The Painted Man, although this time around Mr. Brett changed the settings from the pseudo medieval Europe, to the desert wastelands reminiscing the Middle East. Furthermore, Peter V. Brett also made some interesting choices about the narratives in The Desert Spear; some people like his narrations, while others are less enthusiastic about it. Personally, I like the narrating style in this book because it made the characters compelling, and I will discuss it later in my review.
In the barren wastelands of Krasia stands a proud and mighty city, The Desert Spear. For centuries, night after night, the Krasian warriors fought and bled in Alagai'sharak - a holy war against the demons, and they dedicate the battle glory to the creator, Everham.
The Krasian faith in Everham may be unwavering, but centuries of warfare is slowly killing the desert kingdom, not only are the Krasian tribes divided, but the populace in The Desert Spear has also plummeted to an all time low.
The tide of war, however, is about to reach a turning point.
Out from the stone gate of The Desert Spear rides a general most formidable. His name, is Ahmad Jadir; his entire outfit is black, with the exception of a white turban covering his head and face, and his hand grasps the warded Spear of Kaji, a sign, for the approaching Sharak Ka and the return of the Deliverer.
Indeed, Jadir has proclaimed himself Shar'Dama Ka, the Deliverer. The Krasian tribes, united under Jadir, are riding north to conquer the lands of the chins, so all mankind can combine their forces to fight in Sharak Ka, and finally rid the world of the demonic hordes and restore it to Ala.
But the nothern people already have their own Deliverer, The Painted Man, who led farmers and townspeople at Cutters Hollow to a decisive victory against the demons.
How can there be two Deliverers while the ancient prophecy foretold only one? Was the prophecy wrong?
From the north to the south, people are whispering the rumors about the Deliverer, but little do they know that The Painted Man and Jadir were once Ajin'pal, blood brothers, bonded from their fight in the maze. But now they are adversaries after each other's blood. Under the circumstances, old alliances will be renewed while new ones forged, but unknown to all, a new type of demon, lethal, sinister, and intelligent, is about to reveal itself to the world of men...
My thoughts on this book:
The Desert Spear is a worthy sequel to The Painted Man, as it continues to excel in characterizations, storytelling, and worldbuilding. In this book Peter V. Brett made some interesting choices about the narratives, where, instead of continuing with the stories of Arlen, Leesha, and Rojen, the first third of the book went back in time to explore Jadir and his background story. This is not to say that our beloved characters from the first book did not appear in this installment at all, it is just that they only appeared some 250 pages into the book. Some readers expressed their dislike at Mr. Brett's choice of narrating style, because they found the affair of jumping back and forth on the timeline to be confusing. While some readers said they dislike the book's opening section because they never liked Jadir's character to begin with.
The Desert Spear, meanwhile, received a very high rating of 4.22 out of 5 on Goddreads nevertheless.
Personally, I loved The Desert Spear as much as I loved The Painted Man. In some ways, The Desert Spear is mainly about the story of Jadir. I despised Jadir for what he did to Arlen in the first book. Although my opinion of him changed, after reading The Desert Spear. The first 250 pages of the book told the story of Jadir's journey, from his childhood, to his adulthood and his ascension to power in a harsh and brutal Krasian society. Furthermore, Jadir's backstory is also an excellent exploration of the Krasian society. The Krasian culture has practices and traditions that offends our modern sensibilities, but the worldbuilding in this book helped readers to understand why it is so. To simply put it, the Krasian culture is what it is, because they needed to overcome the adaptive challenges posed by the external environments. After all, they needed to survive in the harsh desert as well as defending themselves from the centuries of attacks from the demonic hordes. Jadir and Arlen are both protagonists in the story, bu while Arlen rejects the prophecy about the Deliver and believes that it is the everyday citizens who must unite and deliver themselves from the demonic hordes, in contrast Jadir believes sincerely in the prophecy about the Deliverer and that it is the Deliverer who must unite all men to fight in the Sharak Ka. In other words, Arlen and Jadir are in open conflicts against each other due to their ideological differences in philosophy and religion. To my 21th century mind, Arlen's way is much better than Jadir's own, but after I read Jadir's backstory I came to see things from his perspective, and I found Jadir a fascinating character even though I still disagree with some of his views.
With the book placing its highlight on Jadir, it also introduced a few secondary characters who are associated with him. The most notable characters being Inevera and Abban, and they are memorable and fascinating. Inevera is Jadir's wife, where Abban is a second class citizen because he is crippled and cannot fight. The Krasians lived in the warrior culture, but it was also a patriarch and theocratic society. Throughout the book, the story shows us that Jadir's rise to power is in fact, the result of his wife, Inevera's schemes. To the outside world, Jadir is the powerful Shar'Dama Ka, but behind the closed curtains Jadir found himself controlled by his wife, and he could not do without her. This throws a spin to Krasia's patriarchal society; is Jadir the master? Or is he a puppet, with his wife the puppet master? I found Inevera's character intriguing. This book did not explore Inevera's backstory, and I hope Peter V. Brett will explore this area in the next book.
When this book reached the halfway mark, the story reunite the readers with Arlen, Leesha, and Rojen. Arlent's story remains a gripping one, as he gradually discovered more and more about himself and his abilities. But Leesha irks me, while she is a kind and decent person but I disliked her "holier than thou" attitude towards those around her. Rojen, on the other hand, continues to be the character who surprised me.
While The Desert Spear re-unites us with our favorite characters and introduced new ones, but the new characters who made the deepest impression on my mind is Renna, who appeared briefly in The Painted Man as Arlen's romantic interest. Renna has a large role in this book, and I found her story to be the most thought-provoking and heart wrenching of all. I will try my best not to spoil the story here, yet I would like to discuss the theme for Renna's story. Which theme?
The nature of evil.
In this sweeping saga, the apparent antagonists are the "demons" who appear in the nights to attack cities and killing people. Naturally, readers would associate these "demons" with evil. But when I am reading these books, these "demons" reminded me of the xenomorphs from the movie franchise, Alien, who are metaphors to the forces and calamities from our natural environment which threaten our survivals, and so they are not necessarily evil. What do I mean? Well, wasps sting people, and lions can prey on us when they are hungry, so are wasps and lions "evil"? Furthermore, natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tornadoes also kill people, so are natural disasters evil? In my opinion, these things are not "evil", instead, we just associate them with a human meaning such as "evil" because they threaten our survival. So where is evil? In Renna's story, which is gut-wrenching, we see the village people behaved and treated her in ways that are equally (if not more) appalling than the way the monsters were preying on people at night. For the monsters, at least, were preying on a different species to satisfy their hungers. As for the village people in Renna's story, why did they treat her so cruelly? *minor spoiler* It turned out the village people treated Renna cruelly because they thought they were exacting justice against evil. So perhaps the reality is not made up of evil and good, but there exists only the human conditions, as well as the consequences of our actions.
I love The Desert Spear, but there is one small thing that I believe this book could be improved on. This book is about its characters, but it is also about the clash between two very different cultures; the Northern culture and the Krasian culture. Both cultures adapted their societies to survive the attacks of the demons, but while the Northern culture evolved into one that values the community and caring for each other, in contrast the Krasian culture evolved into a harsh and brutal warrior culture that values the strong over the weak. I believe that dwarinianly speaking, if societies are subjected to the extreme conditions described in this story, then societies could possibly develop along either of the two directions described in this book. I can see how the communal value, of helping each other, can develop in the Northern culture, but I don't think the book did very well to explain, how, the Krasian society evolved into such a harsh and brutal one that is polar opposite to the Northern culture. While Abban, a character in this book, reminded Leesha not to judge the Krasians too harshly because they were a people living in the desert, but the book did not explain exactly how, living in a geographical condition such as a desert can result to the harsh society of Krasia. However, this is a tiny problem, and to dwell on it would be similar to trying to find chicken bones in an egg. Everything in this book, from the characters, the story, to the worldbuilding, is intricate and beautiful, and The Desert Spear propelled this series up to my list, of all time favorite fantasy books.
The sequel, The Daylight War, awaits, and I am off to reading it.
Until the next time, happy reading!