(french cover of The Warded Man is totally awesome)
Peter is sneaky. He starts out with three individual plot lines that readers will initially feel take on a familiar shape, fitting comfortably into the standard fantasy stereotypes. The experienced reader will quickly think: boy grows up, goes on adventure, meets girl, saves world. I like to think that The Warded Man actually started down that much trodden plot-line and was then rewritten to throw readers off.
Peter starts us out in a world that is assaulted every night by corelings. These beasts of the night are demon-like elementals that can be kept at bay by the use of wards, magical symbols of power. Thus, society is made up of tight population clusters that hide behind their wards, which are solely defensive in nature. Legend has it that offensive wards once existed... but those have been lost to the passage of history.
(the darker side of The Warded Man)
The protagonist, Arlen, is tired of living behind wards, of not fighting back against the demons that continue to cull the dwindling population of his town. As with all fantasy, and as Brice aptly points out in his audio-book review of The Warded Man, the story is one of growth and surmounting the crazy odds of certain death, again and again.
As ussual, my focus on a recap is sorely lacking, so I will reffer you to Fantasy Debut, who does a solid job of laying the groundword and teasing out all juciy details from the protagonists.
The great joke that Peter plays on readers is when Arlen's journey seems to be guiding him straight towards one of the great secondary characters of the novel, Leesha. Arlen is wounded, Leesha is a healer, and Arlen is stumbling through the woods towards a healer of great repute, who readers assume is Leesha's mentor. However, instead of allowing these two characters to meet, Peter instead introduces us to a third character, named Rojer! It was a real curve ball.
Far from distracting or throwing readers off, the narrative shift opens up the story, like a fine wine that needs to breath, allowing Peter to write the story he wanted to write. The change in tone is noticeable, erring towards the darker side of fantasy where not everything ends happily and the good guys die, because the world can be a hard place.
Peter V. Brett proves with The Warded Man that he is a talent to follow. Given that The Desert Spear just came out I am sure some of you will pipe in with whether or not the second installment to the Demon trilogy lives up to the promise of the first. I'll be picking it up regardless, but it would be nice to know if paying hardcover prices is worth it.
Lastly, if you enjoyed some of the art in this post - I think the first french cover is just amazing - then I highly recommend that you check out Peter V. Brett's website where lots more eye candy awaits.