I have a feeling that I might have things thrown at me for this review. I didn’t hate the book, but I also can’t sing its praises like many reviewers seem to be doing. All I ask is please give me a head start before you start lobbing debris in my direction.
The Desert Spear was one of my most anticipated reads this year. I noticed last week that it had just come off an epic sized hold list at the library so I picked it up and immediately started devouring it.
Brett sets himself to work right away focusing on the desert culture and bringing to life the villain in The Warded Man, Jardir. He ruthlessly describes aspects of the Krasian culture like the warrior training young boys are entered into, rape, an overarching caste system that seems to permeate every aspect of life and dumps Jardir in the middle of it all. This section was very well written and it’s obvious that it was important for Brett to flip the tables a bit and describe Jardir’s life and motivations. His writing is mature and he truly is ruthless with many of his aspects of culture, not glancing over anything that may be important to the reader.
While many reviewers seem to feel that this section was too long, it quickly became my favorite part of the entire book. It was well thought out, very well executed and written in a mature fashion that makes The Warded Man look docile. Furthermore, Jardir is a very complex character in a complex world. If Brett decided someday to write a book dedicated to him, I don’t think I’d mind it at all. If Jardir wasn’t in this book, the shining diamond in the ruff plot wise, I doubt it would have succeeded.
This book is much longer than The Warded Man, which took place over years while The Desert Spear takes place over months. This is a good and bad thing. It means, on the one hand, that there isn’t a huge backlog of events to slog through (aside from Jardir’s section). However, it also means that there’s a massive book dedicated to a few months and thus; there are large portions where not much seems to happen. While the characters all seem to grow, evolve and become more than they did in The Warded Man, there isn’t much overall progress in the plot. Things happen, but it reminded me quite a bit of the Wheel of Time books (please don’t hurt me) that Jordan wrote toward the end that just kind of hovered with not much happening but movement. There was some bits of excitement, some bits of action, a few wow’s thrown in but otherwise the plot seems to be stuck in limbo neither progressing nor retreating from where The Warded Man left off.
It’s obvious from this book that Brett has hit his literary stride. There was no uncomfortable writing hiccups, or any parts where it was obvious that the author was trying to figure out how to properly execute his plot. He hits the ground running and because of that the writing itself was smooth, descriptive and much more enjoyable. He seemed more comfortable in the tale he was telling, which made it easier for me as the reader to enjoy the overall story being told.
The strength of The Desert Spear isn’t the plot, which in my opinion did a lot of basically nothing. No, the strength is in character relationships and this book seems to be focused on exploring those relationships rather than really progressing along the storyline of the daylight war much. The relationships were interesting, and very well done with a few unexpected turns thrown in. The relationship progression leaves the door open for some very interesting plot twists in books to come.
However, herein lies another issue I had. Brett seems to shove Arlen almost onto a back burner in this book and the sections he did spend on Arlen, paltry as they are, were short and pretty uninteresting when compared to some of the other details happening in the book. It’s a pitty that he did that, as Arlen is one of the most mysterious, compelling and interesting characters in the book.
Rojer was another character who I had high hopes for in The Warded Man but who seemed to miss the mark in The Desert Spear. As other reviewers have mentioned, he spends most of the book whining about Leesha or Arlen or both and though his fiddling is interesting, he’s one of the most stagnate characters in the whole book. It's unfortunate, because he showed so much promise in The Warded Man.
I had the biggest issues with Leesha. First, I should say that I don’t think what happened to her in the first book was well done and that has really put a damper on her in my mind since it happened. She spends a lot of time in this book wrestling with that situation, which, in my opinion was unrealistic to begin with. However, in The Desert Spear she seemed to fill every “I am woman, hear me roar” stereotype Brett could throw at her. She’s independent, strong willed and so beautiful the whole entire world falls in love with her at a glance. Please. I get the desire to create a strong female who has been through a horrible event and I get that she is basically trying to rewrite current traditions and perspectives toward women in this book, but it’s just unrealistic when put in context.
I guess now that I have complained I should say that I didn’t hate this book. I really didn’t. It’s a strong entry into Brett’s series and any fan of The Warded Man will probably end up being a fan of The Desert Spear. The idea behind these books is incredibly interesting. The world is well thought out but it’s not the plot that keeps this book going, it’s the relationships, and Jardir. The Desert Spear was a good read and while it had some critical problems I couldn't overlook, I feel strongly that Brett has shown promise despite the flaws I pick on in this review. Regardless, this is a very strong entry into the series and I highly look forward to the next installment, as Brett seems to be growing and maturing with each book he writes. The Desert Spear has pleased most fans of the series for good reason. I look forward to seeing what Brett can come up with next.