Jardir has declared himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer returned. He is determined to lead his people to great victory over the demons and all the cowardly northern peoples will kneel before him. Yet, not everyone is convinced he is the real Deliverer as another man fights the demons and seeks to free the northern lands. His name was once Arlen Bales, a young man who painted his body with wards simply to survive after Jardir betrayed him. While Arlen brings hope and courage to the people, Jardir brings fear and death. Only one of them can be the true Deliverer but powerful demons hunt them both. For if one great leader unites the land, they may end the demon plague once and for all.
After racing through and loving ‘The Painted Man’, I found the first hundred or so pages of Peter V. Brett’s follow-up, ‘The Desert Spear’, to be slow going. Instead of picking up where book one left off, it instead switched perspective from Arlen to Jardir and went over much of the same ground as book one. It filled in a few gaps but I was quite impatient for the story to continue, following Arlen, Leesha and Rojer battling demons and teaching the villagers of Deliverer’s Hollow to fend for themselves. Fortunately, the latter parts of the book delivered what I was hoping for and brought the two stories together again, although I would still have happily skipped the earlier sections.
The plot is fairly simple for the most part. Jardir is determined to take over the northern lands and raise a huge army to follow him and rid the world of demons. Arlen is determined to teach the people to fight and help to rid the world of demons. Everyone fights a lot of demons. However, don’t take that as a criticism because while plot gives the book purpose, the characters and the setting are the things that give it real substance.
Peter V. Brett has managed to create some great characters in this series and has put them in a very vividly imagined world for us to follow. Leesha and Rojer are still working with the villagers and the ways in which they grow up and develop are very believable. Jardir becomes much clearer to us even if this takes too long and his manipulative first wife, Inevera, is wonderfully described. She is thoroughly sneaky and seems to be controlling not only Jardir but the whole of the desert tribe to which he belongs.
It’s also nice to see some of the minor characters from book one come to prominence here. Abban, the lowly Khaffit servant of Jardir, gets a lot of attention and Renna Tanner, Arlen’s former fiancé, also returns in quite a shocking fashion. I think the only character I was disappointed with was Arlen, who seems to have lost something from the previous book. Perhaps this is a reflection of how he has changed since beginning to fight demons, losing some of his humanity, but I just felt he lacked something this time round.
After a slow start, ‘The Desert Spear’ really picked up pace and contained some great storytelling moments. There are plenty of tiny details to keep the reader interested and enough action to move the plot along so that it never gets tiring. In my opinion, it wasn’t quite as good as ‘The Painted Man’, largely due to the slow first section, but it was still entertaining and engaging enough that I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
(pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books. 576 page hardback. Price: $26.00 (US), $32.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-50381-7)