I received and read The Warded Man, by Peter V. Brett (see his site at www.petervbrett.com), back in December and finished it in the beginning of January when I was visiting the folks in sunny Florida-obviously a late review.
Peter Brett has created a great fantasy novel here. The idea that the coreling demons rise from the ground each night to terrorize those not protected by wards is both clever and terrifying. I found myself actually scooting up to the edge of my seat to read this book when I knew something was about to happen. I would say it gets 4 out of 5 stars from me.
There is much of this book, let's face it, that is not particularly original to this genre. However, I think the writing is good enough and the story--and it IS a great story that leaves you wanting to find out what happens next-- combined with character development carries the book far and above what I would have thought of it without those elements.
The story essentially follows three people. First, we have "the Warded Man" himself, our clever, flawed hero who despite "weak" parents, uses his wits and agility to become who he is. The second is our heroine, who could have had a simple life but chose to go against her mother's wishes to become a healer and follow her own path, which in the last quarter of the book crashes smack into the hero's road. He has the chance to come to her rescue and they have the chance to become somewhat romantically linked. Lastly, the third person is the Robin to the Warded Man's Batman, the Sam to our Frodo, the Jimmy to our Superman. He has his sad sack story that he came through by becoming an entertainer and an entertainer so apt, in fact, that he can mesmerize the corelings with his fiddle playing. A skill, as luck would have it that supplements our hero's fighting abilities.
We come to care for these people from their younger years and follow them through the book to where they are, presumably for the rest of the series, as adults. We follow them separately. They don't have overlapping stories from the outset, instead, Brett takes the approach of letting us see them how they developed individually, which will make it interesting to see how they come together later. I'm used, in this genre in particular, to seeing a group "quest" mentality forge the bond that brings the characters together. Whereas here, we see a group that comes together at the end of a book, that must work together for the freedom of humanity.
I'm going to relate one part which is a bit of a spoiler here that I have to criticize. So, you might want to stop reading if you're the sort who gets bent out of shape when spoilers are involved:
There is a point of the book where our heroine, who has been saving herself until she is 27 years old--and the author does go to some extremes to show how she avoids getting herself romantically attached to at least one suitor and save herself, gets raped by thugs on the road. This is the part of the whole book that played the most contrived and stiffly for me. There was all this build-up of her saving herself and then when it was over there was a little bit of "soreness" when she was walking afterward. For the most part, she was right back to being normal and very soon thereafter, she was wanting to share her bed with the hero. The emotional build-up of her saving herself only to lose her virginity by being violently gang-raped and then to not emotionally react to it very much at all, rang a little untrue for me. It made me wonder if that rape was thrown in at the last minute, like maybe Brett planned for her to go to The Warded Man a virgin for some story reason? Not sure, I just didn't like it.
As a side note, there is some discussion how the author wrote this book "by thumb," that is to say, on a personal hand-held device on his way to and from work on public transportation. I am in awe. I take public transportation in Chicago and know how distracting the train and/or buses can be. The people, the herky-jerky action of the sardine-packed containers hauling us all back and forth from our homes to offices and back again? Awful. So, I admit, it makes me like him more. I hope he can get himself a parking spot and not deal with the distractions but at the same time, I envy him his escape from it all. So, I'll escape to his world and read his books on the El if he keeps writing the rest of them in this series this well.
If you couldn't already tell, I'm looking forward to the next book in this series already. I want to know what happens to these characters. Luckily, I don't think I'll have to wait too long because apparently we may be lucky enough to get the next book in the series in December 2009.