Next up: “The Warded Man”, “The Desert Spear”, “The Daylight War”, and “The Skull Throne” by Peter V. Brett
This is one of those series where I want to smack the publishers. Look at those covers. Look at them! None of them are designed the same. Titles and authors names and series names are all over the place! It drives me insane.
This series is not yet finished, with the most recent book, “The Skull Throne” published in 2015.
The world of The Demon Cycle is a world under siege. Humans are continually under attack by the corelings, demons that rise out of the ground at night to brutally kill anyone unfortunate enough to be caught outside of the protective wards. The demons will also, when they come across anyone within wards, look for any weakness in the warding so they can break it and get at the gooey human center.
Because of this threat, most of the people in the northern kingdom live all their lives never straying far from their homesteads or towns. Only certain people travel (messengers and other brave souls), since being on the road means creating new wards every night, which is more risky than relying on permanent, carefully maintained wards. People who are skilled in using the ward symbols are in high demand, since the presence and quality of the wards is literally a matter of life and death.
“The Warded Man” begins with three characters’ stories, following them from childhood into adulthood. Arlen leaves home to learn warding and how to be a messenger. Leesha’s reputation is destroyed by slanderous rumors, and she refuses to marry, instead apprenticing under her village’s herb-woman. Rojer loses his entire family in a coreling attack, is adopted by a traveling jester/musician (a jongleur) and learns fiddling, singing, juggling, and the like. Each character finds unique ways of fighting back against the corelings– Arlen becomes the titular ‘Warded Man.’
“The Desert Spear” introduces a new kingdom called Krasia, where men enter a maze-like coliseum every night to enter in sacred battle with the corelings, and some new characters. When politics and power-plays cause a rift between Arlen and the warrior-leader of Krasia, Jardir, Arlen just barely escapes with his life and some newly-rediscovered combat-wards. He brings the wards back to the northern kingdom and begins trying to muster up the people to fight against the corelings as the Krasians do. Unfortunately, war not only between the humans and corelings, but also between humans, looms.
“The Daylight War” expands on the events of the previous two books, and sees the bloom of war between the northern kingdom and Krasia. A prophesy that humankind must unite against the corelings in a final battle has lead Jardir to launch a campaign of world domination, so that he might lead them all to greatness. But Arlen’s continued presence in the world, and growing legends of his own achievements, contest Jardir’s conquest, along with resistance from other quarters. As well, machinations and plots within his own ranks threaten to tear apart Krasia’s forces from the inside.
“The Skull Throne” oversees the continued conquest of Krasia’s forces in the northern kingdom. But not everything is going according to plan. The corelings’ methods are changing and new, stronger demons are appearing more often. In-fighting between humans weakens their cause. Everything is building to a head.
I have to admit that “The Skull Throne” started to lose my interest. I’m not the biggest fan of some of the newer characters, or of Krasia. The more we see of the culture the more it irks me. I can see why it is the way it is– their whole culture derives from their idea of a holy war against the corelings– but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t read like an uncomfortable caricature of the Middle East. Also, Leesha’s story arc is annoying me right now, and I wish there was more of Arlen in the most recent two books. I feel like “The Skull Throne” is a little out of touch with what “The Warded Man” was, and the tone has shifted a little (for the worse in my opinion). That being said, I do intend to continue to read the series. I like the world-building; the system of the ward runes is excellent and interesting, and the corelings are scary and effective.
You get some hints that the world wasn’t always like this, which piques my curiosity. How did things become as they are? Where do the corelings come from? Where did the wards come from, and why were some of them lost? I’m hoping that future books give a little more context to the world. And I’m also interested in how certain events in “The Skull Throne” will impact things… There’s been a lot of building tensions and it feels like everything’s about to explode.
There’s a lot of violence and abuse, and some rape, because life is horrible in the Warded Man ‘verse and evidently every character has to have a tragic backstory.