End Date: October 24
Author: Peter V. Brett
Pages: 416 (hardcover)
Selected By: The Divine Ms. Em
“As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise – demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards – symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and woman battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.” – from the Goodreads summary.
The Divine Ms. Em:
No written review provided.
Ms. Em’s Favorite Character: No written review provided.
Ms. Em listened to the Audible version of this book.
This book was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t know what to expect, but it started strong and only kept me wanting to know how and when one of the main characters would make the transition into the Warded Man. There were several characters that just stood out to me immediately and my affection for them grew. I was only slightly disappointed that we did not find where they ended by the end of this installment of the tale. In addition, the circumstances in which we find the characters from the beginning to the end is a dire fight for survival each and every night, as demons rise from the Core to hunt and terrorize the populace. The only thing keeping them “safe” is the careful warding their towns and homes. This world is comprised of many small but intermediate to widely dispersed hamlets to large strongholds that are widely separated. Most of these areas cower in fear each night, however, the desert people of Krasia fight on. Communication is completed by a Messenger, a man who is trained in combat arts, warding and also conduct business on behalf of many from town to town. Along with the Messenger is a Jongleur, or jester of sorts, entertaining those as the pair travels, giving people something to focus on other than work and the nightly siege of the demons.
I can say there was a strong balance between the strong and weak in this book. I’m not speaking of just power, I’m also speaking of character. People who are bullies are eventually reduced, if not in their own mind, but in the minds of others. People who are weak, find their strength, most of the time in this novel. However, there are those who find a kind of strength, even though they remain “weak” in a way.
The novel follows three young people, Arlen, who is around eleven at the start of the novel (and I didn’t have the patience to actually calculate his age by the end…but I’m assuming he’s around 26 or so by the end); Leesha, who is thirteen or fourteen to start the novel and finally Rojer who is three when the story begins. We follow them in the early years or the year that probably shaped their young lives and set them on the path to their destinies. As they move along in life, they are haunted by those who would mean to shape their lives to their detriment, and blessed with people who shape them each positively. All three are brought up very differently and all three have very clear reasons as to their motivations for their paths in life. While each is supremely different, they all arrive at the same place at almost the same time by the novel’s end.
“I know it sounds like madness, Arlen, but deep down, men want to fight, like they did in the tales of old. They want to protect their women and children as men should. But they can’t, because the great wards are lost, so they knot themselves like caged hares, hiding terrified through the night. But sometimes, especially when you see loved ones die, the tension breaks you and you just snap.”
Of the three main characters, Arlen is likely my favorite with Rojer being a distant second. Arlen is a stubborn child. While he is disobedient, he has a strong sense of morality and obligation to those around him. Arlen is especially scornful of his father, Jeph for his lack of action in being able to ward their home, protect and defend his family and his seemingly willingness to move on quickly from a devastating loss. However, I believe Jeph’s biggest sin, in Arlen’s eyes, is his lack of valor. From the point of the final attack on Arlen’s childhood home, to attempting to save his mother’s life, Jeph failed Arlen miserably. This lack of strength cost Arlen, the most important person in his young life, his mother. However, this loss drove him to flee his little hamlet. In fleeing through his grief, Arlen is forced to face the very thing they fear each night and in that, he is able to stand his ground, causing harm to a formidable rock demon that then stalks Arlen through the remainder of the novel. After surviving his deadly injuries, and on the unprotected road, Arlen is discovered and rescued by the Messenger, Ragen. Thankfully, Ragen takes responsibility for Arlen and sees to his education and ultimately his training as a Messenger. From there, Arlen strikes out and begins his quest to find a way to fight the demons that torment their world.
Arlen is a strange mixture of arrogance and naiveté. He is arrogant enough to think that if he is able to find the answers of the old world, that he can bring this knowledge to all of the world to be able to effectively fight and defeat the demons, not just hide from them. He takes every opportunity to learn anything that would help him in his quest. He learned to read, ward properly and effectively and ultimately, how to become a good negotiator to be an effective messenger. In his studies as an apprentice, he establishes his pattern of wanting to share knowledge so that all could benefit. His stubbornness is borne from not wanting to fall into his father’s footsteps. He rejects the notion of remaining in a stronghold city, even at the behest of his “childhood” sweetheart, Mery and his surrogate mother, Elissa. The harder they push him to do their will, the more he rails against it. I do not fault him in this and while I understand their desire for him to remain safe, their inability to see things from his perspective is what causes him to take extreme measures of abandoning them altogether to continue on his quest to bring order to their world. His desire to make the world a safer place causes him to lose a precious unearthed artifact, this loss though grave, only opened his eyes to a greater opportunity to become the Warded Man.
While Arlen is the picture of strength and stubbornness, Rojer is on the other end of the spectrum. He lost both parents as a child and was subsequently reared by Arrick Sweetsong, a master jongleur that wasted away his talents as he fell into the bottle while “raising” Rojer. As Rojer grows older, he protects, or attempts to protect Arrick more than Arrick protects him. Rojer’s actions or reactions are always a result of fear versus the anger and desire to protect that drives Arlen. Rojer discovers his talent with his fiddle that allows him to earn money so that they are not thrown from their shelter to attempt to survive the night. As they travel about, Rojer soon discovers that his fiddle skills hold sway over the demons. His skills are doubted by his companions until they see its success first hand. Rojer wants to be brave, and he wants be an asset, but he allows others to motivate his actions which ends up putting him in a world of hurt and sometimes, other’s deaths. However, Rojer is true and attempts to help in any way that he can. He is after, as a jongleur, his role is to provide a safe haven through entertainment and the he does tenfold with his fiddle.
“‘Welcome to adulthood,’ Cob said. ‘Every child finds out when they realize that adults can be weak and wrong just like anyone else. After that day, you are an adult, like it or not.'”
When we first find Leesha, she is a beautiful girl with a beautiful heart and is able to read. That’s it. That’s all she is worth. Her mother has abused her to the point that her self-worth is pretty low and her father’s inaction to intervene doesn’t help her self-esteem bid. She is betrothed to a brute of a boy who is desired by many, even by herself, for he represents a reprieve from her mother’s abuse. However, she values her virtue even from her betrothed. She is called upon by the local Herb Gatherer, Hag Bruna, to become her apprentice after seeing the girl’s aptitude during a crisis. Once this world is opened to Leesha, she begins to flourish and thrive. She sheds her encumbrances of her mother and a useless boy to come into her own. However, her “oh woe is me” attitude never truly subsides during the story. Though she has grown from useless to a very skilled Herb Gatherer whose thirst for knowledge of the old world remedies and “weapons” are more than helpful in the world’s current state, she still bemoans that others want her to be a mother and her “biological clock” seems to be ringing in her ears as well. Hag Bruna shows Leesha her path and once she sets upon it, she finds a supreme purpose in her craft and then becomes a huge help to both Arlen and Rojer. I appreciate her growth and usefulness; however, she is ultimately a girl trying to be girly for a guy and that just racked my nerves. (Ok it’s real and it’s human, but who wants to be reminded that as we get older, those of us who aren’t fortunate to find the correct life partner, that we sometimes get lost in this fact and lose a bit of ourselves?)
The supporting characters of book make it as much worth reading as main characters. I enjoyed Ragen for his depth and understanding of the world. He was kind, but understood when to stand back and let the person thrive or fall on their own. He also understood the need of his wife to create a family and to keep him close to have him safe. However, I really appreciate that despite the demands on his time and abilities, he could see clearly what each person needed and attempted to provide it, no matter how demanding. He saw reason and attempted to reason with others. Despite his skill as a Messenger, we only see his use of brute force twice and it was well used. In contrast to him is Hag Bruna. As an ancient Herb Gatherer, she is probably one of the most knowledgeable of the old ways and current medicinal practices. While she may be old, she is hardly helpless and definitely not defenseless. Whether she’s created her version of pepper spray or whacking someone about the head with her cane, she is a crotchety old woman who makes you laugh and nod encouragement as you read. She saw the best in Leesha, willingly honed her skills and expanded her horizons with tough love that ultimately made Leesha a better, stronger person.
All in all, I was pleased with this read. This novel moved along nicely, there was no convoluted situations or issues that often makes me roll my eyes. There was never such a lull that I didn’t want to find out how it progressed. While I’m not a fan of Leesha, or many of the women in the book, I could see that they were necessary evils in the novel. They represented a hope for peace and normal life that extended beyond the day. However, the whining and trying to exert their control over those who know their own mind was aggravating to me. Again, this is true to life. I think each character was necessary to show the good and evil of man and how it could be embodied in the same person. I think I will press on in this series (so much to read, so little time). Good show Mr. Brett, good show.
Esbe’s Favorite Character: Ragen, Hag Bruna, Arlen.
Lady Esbe read the mass-market paperback version of this book.
I really struggled with this four-cup score. I try to be as fair and honest as I can, and this novel was really quite close to a five-cup rating… but when I compare it to books to which I have given that “perfect” score (Blood of Elves, City of Stairs, The Slow Regard of Silent Things and The Kingkiller Chronicle, etc.), I have to admit that there is just a little bit of something missing. So, let’s say it’s truly worthy of about four full-to-the-brim cups, plus another cup off to the side that began as the others but got sloshed about a bit too much on the way to the table. 🙂
The pace of The Warded Man is excellent. In fact, I began the book early in the month simply to “see how it reads,” and I didn’t look up from my Kindle again until I realized I’d hit the 20% mark. Our journey begins as a quick shove out the door: we have just enough time to get used to the idea of one protagonist, their family, and their village, when suddenly all of that is ripped away and we’re forced to begin again. The novel rushes past; we’re able to snatch glimpses of lives, meaningful moments that slam into and glide past us like tidal waves, and we have just enough time to catch our breath before the next wave breaks before us. That pace – a quick shove followed by a period of respite with absolute chaos hot on its heels – works for this novel in a way that it has failed others, and it does so simply because Brett takes the time during those brief moments of calm to make us care about the protagonists.
“‘We are what we choose to be, girl,’ she said. ‘Let others determine your worth, and you’ve already lost, because no one wants people worth more than themselves.'”
Arlen is the first character to whom we are introduced. His tale begins in adolescence, with a brief life that appears to have risen from a rather idyllic childhood comprised of quaint villages, rolling green hills, and a tight-knit family unit. There are the corelings with which to contend, of course, but they are limited to the hours of darkness, and the people of Arlen’s town know how to keep the demons at bay. This fairytale life is short, of course, and eventually Arlen is forced to leave his home and seek out a warrior to teach him how to fight the corelings. We watch as his mentors – the charming Ragen and strict Cobb – mold him into an honorable – if extraordinarily naive and idealistic – young man, only to have that ripped away in turn to leave someone – something – else behind. Arlen knows in his heart that people must stand together – stand together, or be ripped apart – but he swiftly learns that they simply will not put aside their fear for their own safety, greed, and pride enough to actually help one another. While Arlen wasn’t my favorite character in the novel, I did find that I was able to relate quite easily to him; his idealism is something I know to be a weakness of my own, and I could completely understand the rage that spawned from his disappointment in humankind as a whole. That he didn’t turn his back on people and instead allowed himself to become the embodiment of the entire race’s wrath speaks to his character, as well – like everyone else, he is surely afraid of the things that go bump in the night, but he has also realized that (to borrow from Tolkien) “those who have not swords can still die upon them.”
“‘You can’t help everyone, Arlen,’ Ragen said, ‘but you should make every effort to help those you can.'”
We meet our second protagonist, Leesha, when she is already a teenager. Her upbringing was quite a bit less loving than Arlen’s: her father, while kind, will simply not stand up to his overbearing, cruel, and highly adulterous wife, who, in her disappointment in her own marriage and lack of sons, has drilled into her daughter that the only value Leesha has is as the promised wife of a prominent man’s son and the future mother of his children. Leesha is lucky to be rescued by her village’s wise-woman, the Herb-Gatherer known locally as Hag Bruna, who shows Leesha that women can be strong, independent, and knowledgeable… and still find love and bear children, if that is her wish – and that’s one of the best lessons Bruna teaches Leesha: that her life can be as she wishes. I quite liked Leesha for most of the tale, especially when she later confronted two gentlemen who were fighting for her affections; I felt sorry for her initially, certainly, but she is given so much: an education, opportunities, and indispensable knowledge – and I thought for sure that she would represent all of us wild herbalist women well. But she lost my respect when she grew to be an adult who, despite all of her experience and all that Bruna and others tried to teach her, still bases her own worth on how she is valued by men. Her greatest treasure throughout the novel is not her knowledge – she is, thanks to Bruna, quite possibly the most learned and most respected herbalist in the area – but her virginity. She thinks constantly of her precious flower, and when it is lost, she seems to flounder for the rest of the book, desperately attaching herself to the strongest male presence she can find and essentially throwing herself at him, then sulking and pouting when he proves to be more single-minded and devoted to his cause than she. By the time I was done with the book, I could say Leesha was by far my least favorite of our three heroes.
“‘I didn’t need your protection, and I’m no more likely to give my affection to a man who thinks picking a fight is going to gain the favor of an Herb Gatherer than I am the town bully.'”
Rojer is our last and final protagonist. His tale begins when he is a toddler, and when we leave him he is somewhere in his late teens (or possibly even twenty, but certainly not more than that). Less time is devoted to building Rojer’s character, but his sacrifices in those brief chapters are far greater than either Arlen’s or Leesha’s. Rojer might be my favorite of all three heroes, to be honest: he endured heavier losses, his rescue was pitiful and almost didn’t happen at all, his mentor was entirely self-serving… and yet he didn’t lose himself, like Arlen, nor did he seek salvation from others, like Leesha. Rojer possesses a unique skill, and he accepts that, uses it, and goes about the business of trying to simply enjoy the life he has managed to make for himself. He still believes in love, he hasn’t forgotten how to laugh, and he knows that people need to dance and sing and laugh at least as much as they need to fight.
There were two things I also took away from this novel that I found noteworthy. The first was that Leesha and Rojer were allowed to exist at all – Arlen is the quintessential fantasy hero, with his swagger and sarcasm and innate skill. But unlike many fantasy novels, this version of a hero is eventually proven to be less than human – his entire existence is one of ruthless brutality, he has paid for his skill with his soul, and the only language he seems to understand any longer is that of violence. Leesha and Rojer show that there are other ways to fight evil without losing who you are – you can help people with a gentle touch and a bit of help from nature, and you can push back the darkness with music and laughter.
“The Krasians might not allow women to fight, but that was their failing.”
The second aspect that I liked quite a bit was what this novel says about religion and mythology. We are introduced to three very different groups: the simple country folk, the posh and learned dwellers of the metropolitan districts, and the proud but superstitious desert people. It is clear that all of these factions began with one identical belief system which diverged as they grew more and more apart, until we are left with the three distinct groups we meet by the time this novel hits its stride. Their beliefs overlap and mingle, but they call their god by different names, and while they all believe in a Deliverer who will come and save them from the demons of the core, they each believe that Deliverer will come from their own group. While the corelings kill all humans indiscriminately, the humans themselves choose to spread themselves thin, fighting the demons at night and each other in the day, all over which name is the right one by which to call upon their god, which religious text is the right religious text, and whose Deliverer is the real Deliverer. It’s so easy to read a work of fiction and think, “Wow, these people are so stupid. If they’d all stand together and stop bickering over my-book-is-better-than-your-book and my-Deliverer-is-better-than-your-Deliverer, they’d be able to win back their world and make it beautiful again…” But then the book closes, and the news comes on, and…
So. All in all, this was an excellent read. I’ve begun the second installment in the series, and thus far it looks to be just as gripping and entertaining as the first. I’d certainly recommend The Warded Man to those of you who love fantasy – just don’t expect too much from the female protagonist. Or her “flower.” 🙂
Elle’s Favorite Character: The mentors, Bruna and Ragen, for their humor, kindness, good intentions, and knowledge. And Rojer, because the world could use more Rojers.
Elle read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.
I am very excited about this book. I thought it was different and definitely a quick read. The author was able to make it so that I became attached to these characters and I truly cared about them. There were some characters that were questionable and you were able to empathize with them. You may not have agreed with their choices but for some of them you just ended up feeling bad for them.
“I know it sounds like madness, Arlen, but deep down, men want to fight, like they did in the tales of old.”
I wouldn’t say my least favorite character was Leesha but she could be pretty annoying. We will say that she may not want bad things to happen to those who may do harm to you or others. Well she is a better person than I. If someone hurt me or one that I loved I would have no sympathy for what they would have coming to them.
“Let us tell the tales of them we love most, and laugh, for life is precious, and not to be wasted.”
I thought that this book had a very good story and I liked the idea that our main character Arlen wanted to share with the world to make it a better place instead of hiding knowledge just so that you could receive some kind of payment in the end.
Bruna was also a character that I liked a lot. She may have been a crow but man could she do some good.
I also really liked the above quote chosen by Elle: “We are what we choose to be, girl… Let others determine your worth, and you’ve already lost, because no one wants people worth more than themselves.” I find this very true, and I can think of times where people would need to dumb something down and try to convince the person that needed convincing that something was their idea. Sheesh people you need those worth more than you to survive. Not one person can make all well.
BillMo’s Favorite Character: Arlen. He was very resourceful, and I could understand his decisions.
BillMo read the Amazon Kindle version of this book.