Tuesday, December 14, 2010

[Lisa's Take] The Warded Man - Peter V. Brett

I’m currently in India for work, and the office network is extremely locked down: no gmail, no twitter, no google docs, no facebook, etc. I assumed that blogger would likewise be blocked, so I’ve been sitting on a pile of reviews for the last 2.5 weeks – imagine my delight when I discovered that blogger is not access controlled after all!

This year has been a year of overwhleming “mediocre” among the fantasy books I’ve chosen to read. There have been few truly excellent books in the stack of 40-odd novels I’ve consumed in the last 12 months. There has been some tasty candy, and one or two gems (*cough*Daniel Abraham*cough*) but overall it has been a very so-so year.

The Warded Man is a flagrant exception to that blanket statement about mediocrity. Granted, I read two thirds of it on the plane to India in a sleepy fog, but even allowing for that Brett has produced a truly excellent book. Unlike the last book that I read (that review is coming; it’s not pretty) Brett put in place the full history of his story, and thought through the social and economic implications of his hundreds-of-years war. To say that the characters grow and develop over the course of the book is a gross understatement – his characters positively transform through the flow of the narrative. The transformation of each character is believable, sincere, and utterly moving.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Brett’s first work is the realism of the world. He is not afraid to show the gritty side of humanity, all their faults and cruelties. However, unlike some current authors (Abercrombie is my favorite offender to pick on, the poor guy), Brett does not take the grittiness so far that it jumps the shark and falls off the cliff of believability. Brett also tempers the grittiness with a healthy dose of life’s loving and humorous aspects.

My single complaint with The Warded Man is that the last 20% of the book felt a little rushed – we had been meandering through the growth of each character, and suddenly they are all mature adults and all sorts of events happen all at once. I suppose this might be commentary on adulthood. Overall I did not take issue with the change in pace, but it did make certain things (the love-story aspect in particular) feel a bit tacked-on.

I finished The Warded Man gunning for the sequel. Alas, the only bookstore I can get to in Delhi is pretty small. I was VERY surprised to see the UK edition (called The Painted Man) on the shelves – I bought it just for the novelty of owning two identical books with different titles. The moment I get back to the states I’ll be picking up The Desert Spear, and I will spend the first couple of days of my vacation tearing through it.