Monday, May 6, 2013

Review: The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

First off, I'd like to thank everyone for their patience in waiting for my new review. We had a lot of tragedies this month, and it's good to step aside sometime and give notice to the things that matter. Books are important, but it's important to look aside sometime and branch out and do new things. That said, I thought that I would ease back into my normal, catty, snarky routine with a book that I really enjoyed, rather than going full blast on a book that has taken me more than a month to get through. That said, here we go.

Long ago, so long ago that it has long passed into legend, there was a war between man and a power much stronger than themselves. In that battle, this man, this chosen one, if you will, used the power of his enemies against them, changing the course of battle. After his death, it was fortold that there would be another chosen who would bring victory to the humans and one day drive their enemies back for good. Now man has fallen into subservience once more, becoming both food and sport for the enemy, until a chosen one stood up once again, forming a group of resistance, using the very weapons their enemies have used against them for centuries. the Matrix.

Wait, no, sorry, got confused, this is The Demon Cycle series by Peter V. Brett, starting with The Warded/Painted Man, depending on what country you live in, continuing with The Desert Spear and now with the third book, The Daylight War. The book chronicles a world where every night, demons come out of the core of the earth and rampage, held at bay only by wards, a kind of cuneiform/mandarin script that sometimes fails them. In the story, four people, now 5 in the newest book, take control of their destinies and fight back the demons.

First of all, I know it doesn't seem like it by the catty introduction, but I have nothing but the utmost respect for this book. The fact that the book series reminds me of a fantasy version of the Matrix doesn't detract for the series. If anything, it only adds to it for me, because I actually liked the Matrix. Christopher Paolini did a similar thing with his first book, Eragon (honestly, just give it a real clinical look and you'll see it too,) but his books just dived after the second book anyway.

I liked the series so much in fact, that after I bought the first book, it only took me a day to read and I immediately bought the second one and have been waiting on pins and needles anticipating the next which only came out recently. What's so great about this book? The characters are realistic and sympathetic, unique and free thinking in such a regard that I can actually believe in them. The action sequences are fun and spine-tingling, but not too long, so as not to detract from the story.

The part that really gets me, in a bad way, is the race called the Krasians. The Krasians are a desert living people, they hold fast to an almost fanatical religion that has them fight the demons in a losing battle each night. The interesting thing about them, is what I learned after taking a Western Civilization course in college last year.While I was taking the course, I was reading Desert Spear, and it was impossible not to notice the increadible similarities between the cultures of Muslims and Krasians. Now, there's nothing wrong with this in general, people do this all the time, drawing from stereotypes and cultures to make world developement flow easier, but the funny thing is there is a disclaimer at the beginning of the book stating that "any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental."

...Really, Brett? It was too hard to just let people think you got them from Muslim culture. Do me a favor, readers, look up the history of the Muslim culture with their introduction to Western Civilization and how they spread across Europe. It's always good to learn something useful, if you get anything else out of it.

A broad overview of The Daylight War is that the main characters have realized that there are smarter demons out there than the ones that they have been fighting since they first learned they could do so, and that they are preparing to start an all out assault on them to snuff out human resistance before it can really take hold. These demons are so sensitive to light, being from the darkest part of the core of the earth, that they can only come out on the new moon, giving the characters time to better prepare and have some good character developing points, which is more or less what the book is actually about. I'm not going to say there wasn't some good storyline and battle scenes, but in actuality, the story had very little to do with the demons or the "Daylight War" which I'll get to later on, and more to do with how the characters are drifting from each other and really making themselves individuals.

That said, it's really important to know that I really like this kind of storytelling. Battles don't always translate very well to print, and I think that Brett does an excellent job of keeping them short and sweet. What matters is the characters, how they work together, and how they are unique. The characters started out very well in the first two books, but they were kind of joined at the hip. Now that they are forced to kind of branch out, it's interesting to see how they are growing and developing on their own.

The first book, which I started before I really got to reviewing, was primarily about the main characters (at least the primary ones, in my opinion since they are more centralized to the story.) Arlen, the painted man who has wards tattooed onto his flesh to battle the demons and has developed a certain god-like quality to him literature-wise. Leesha, the herb-gatherer of Cutter/Deliverer's Hollow, a kind of medicine woman/doctor of her village who has taken to creating inventive ways to protect her people. And Rojer, a Jongleur or traveling bard who can repel demons and even control them a little, with his fiddle music. With the advent of the second book, a second set of characters were introduced, Jardir and Abban, and in the third, Inevera, Jardir's wife was given segments.

A lot of people complained that Jardir's storyline was too invasive in the second book, since much of the book was dedicated to background to his and Abban's life. I just have to roll my eyes about that, because the first book was DOMINATED by backstory as to how the main characters became how they needed to be. It was only fair that Jardir should get the same right. What people need to understand is that Jardir, and by extension, his people, are not the antagonists in the story, at least not major ones. They have a reason for doing what they are doing, and for them it's every bit as important as everyone else's. What I don't like, though, is that Brett seems to have taken everyone’s complaints to heart in his development of The Daylight War.

The main cover shows Inevera, Jardir's wife, a powerful mystic in her culture called a Dama'ting. Inevera has shown herself to be ruthless and powerful as well as jealous and vengeful, making her a bit more fun in the previous books. Her back-story in The Daylight War has shown her to have developed that way, and actually didn't reveal any startling developments in her character. I get the feeling that Brett was trying to humanize her like he did Jardir in The Desert Spear, but it kind of fell short. It didn't make me like her any less, but I certainly didn't like her justifications any better afterwards. This could have been because her sections were stunted. Rather than have her character dominate the book like Jardir's did, hers were shorter and less impressive, only spanning a few chapters worth of information, almost like filler episodes in a series when they are waiting for the real episodes to air.

Arlen's sections were similarly stunted, to the point that we didn't actually get to see his perspective until almost half-way through the book, instead being replaced by Renna Tanner, a blip on the first book and a secondary character in The Desert Spear, her main purpose mostly explaining what happened after Arlen ran away from home and really justifying Arlen's return home to Tibbet's Brook. Renna is Arlen's promised bride and takes a similar route as he does. At the end of The Desert Spear Arlen seems to have attained a new level of power making him again stronger than any of the normal demons and many of the people who were finally beginning to get to his level of power. I really feel that the reason that Arlen is so downplayed in the new book is because of that whole ultimate power thing.

It's not until later on in the story when he comes head to head with the Mind Demons, a demon general if you will, that Arlen's perspective is really brought back into play, and it mostly seems like its done to smack him down a few pegs when he's found wanting. This is both good and bad in my opinion. On one hand, it led to some good character growth for other characters, and the new ones that were brought in, but on the other hand Arlen is a major player in the series, and just having him be seen to change doesn't bring as much to the table as when he realizes he is changing. So I guess it's kind of a neutral point for me.

That brings me to the other characters, who are not really secondary protagonists, but are less omnipotent than Arlen and Jardir get to be at times. Rojer has always been important in my opinion, but that's mostly just because I have a feeling he's being downplayed for a very important reason that I think was hinted at in the first book but not fully explored. I don't know if that's because Brett wants to leave it as a surprise in the next or last book, or if I'm reading too much into the Deliverer mythos, so in any case, I'll leave that for later. He's a fun character, but at the same time, I think that he really gets downplayed when the more serious events come up, or when he's not playing music.

By comparison, Leesha has been played up a lot, making her seem a little more important than she really is. On one hand she's attracted the attention of some important men, and I think that that makes her feel a little like a chess piece in the book, but on the other hand, she has some real importance to her if only because she is one of the more practiced Herb Gatherers in the area, and because she's been doing research on the demons, discovering weaknesses and ways to battle them. On the opposite side of things her jealousy of Renna seemed a little bit forced considering Renna is an unknown quality to her and that she's already developed feelings for other people. I felt it was a little forced in the end, and with all of the triangles being introduced it's turning into some kind of weird pachinko game where characters keep bouncing off pegs and who know where they're going to wind up.

The writing for The Daylight War is solid, and the pacing was nice. The book was set up in four different quadrants: the return home and things being worked out with Jardir's people, then the battle at Deliverer's Hollow, then the battle at Everams Bounty, then the conclusion which was intermixed with the demons planning things out and Inevera's back-story. Mostly I just thought that the battle at Everams Bounty took too little time and Deliverer's Hollow took too much, but considering the people in Deliverer's Hollow all worked together and had unique stories that was expected, whereas there were only really two perspectives being shared at Everams Bounty and Jardir is more of a lone-wolf leader.

All of this just leads me to one thing, because I know that this review has been particularly long, but like I said, I really do like this book. The one thing I have to wonder is: Where is the "Daylight War" in The Daylight War? I know that this is really anal of me to mention, but the book is all about the battle with the demons during the New Moon. I know we couldn't really call it that, damn you Stephanie Meyers, but the title is incredibly misleading. In the book series, the Daylight War is the war with humanity where the Deliverer, the chosen one, unites all of the people under his banner and prepares his people for the final battle with the demons. I get that, that's very important, but at the same time, no part of that is in the book, it's hardly even mentioned at all, except in passing. It might have been important in the first part when the Hollowers are returning home through the occupied land, but it's not central to the storyline of the book at all, so why even name it that, out of anything that could have taken place.

The Warded Man was all about the three characters converging with Arlen and the new battle starting. The Desert Spear was primarily about Jardir's rise to power and attaining the Spear of Kaji, a relic proclaiming him as the new Deliverer. The Daylight War is about fighting mind demons and a very interesting conclusion that just shouts out "CLIFFHANGER", though I should say it's a bit ironic to say so. All in all, my few gripes are tiny, I would definitely suggest The Demon Cycle books to real lovers of fantasy, and remember to keep your wards clear, because Waning is on its way again...

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