The Warded Man

Posted: October 21, 2012 in Reading

The fantasy side of sci-fi/fantasy has been good to me this year. I’ve mentioned that the more traditional fantasy books were what I devoured when I was a kid, mostly stuff written in the 80s and 90s since that’s what my parents were reading. But it got kind of stale for me once I went to college and I kind of stayed away from in for the better part of ten years. But, as you may have noticed, I’m being sucked in because it’s more than just swords and damsels now.

Today’s trip into fantasy is The Warded Man by Peter V Brett. This has been on my radar since I saw the author at Boskone 49 back in February. Through the quirks of book shopping, the novel transferred from the To Buy List over into the To Read Pile only recently. I’ll elaborate that after Back of the Book Time.

Bam! Let’s lookit the back of that book!

As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise – demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards – symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.

So there’s an important thing to get out of the way with The Warded Man. It’s structured in a way that harkens back to the fantasy books of the 80s and 90s for me. Multiple tangents/POVs that eventually come together. But none of the three protags meet for something like 300 pages out of the 453. This book sprawls. Correction, this series sprawls. Even if I didn’t know that Brett was editing book three right now, you can get the vibe very early on that there’s a lot of meat and potatoes to this book. There’s never a time where the book is padded with fluff, it’s all substance, but it’s substance that sprawls. (Side note, sprawl is my word of the week) It’s not a Song of Ice and Fire kind of sprawl, but there’s enough where I think it’s important to go into The Warded Man with the right mindset because I know people who won’t touch a series until it’s completely.

But if you’re one of those people, you’re missing out. Remember those corelings from the Back of the Book? ‘Course you do, it’s only been a dozen lines. They make for a ridiculously unique setting, and when you’re going to spend so many pages in a genre that’s been around the block plenty of times, it becomes all that more important to stand out from the crowd in your world building. The corelings are an awesome creation in their own right and they’re pwning humanity’s collective face. Humanity has a very fragile defensive magic that lets them do not much more than huddle behind their walls every time the sun goes down. From the little hamlets to the big cities, no one goes outside after dark without a huge chance of a nasty death. There’s a lot of history to this world, which is mentioned in chunks as the “desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past” revolve around offensive magic. I get this far future vibe which I enjoyed a lot. There are lots of secrets about this world ripe for discovering from technology to magic.

Since The Warded Man is a book with a lot of time to move about, we’re allowed to get very deep into the characterization of our three protags. The first section of the book takes us to their childhood, as much as they get, as how it shapes their future. Arlen, Leesha and Rojer are all part of some terrible things from the outset. It goes to some dark places I really didn’t expect it to. Don’t go thinking it’s some sort of ultra grimdark deal though. It’s brutal, it’s rough, there’s tragedy, but it’s appropriate to the world we’re given. I’m dancing around specifics because I don’t think there’s too much about it I can get into without spoiling anything. There were twists and turns going on that I didn’t see coming, so I don’t want to rob that of anyone. I think having all those unexpected happenings are part of why I liked The Warded Man. We’ve all read the easy path out when it comes to this genre and that’s not something I ever felt was going on.

So praises and warnings. What else is there? There’s stuff that doesn’t even come close to getting resolved. I saw that from ten miles away. Even in trilogies I like a bit more resolution that we got. The book as a whole felt like an Act One so I’m not going to fault it like I would a less sprawling book. I think a lot of how people take that will chalk up to personal preference since there’s absolutely nothing written wrong with it. What the Act One feel does, it’s really make me excited for the book two, The Desert Spear. So the book sits well with me just fine. And with the third book due for next year (early I hope), this series is ripe for a nice box set treatment. It’s also ripe for awesome. So there’s that too.

  1. […] the first book, The Warded Man? The things I talked about over in that post were mostly how the book sprawled and felt like Act […]

  2. K — So i just finished this book… And i didn’t want to sign up to amazon to leave my own review so i somehow ended up at your blog while googling “the warded man sucked”

    My sister recommended the book to me and after turning the last page i actually walked to the phone and called her to ask her why she could have possible called it good. Needless to say she was unimpressed by my candor. I just wanted to toss thoughts off of someone who had read the books.

    Here goes —
    1: The guy builds a cool world — The world the author built is imaginative (to an extent) and is well worked — history/knowledge of the ancients is lost and obscured — the cities and towns are dependent on each other for realistic reasons and the ‘corelings’ are nifty villains.

    2: This book felt like it was pulled from some list of fantasy novel tropes. Not that that is a bad thing but the author writes clumsily, and everything that happens in this book can be seen coming from MILES away. I have no idea what twists and turns you are referring to because everything seemed pretty predictable to me. The characters were stock — SPOILER///////Arlen is a soapboxing marty sue that does no wrong. Leesha is a woobie who’s only flaw seems to be that she cries to much. Other than that she is the smartest prettiest richest girl in town. Nothing truely bad happens to her until she gets GANG RAPED which is like going from 0 to 100 is a split second on the suffering meter. It felt like she got raped to move the plot along and create drama and man that seems like a lazy and unimaginative way to make your characters travel in the direction you want. Also it seemed like she spent the entire first 300 pages AVOIDING getting raped and then it happens just before the characters all meet? Bah — hackney writing sir. And Rojer is just a giant waling cliche. His parents died young — He has a wound defines a large part of who he is — he was raised by a jerk — only to realize he has amazing magical abilities. The guy might as well have been Harry Potter.

    3: The writing is clumsy — the sprawling world falls short as soon as we get to crassia — a sandy place where the brown people live under military/religious rule and well just insert middle eastern culture stereotypes here. The author uses phrases ‘He was eleven years old’ — but he isnt consistent about the usage and his writing often involves more telling than showing.

    I didnt mind the book for the most part — after the first few chapters it became clear it was an escapist fantasy romp. But as i traveled farther and farther into the pages the characters sometimes seemed to be soap boxing for the author — lecturing on about life choices. And i thought — oh well — i made it through Terry Goodkinds novels i can slog through this — but as i ventured FURTHER it became less like a fantasy novel and more like a book on ‘tropes used badly’

    It was plodding and it was cliche and the protagonists were ever so perfect. It turned into LOST for me — i got to the end but only because i wanted to find out how it ends — suffice to say i am NOT satisfied and the book went from cliche and kinda fun to pretty bad. I have ‘the desert spear’ sitting on my shelf and i am not going to read it.

    It had lots of cool ideas but its on par with Eragon as far as fantasy novels go — more a collection of tropes and cliches than a story.

    On a lighter note you seem to be a nice fellow and i’m sorry i picked your blog to unload all that. I wasted allot of time writing this post but not nearly as much time as i wasted reading that book. Keep rocking the blog — im stuck at a fire tower for the next 3 months and the only other person i can discuss books with is my wife and she hasn’t read this one yet. So yeah — nothing personal — i just have nobody to say this to in person and you were the first person to come up on the internets……

    • Mike says:

      First off, ramble away. I love to talk shop and your ramble is quite coherent. Also feel free to disagree with me. Doesn’t bother me in the least since you’ve got reasons. It’s the frothy at the mouth rage disagreeing kind of stuff I don’t like.

      Some of the stuff you didn’t like wasn’t unnoticed by me. It didn’t bother me though because I knew it was a Book One. I saw the author at a con a year and a half ago and fillowed him for a while on twitter before I got to his book on the To Read Pile. So I knew it was the first in a series going into it. I remember from an interview with him, Brett said it was always planned as a 5 book series. So Arlen can do no wrong? Well some of the things he thought were right didn’t turn out so well in book two. Krasia seems weakly put together? The first 200ish pages of book two are from Jardir’s POV. That allows Brett to get into the Krasian culture a lot more.

      I dont know if going deeper into things with book two would satisfy what you’re looking for but I liked where it went. Jardir was an asshole but a compelling asshole once you got to know him. Renna’s early chapters in book two were uncomfortable to read. But I thought the payoff was there. Book two has some more cool world building, new corelings and the characters keep growing beyond where they end in book one.

      Haven’t read the third book yet. It’s hardcover still and I have a penchant for mass market paperback.

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