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The Warded Man, by Peter V. Brett
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Del Rey
Published: 2009
Review Posted: 12/23/2013
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated

The Warded Man, by Peter V. Brett

Book Review by Joshua Palmatier

Have you read this book?

I've been meaning to read this one since it first came out and have finally set aside time. Many of my friends raved about it, so I was looking forward to it. It also helps that Peter V. Brett and I share the same agent, so I've met him on many occasions. However, I first met him at Albacon, when this book was just hitting the shelves.

The premise is that, in this world, demons rise from the ground at night and terrorize the land, killing anyone they can get their hands on. People can protect themselves and their houses by placing magical wards on their doorsteps, windows, etc. But Arlen isn't satisfied with simply cowering behind magical walls. He wants to fight the demons, and the stories say humans once did, so he begins a journey to learn about wards, about their defensive powers . . . and well as their offensive ones.

I think the world building is the best part of this book. The set-up of the world, the demons, and the protection of the wards is unique and interesting and you can see how such a situation would shape how the society develops. Travel is almost non-existent, since no one wants to be caught outside at night without the projection of a warding circle. So the communities are extremely isolated. And it's obvious that the demons have long held supremacy, essentially keeping the societies subjugated by fear. The situation is rife for a little rebellion, which is where the book focuses, sending Arlen on a quest to figure out how to--finally--fight back.

Arlen, as well as the two other major characters, Leesha and Rojer, all have great characterizations. Readers will get caught up in their stories and want to follow them to find out what happens. The author captures their situations extremely well. You feel as if you are there, in the society, in each community, living alongside all three of them as they struggle to survive not just the demons, but the evils of their fellow humans as well.

The plot itself is great for the beginnings of a story, but by the end you realize that there is a lot more to tell here, much more to explore. So while this book does have a satisfactory ending, the story itself is far from complete. I think most readers going into the book realize that it's part of a series, so I don't think this is much of a surprise to many, but in the end this does come across as more of an "origin" story for the Warded Man, with his more significant deeds to be read about in later books. I was expecting this book to build to something slightly more significant in the way of a final battle.

But that alone would not have been enough to drop this from 5 stars to 4. What caused that was a single action toward the end of the novel that I can't really discuss in great detail without spoilage. Suffice it to say that something happens to one of the characters that is significantly traumatic . . . and yet it doesn't seem to affect this character as much as it should. The fact that this event didn't have a more profound and lasting affect on this character destroyed by "belief" in the story. It didn't ring true to me at all, which ruined my enjoyment of the story at that point. It's not something that has a huge affect on the plot of the story, or the worldbuilding, but it destroyed the realistic nature of the characters at that one point. Sometimes I can shrug such occurrences off when reading a novel . . . I couldn't do it for this one.

So, overall, an excellent book with one jarring event that marred my enjoyment of the ending significantly. I love the worldbuilding and the central ideas of the novel. I enjoyed the characters and their struggles for the most part, and will definitely be reading the sequels. But that one event . . . *sigh*
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