There has been a lot of noise about the manner in which Peter V. Brett wrote his first book, deservedly so. What I rarely hear is any kind of criticism of the book itself. Writing a book with your cell phone while on the subway is an impressive trick – but is it any good?
It starts off with an interesting premise that seems to be intent on following a generic fantasy story line. During the day men wander about freely and grow their crops and interact with each other. When the sun goes down, however, the world becomes a playground for demons, armored monsters that rise up out of the ground and devour any living thing in their way, especially humans. The only defense against them is geometrically placed wards that create a magical barrier around buildings. Arlen is a young boy who is frustrated that nobody tries to fight the demons – even though no weapon can pierce their hide. There is a prophecy, proliferated by the local religion that one day The Deliverer will show them how to fight back.
When Arlen’s mother is killed in a demon attack and he runs away from home on a personal quest to fight demons it sounds like it is just treading water – there won’t be anything new. Then it changes.
Arlen does devote his life to learning how to kill demons but that devotion leads him down some dark paths and changes him as a character. He is misguided, arrogant and devious but at his heart he is profoundly moral.
This book revolves around three main characters that don’t meet each other until near the end but each of them is interesting enough that the book never feels dull. Leesha is a healer with tremendous skill who leads and guides people with the strength of her will. Rojer is a boy crippled by a demon attack as a child whose only real skill is playing his violin.
What started out sounding like another young-boy-fulfills-prophecy-and-saves-world makes a sudden turn at the corner of dark-character-journey-of-self-discovery. Even after the turn I don’t think that the story elements themselves are shockingly original but they are a twist and they are well written. At no point in this book was I thrown aside by awkward dialogue or clumsy sentences. I think you’d be surprised how often that happens in published books.
Peter V. Brett has created a world that I want to know more about, but more importantly, he has created a group of characters that I want to meet. They are not only strong and heroic but also good people – a thing that has gone missing in fantasy of late.