Monday, August 2, 2010

The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett

The Desert Spear
This novel doesn't start out so much as a sequel, but as a parallel prequel. There are a couple of quick, present day vignettes, then we are taken back to about the same time period when The Warded Man started, but in a different part of the world. Jardir is a nine year old boy who lives in the Krasian desert, a member of the Kaji tribe. As is customary, he is taken from his family to be given training that will determine his status in life, whether he will be a warrior, a dal'Sharum, or a servant without status, or khaffit.

Early in his training, he befriends another boy, Abban, vowing that he will help him to succeed in the training, even though he is overweight and perhaps a bit cowardly. Jardir has plenty of self-confidence for both of them, but it turns out not to quite be enough as their training progresses, and Abban eventually fails the test, begging to live when he is faced with sudden death by the demons, or alagai.

We are, of course, familiar with these demons from Brett's previous novel, so this is merely another group of people who have their own way of fighting against these evil creatures of the night.
The Krasians are a fierce, brutal, desert people, and among them, honor is everything. When Abban would rather live than die an honorable death fighting the demons, he is relagated to the status of khaffit, and returns to his family without status. This doesn't stop him, however, from following in his family's tradition of being successful merchants, who are tolerated by the warriors because trade is essential to feed and equip the tribes.

Jardir kills his first demon at the age of thirteen, and though this is usually a rite of passage into manhood and the donning of the warrior's robes, he is considered too young still, so he is sent for further training in by a school of mystics and martial artists, the Damaji. When he returns to take his warrior's blacks, he rapidly rises in status and power because of his fierce courage and great fighting abilities. He takes a wife from a cult of healers, the Damaji'ting, who uses her power to predict the future to guide him as he works to consolidate his power and become the ruler of all of the desert tribes, which have been feuding with one another for many years.

Eventually, we get to what is, for us, a flashback, to the time when Arlen visits the desert tribes. We get to see the events unfold from Jardir and Abban's points of view. Arlen is first befriended and then betrayed by Jardir, in order to steal from him the Spear of Kaji, a legendary weapon wielded by The Deliverer, a mythic figure from the tribes' past. Jardir is not proud of his decision to steal the spear and to abandon Arlen in the desert without supplies, but he is convinced of his destiny to defeat the demons once and for all, by uniting all mankind under his banner, a reincarnation of The Deliverer.

Eventually, we get back to the present, and find out what some of the characters like Leesha, Arlen and Rojer are up to back in the Northern lands, just at about the same time as Jardir invades the North and begins to create his new army from the people there.

With respect to an earlier note about the "magic system" dealing with warding, we still haven't been treated to anything more on the geometric aspect of wards, and in this novel Brett, in the thoughts of Leesha, mentions that the wards relation to each other is governed by an esthetic or artistic logic. I wish he'd make up his mind on just how things really work. Arlen also begins to make public books and books full of wards he's discovered in the ruins which people have abandoned since the fall of the technological age.

Another good read by Brett. I hope the next book in this series shows up soon.

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