The Desert Spear


Peter V. Brett


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

January 31, 2020

his is the second book in the Demon Cycle, following the excellent The Warded Man. The first third of the book is seen through the eyes of Jardir, the desert warrior that befriended Arlen in book 1, and then betrayed him later so that he could steal the magic spear that Arlen had discovered in a desert ruin. We follow Jardir from childhood, as he grows up in the vicious training of the Krasian folks. Of course, we already know from Book 1 that Jardir becomes a great warrior, so this first section of the book is probably the weakest part of the story. Repeating the events of Book 1, Arlen shows up at Fort Krasia and joins the desert fighters in their nightly battles with the demons. Arlen is ultimately betrayed by Jardir, but this time we see the events from Jardir's point of view. I am not sure this part of the story was necessary.

The story picks up considerably when it resumes the tale where it left off at the end of the Warded Man. Arlen is back on the scene. He is fighting demons and gathering information on how to defeat them. His knowledge and skills have made him powerful, it seems that Arlen can defeat any demon. But no one person can end the demon threat, and Arlen realizes this. People call him Deliverer, but Arlen denies that title; he wants people to fight for themselves, not be saved. Arlen's goal is to get the Dukes to recognize the demon threat and join in battle to defeat them.

Meanwhile, Jardir, has convinced himself that HE is the Deliverer who will lead mankind to victory over the demons. Jardir believes he must unite all of humanity under his rule (though what how that will help him battle the demons is never discussed). Jardir gathers all of his forces and marches forth to attack the lands of the forest dwellers. Just when humans should be uniting against the demon threat, it appears that they will destroy themselves in lust for power.

Brett spends a lot of time on the "secondary characters", this is not just the stories of Jardir and Arlen. We get the complete story of Abban, Leesha, Rojer, and Renna. Brett does a good job developing all of these characters, even though it slows the pace of the novel down. There are many other characters, and Brett portrays them as real humans, I think characterization is one of the stronger aspects of his writing. I do wish there was more information of the wards and how they work. Hopefully, details of the wards will be forthcoming in a later volume.

Covered in wards, often bathed in demon blood, Arlen is afraid that he is becoming more like the demons as he fights them. Is he becoming corrupted, even as he goes stronger in his fight with the demons? I really like this idea, that the magic Arlen uses to fight the demons might ultimately make him a demon. I hope this story arc is fully developed by Brett in the next books.

Overall, The Desert Spear is a good story, I will look for book 3 in the Demon Cycle (the Daylight War). This is still a series worth pursuing, despite their great length (Amazon lists the Daylight War as having more than 700 pages! Book 4 is 672 pages, and Book 5 is more than 800 - so there is still 2200 pages to go in this series. Whew.)

One thing that concerns me is how the ferocious demons now seem to die so easily. They are no threat at all. It seems Arlen and Jardir can kill demons with just the blink of eye, and now their followers are getting trained and warded as well. I don't enjoy stories about invincible heroes, it is boring when the hero acquires super powers that allows him to slay myriad foes without breaking a sweat. The Demon Cycle hasn't fallen into this trap yet, but it is veering in that direction.

Another (minor) disappointment is how the cultures of the desert and forest seem to closely match the Middle Age cultures of our own history. The desert Krasians have tents, camels, harems, silks and spices and honor killings. The forested people of Tibbet's Brook have guilds, dukes, jesters, and conservative culture that seems directly out of the Middle Ages. I wish Brett had put a bit more effort into creating a world that was more unique. Certainly the presence of the Demons must have some effects on the way people live and think. There is one difference - people in the Middle Ages were intensely religious and very superstitious, but there seems to be very little religion in world of the Desert Spear, other than the universal desire for a Deliverer to appear and rid the world of the Demons. I hope that in one of the later volumes that Brett gives us some history of how the present conflict between Demons and humans came about.

Lastly, I wonder about the brutality of the training that Jardir undergoes. In a society teetering on the brink of being overwhelmed, the Krasians can't afford to be injurying or killing potential soldiers while "training" them. The Krasians seem too careless of the lives of their fellow citizens.