Series: Demon Cycle #1
Publisher: Random House (March 14, 2009)
Length: 416 pages
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
The Warded Man was a novel I’d heard a lot about from my reading friends. Peter V. Brett’s name was constantly whispered in my ear as a writer whose work I must try at once. And after finishing this story, I have to admit that was very wise advice — at least where this book is concerned.
For those who haven’t read Mr. Brett’s Demon Cycle series, it is set in a post-apocalyptic world where demons rule the night. In fact, the cause of the apocalypse was the rising of these demons from the underworld, which resulted in human kind almost being totally wiped out. Only by hiding behind special “wards” has a small remnant been able to escape total annihilation. But it is a very precarious existence, for if even one ward fail then the demons will immediately burst into a city or a home killing everyone within. And the worst part is that man has no way to even harm these demons!
But things begin to change when a young boy named Arlen loses his mother to demons while his father cowers in fear. The tragic loss and disgust at people’s fear of the demons leads Arlen on a desperate trek across the nighttime landscape, where he unwittingly discovers his almost uncanny ability to recognize and draw wards.
Barely escaping death at the hands of demons, Arlen is found by a Messenger (A group of specially trained and armed warriors who travel the land with their Jongleurs, entertaining the peasants, trading goods and delivering messages for the rulers of the land.) who takes him back to one of the Free Cities, where the young boy soon begins his training to ultimately become a Messenger himself. His secret desire to travel the world and rediscover the lost offensives wards that can kill demons!
Spaced in between chapters about Arlen are ones focusing on two other characters: a teenage girl named Leesha, who lives in a small village, and a small boy, Rojer, whose life takes an unexpected turn and leads him to the life of a Jongleur. Both these tales are interesting, if not as epic feeling as Arlen’s journey, but I’d have to say that Leesha’s character and life was much more well done than Rojer, who did not get enough page time.
Naturally, a reader senses that the story will eventually push these three people together, but Mr. Brett does a good job making the journey to that point entertaining and intriguing. Each of the youths living very different lives and developing their own unique character and outlook on the world around them – something that kept their individual tales fresh throughout the novel.
There were a few things that I did not love about the novel. One was simply that Arlen’s “big” discovery was a bit of a letdown. Rather than something epic, where he has to brave dangers and escape with his life, he just stumbles upon a map that leads him directly to a spot. No real buildup to this earthshattering discovery, but rather Boom! there it is. Two, the constant skipping of years by the end of the story grew tiresome. It just would have been nice to see Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer grow up instead of them showing up later in the story as a grown woman and two grown men, changed by the years.
Overall, I have to say that The Warded Man was a great book to start the Demon Cycle series, as it had everything that I look for in an opener: interesting characters, mysterious history, creative world, and plenty of fighting. Naturally, the whole concept of demons and wards was the real selling point to me, but Mr. Brett also livened up the rather straightforward narrative, making me turns the pages desperate to discover the answers to some of the questions brewing in my mind.
This one is highly recommended!