instalment and sets the story really well for the third.