This is a review for the first two books of “The Demon Cycle” quintet by Peter V. Brett – “The Painted Man” and “The Desert Spear”.
Sometimes there is very good reason to be afraid of the dark…
Arlen lives with his parents on their small farmstead, half a day’s ride from the isolated hamlet of Tibbet’s Brook. As dusk falls each evening, a mist rises from the ground promising death to any foolish enough to brave the coming darkness. For hungry demons materialize from the vapours to feed, and as the shadows lengthen, all of humanity is forced to take shelter behind magical wards and pray that their protection holds until the dawn. But when Arlen’s world is shattered by the demon plague, he realizes that it is fear which truly cripples humanity. Only by conquering their own terror can they ever hope to defeat the demons. Legends tell of a Deliverer: a general who once bound all mankind into a single force that defeated the demons. Now Arlen must risk leaving the safety of his wards to discover a different path, and offer humanity a last, fleeting chance of survival even as the desert people of the south come riding north, set on saving the world.
The story is set in a world plagued by demons that rise up every night to feast on them, and gripped by fear. Wards made up by magical runes offer some protection but are weak and prone to failing at the worst possible moments unless properly maintained. With fear and demons running rampant amongst humans this isn’t a nice world to live in even for those who master the wards and the runes. It is a fascinatingly dark world where humanity is still hanging on despite the dangers and the death. The way the demons are used is inspired and elegant. It isn’t just a random element occasionally showing up, it is there every single night, and it is in every single action.
I have very little negative to say about these two books. The world is excellent and diverse, the characters are just as good, and the demons are the stuff of nightmares. We follow three different characters throughout the books, and this is where my only hesitance comes into play. I was never fond of books where characters split up and we follow each one, hopping back and forth. That was ruined for me by “The Wheel of Time” series. And in these books – especially book two – we seem to forget almost completely about one of the characters. He hardly shows up. This could, however, just be a personal pet peeve.
All in all, this is a wonderful series and truly well written. And, at some point, I might even read the third book – “The Daylight War” – and the books following it at some point.