Customer Reviews: The Desert Spear: Book Two of The Demon Cycle
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on March 6, 2011
Really, this entire book had pacing problems, and the demons became less and less of a strange elemental threat and more a weird sci-fi thing. But honestly, Leesha's sudden switch as to her sexual mores and concerns was just bizarre. I mean, I went back and forth through the pages trying to see if somehow she missed the whole thing where Jardir has women raped so as to create strong warriors.

I find rape to be way too easily used in fantasy novels, but Leesha being raped in the first novel was such a powerful and painful event for all of us. Sadly, it made sense in the context of the novel. I found it heart breaking but understandable that she wanted Arlen to have sex with her so she could pretend he was the father if she got pregnant.

Then, out of nowhere, she falls for the guy who is telling his men to go out and rape women. After being drugged. 'Nuff said.
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on July 8, 2010
To start with, like many of the other reviewers, I loved the first book. I *bought* the first book, and, as a college student who moves frequently (so money and space are both at a premium), that's saying quite a bit.

That being said, I found this book a rather disappointing sequel. While the first book focused on three characters, building them up slowly, developing them a little and then moving to another, this one spends the entire first half on a single character, Jadir, who we have no reason to like, and not a lot of reason to care about.

I will grant you, the backstory for him is kind of cool, but I can't even give it the praise of being well-written, because the transitions in time (from present day to backstory and back again), were frequently poorly handled, leaving me confused as to why something was happening because I was in the wrong time period.

Even coming in knowing that the first half was about him, I found myself wishing early on that we could just get back to the characters I liked, and their much more promising development. That, however, disappointed as well.

Arlen: Arlen was, and remains, my favorite character in this series. Most of the parts about Arlen involved him beating it into our heads that he isn't human any more, and is such an abomination that he ought to just give up and die. However, his travels alone, and interactions with the people from his past were very well written and fascinating, and his reunion with his adopted parents was poignant.

The Jongular (who's name I forget): That probably says most of what needs to be said about him. He felt like an adjunct character in the first book, and he doesn't seem to be much more here. His sole points of note are his abilities to charm demons with music, his pining for Leesha, and oh, by the way, his ability to charm demons with music.

Leesha: Why, hello there, Leesha, do you mind if I call you Mary Sue, instead? That is, rather sadly, what she's become in this book. Not only can she ward better than anyone, even those who have practiced their whole lives, and who's survival depends (more) upon it *cough*Arlen*cough*, but she is the most beautiful woman on the face of the planet, claims to be able to heal an illness which has stymied all other gathers (a man's inability to have children), and, by the way, can pick up an entire new language in a week or so, in her 20s. Her sole complaint is that her mother remains spiteful and controlling, despite Leesha's ability to control everyone else, and her mother seems to be stuck there solely to annoy the reader.

In fact, I rather hated the way he handled all of the women in this book. They're all beautiful, and are, without fail, either domineering, controlling women, or helpless victims to be abused. This was true in the first book, too, but here it seemed much worse. I won't say more on that issue, because others have said it better than I could, but it would be worth a rant all on its own.

That all being said, it was still a good book. The humor and ingenuity that made me fall in love with the first one was still there, and the plot kept going strong. I loved the inclusion of the demon princes and the way they interacted with and influenced the world around them, making them perhaps my favorite characters this time around.

I probably won't buy this book. I almost definitely won't buy the sequel, especially if he doesn't start wrapping up more loose ends than he creates. I feel a little like I've been down this road with the Wheel of Time books, and I have no desire to keep reading this one until it reaches the point of plotlessness as well.
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on November 1, 2011
I'm fairly new to PVB, having just begun the Warded Man series. While the first book had its flaws (again, mostly with characters), the sequel fails in pretty much every way its predecessor succeeded. Strap in folks, this is gonna be a long review.


First, the atmosphere of this book is entirely different than that of the Warded Man. The first book took place in a world of fear and tension, where demons were thought to be immortal and the slightest hole in your wardnet spelt a grisly end. I will say that Brett did an AMAZING job of building up the corelings in the first book, and you could feel a genuine fear for the main characters with every sunset.

In this book, the corelings are little more than rabid chihuahuas. At their most intimidating, I couldn't picture them as being anything scarier than those leering trees in Snow White. I recall Arlen having a devil of a time killing his first demon, even when he got a warded weapon. Here, the task poses no problem for an octogenarian with the cane kicked out from under him.

Truth be told, the total castration of the demon race didn't bother me nearly so much as the book's main flaw: its characters.

Creating likeable characters was a bit of a challenge for PVB in the first book as well, his most obvious failure being the inclusion of Leesha (Look, say what you want but she was NEVER anything more than a Mary Sue). Fortunately, Leesha's chapters in the Warded Man were easy to skip and far between. The Desert Spear offers us no such reprieve from her grating perfection, as even when she's not physically present, other characters often find a way to bring her up and spout on about what a beautiful, intelligent, fierce, strong, domineering, virtuous, innovative, artistic, fast-learning, self-sacrificing little angel she is. Seeing as just about EVERYONE in the Desert Spear is singing her praises, I'm not sure why no one's nominated her for Deliverer.

Tragically, the characters assassinations do not stop with Leesha. I will say that I didn't mind the intro with Jardir all that much in the beginning, as it could have been interesting to explore the source of Krasian fanaticism, and get an inside perspective on how good intentions (ridding the world of demons) can beget terrible actions (turning unwilling northlanders into cannon fodder to shore up the numbers in your war). Unfortunately, Jardir is one of those characters where the more you know about him, the less you can forgive him. I still don't get how the readers are supposed to think he's not such a bad guy when he encourages rape, pillaging, and murder.

The majority of supporting characters are cardboard cutouts of much better stereotypes. Wonda and Gared are bumbling idiots created only to verbally glorify the main characters and start random fights over some minor offense for the express purpose of being berated by their posturing masters. They kinda remind me of my buddy's overactive pitbulls who try to rip my arm off every time I steal a bite of her nutrigrain bar.

Jardir's henchmen are sneering douchebags who, again, only exist so that he can lecture them in front of other people to seem like a nice guy.

On the barest note of positivity, there is the Arlen and Renna subplot. Arlen was a very well-written character in the first book, being that he was strong and relatable, while at the same time imperfect. That is, he could appear selfish and uncomprehending as often as he was brave and friendly. In this book, he is a different character, who happens to share Arlen's name and origins. Much of the book is his worrying that he will eventually become a full demon, and being sad that he gave up his good friends and pretty face. Even though the angst was a bit much, it was one of the less frustrating parts of the book, not to mention Arlen heralds some good action scenes. Renna wasn't too bad either, though I agree with a lot of the other reviewers that her incest situation could have been solved by throwing the old rapist to the corelings and living your merry life. It was a little weird that she was so hung up on Arlen for so long after that one chance encounter as a child. Desperate much?

The last thing that I HATED about this book was the teeth-grindingly obnoxious hockney accent that everyone mysteriously picked up. I don't remember Arlen talking like a hillbilly in the last book. Or Elona, for that matter. But for some reason, the majority of characters in this book (foreigners excluded) talk like they're straight out of Deliverance. But only sometimes. Not only did it make it impossible for me to take the characters seriously, it got to be so annoying that I had to do automatic translations from the ye old hick dialect or risk getting annoyed enough to break my $200 nook.

I won't be reading the next installment.
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on May 24, 2010
Let me begin by saying the first book in this series The Warded Man is easily one of my favorite books of all time. Brett did a brilliant job setting up a world (possibly in our future) where the total human population had been reduced from billions at its peak to a few hundred thousand struggling to survive. In this world, indestructible demons ruled the night and people huddled behind fences that were tested every time the sun went down and where the slighted mistake in setting them up meant that everyone inside would die a violent death. At the end of the first book, the discovery of the combat wards allowed the humans to start to fight back and removed "indestructible" from the demon description. They were still at least the equivalent of a horde of hungry grizzly bears though -- a Krasian in his prime who had trained his entire life should be able to defeat it 3 times out of 4, but they were hardly a push over.

By the end of the second book though, Brett had reduced the demons a little more than a nuisance. The point in the book where he completely lost my support was when Arlen went to the village and told the elders that if they did not take up a spear and go demon hunting he would leave them. So this 80 yr old granny who walks with a cane grabs a spear and goes out and kills a wood demon. Really? Do you think a untrained senior citizen could kill a bear with nothing but a sharp spear and a Taser?

Other reviewers have complained about all the time spent on the Jardir/Krasian back story. Personally I was fine with Brett giving more depth to the culture. After all, this is a civilization who's entire way of life was based around fighting demons and making sure the best fighters had lots of children. They should get top billing in the human's fight against the demons. The training, dedication and sacrifice the Krasians had to go through to be able to fight them was perfectly balanced with the destructive power of those demons. Where the story fell apart was where ordinary farmers, mothers and grannies were just as effective as the Krasians after a few weeks of training. That completely destroyed the mood of fear and danger Brett had cultivated during the first book.

I'm still hopeful Brett will be able to pull it out in the next book. If he had not reduced the demons to a pack of rabid poodles and kept the palpable sense of fear that permeated the first book, this would have been another 5 star review. As it is, this is still a great series and if this book was standing by itself, I'm sure it would have rated higher. It only pales in comparison to the first book.
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on October 30, 2014
I had a lot of hope for this series. The concept was unique and exciting. As a woman, naturally I am going to attach myself to the female characters. This became daunting when all the female characters were developed around sex, rape, virginity, abuse, etc. It became ridiculous and unnecessary. Word to the author, you can write strong female characters without focusing on what is between their legs, same is true for male characters.

The writing was solid but the organization was confusing. Shifting perspectives in the same scene can be exhausting.

The names and phrases were confusing and difficult to keep straight. Flipped to the back of the book constantly to simply try and keep dama'ting an dama'jing straight.

This series (book 1 and 2) was disappointing and frustrating. I do not allow myself to put a book down mid-series and form an opinion often, but this one has to be an exception. It was that bad. I just can't anymore with these demon cycle novels.
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on September 13, 2015
I enjoyed the first book in this series. I was looking forward to the second book a great deal. It was an exciting world with an interesting mythology and I was interested to see how things would progress towards the inevitable triumph of good over evil that helps make fantasy fun to read. What I got instead was rape fest and brown people are monsters.

At some point I realized that I wasn't wondering what would happen to female characters when they were introduced, only when they would be raped. It's only a matter of time for each and every female character, it seems. Brett seems to rely heavily on the old, hackneyed, lazy technique of using rape to give female characters motivation. This is because his female characters are completely one dimensional, and that dimension is sex. The females with the most agency in the book will 1) be raped, because they all are and then 2) make sexual decisions totally at odds with their personality because they see a big hunky male. Leesha is this worst about this. After being gang raped she almost immediately throws herself at the next strong male to come along. At one point she feels guilty about preventing another male from raping her! He talks about how upset he's been because he couldn't rape her and she feels bad that she made him feel bad. Maybe she should have just let him? Would that have been so bad? Because every good girl rolls over for any man coming along. They don't get to have their own wants and desires. To write about every rape and how horribly it's used in this book would be a book in and of itself, so I'll just leave it there. These themes are presented over and over and over again until it seems like it's all the book is about.

Also, I'm guessing this book is popular with the stormfront crowd because it's got a good dose of racism going as well. I can't think of a redeeming factor for the desert people. Maybe that they fought demons when no one else did? Of course, everything about them fighting the demons was barbaric and mindlessly violent. They rape, they kill on a whim, they have an oppressive caste system. They're basically portrayed as slavering beasts with only a thin veneer of civilization over them. They're caricatures of desert people and the only reason this isn't the most offensive part of the book is the staggering amount of rape.

It's all disappointing because if you could do an edit to get rid of all of it the books will be a lot of fun to read.
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on November 1, 2010
I'm quite disappointed in the follow up. I rated it two stars since I still finished it and stayed up late reading it hoping something better will come along.

For those of you who have trouble following viewpoint changes, there's a lot of it going on in here. It should be easy to follow though since it always goes back a couple of minutes in the story but from the viewpoint of another person on the scene. For people like me who has no problem following viewpoint changes, it's a little annoying doing all that backtracking.

The first quarter of the book was mostly devoted to Jadir (which includes his relationship with Abban). This is an attempt to make us understand him and sympathize with him. I must say that I still dont like him. Makes me think he's a fool who's being led around by his wife and worst of all is how he uses religion to justify his actions. Do I think him an evil evil man? No but I do think he should die for his actions if only his rise to power didn't make him such an important figure.

Now that I think about it, not much happened in this book. The war between the humans got started and the mind demons got introduced. Arlen gains some new powers. Different prospective love interests were introduced.

Warning: spoilers

So the possible hook up between Arlen & Leesha didn't go through. They separated early on in the book to go their own separate ways. In this book, instead of protraying women as sluts, they're manipulative sluts. Not that there's a lot of manipulation going on but it certainly did talk about women manipulating men especially with the power of sex. Jadir fell in love at first sight. Man, he has 14 wives! Is it because he didn't get to pick a single one of them? Anyway, here he is rutting after Leesha. BTW why are all the men so hot for her? It's like she has a magic spell or something. Anyway, Leesha goes off with Jadir to try and prevent war from reaching the Hollow and because she's attracted to him. So she says she wants to form her own opinion on him even though she's been told he's a bad man. Doesn't actions speak louder than words? He invaded their land and allows his warriors to rape all the females of child-bearing age. I know some people said Leesha didn't fall in love with Jadir and that she left but you know what? The only reason she did that was because he had 14 wives. There are parts of the book which shows that she thought he was chivalous and all that baloney like when he gifted her with his bible. She's constantly feeling flattered. She slept with him and the morning after she assured him that she did it of her own free will and that she enjoyed it.

Meanwhile, Arlen went on a journey down memory lane. He went back to Miln where he found out how mean he has been to his loved ones by abandoning them and never going back. He didn't even send them a word after how they cared for him. Afterwards, he went back to Tibbet's Brook where he learned what happened to Renna because he never went back. All he did in this book was feel regret.

Poor Renna. I find the chapter where she first reappear quite distasteful. So we all know what an incestuous pedophile her dad is and Brett rubs our faces in it. It's finally Renna's turn to be raped nightly by her father. This is a man in his fifties and she's in her prime and she works out. People age faster so her dad should be tottering by now. Even if he weren't, she could still have knifed or poisoned him and toss him out for the corelings. That would take care of any evidence she's committed patricide. Nope, we're treated to her nightly defilement, her weakness, her stupidity in exposing her escape plan, and the messy conclusion. Was this necessary? Maybe. It gave her a reason to be reckless later on in the story. I can't believe she came up with the idea for exploding acorns since thinking didn't seem to be her strong suit.
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on May 15, 2010
Yes ladies and gentlemen that would be the burner that also greatly scarred me. I was thrilled with Mr. Brett's first showing in the Warded Man series but then he just had to try to "shake things up" without the least bit of knowledge how to do that.

This is the second low rating review I have written of an author I really used to like, no in this case worship! I thought Brett's characters were well developed the plot well done for a first foray into this brave new world. Two stars is more than I thought it deserved but I will save my true anger in review if he continues in this theme further.

This is the pre-spoiler part ladies and gentlemen.
Women in this world are sneaky, moral-less hussies who might do a snake if someone would bother to hold it still for them.

Now for some back ground about what I mean, with SOME spoilers.
Brett decided that his character of Jadir needed more depth, so he practically re-wrote his past. All the "bad" "backstabbing" actions he undertook in the first book? Not his fault. In fact, when his men refused to kill Arlen because he killed the coreling with nothing but his wits in the previous book it somehow MAGICALLY changed into Jadir's kindness and inability to put his friend to death.

Now we move on to the worst of all the characters... Leesha. Leesha was a caring woman who was determined to teach the Warded man to care no matter what it takes.. knowing his rejection is his own fear.. UNTIL this book when all that changes and Leesha drops her panties to the New Jadir because he is hawt and the warded man means nothing but an old school girl's fancy. Brett's attempt to make things more adult and mix things up just made me sick.

Those two are the worst Brett has to offer and are about as worthless a show of re-written history and human empathy that I can point a finger at in any recently published work.

I loved the first book, and I don't mind a twist. This wasn't a twist this was a re-write of the history and of the character core principles. I was dancing waiting for the release of this book but after reading it, and hearing that there will be now FIVE if he keeps this up I will have to stop reading if he doesn't pull himself together in the next book.

This book read like Been there done that, in reverse order for Arlen. This all feels played out, and Mr. Brett should be ashamed of himself for this horrible game. I am sure he will say well just wait and see.... The rumors of two deliverer's was perhaps the nail in the coffin. Your re-write and attempts to make Jarir more compassionate would have been better if there was the slightest hint of it in the first book. Since you didn't this was obviously a ploy to drag the story out longer, keep the original love interests away longer and make us wonder where your brain went sir.

I cannot tell you how ashamed I am right now for how I shouted the praises of the Warded Man from the mountain tops, and now they will read this and say WFT?!?!? Just like I did. This was a cheap trick to make money and prolong the story so you could push a trilogy to five books. Your characterizations of women are bad, and pushing Leesha off as the good wife for Jadir make me want to vomit. This series had the potential to surpass the Wheel of Time in my opinion. That would take more than a miracle now with this re-write tripe!
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on June 5, 2013
I liked the first book and thought it was a pretty interesting concept, liked the characters and development and so on. However, this book went downhill.

First of all, pertaining to the character Leesha - I haven't disliked a female character this much since Robert Jordan's books that delved into his deep seated woman issues. Terrible. Bossy, perfect, etc. She even fought a lifelong combat trained Krasian woman (forgot the name, but the queen character) to a draw with absolutely no martial experience whatsoever. Hmm... Then she starts to fall in love with the Krasian leader that is basically trying to enslave the world and murdering everyone in his path. You know it's bad when you start to root for the supposed "bad guys". I wanted her to die painfully. That's not good.

And, you might as well just stop beating around the bush and change Krasians to "Taliban".

Then around halfway through the book, Arlen starts to talk like a redneck. He goes back to his hometown and all of a sudden is speaking like a backwater hick. "Yall reckon we gots to fight dem Krasians". Yeah, that helps credibility. Deep southern accents are always a plus in the fantasy genre.

From what I understand, the next book is even worse. So....nah. I'll just assume that Leesha singlehandedly saves the world while Arlen broods about not being all human anymore.

Sorry if this review is brutal, but I did say it was a great concept and the first book was great. I guess that's why it's such a letdown, I was hoping for so much more.
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on April 24, 2010
After reading "The Warded Man," I too was excited to read the sequel. The story concept itself is great, but what worked well enough in the first novel faded after 500-odd pages of the second. Here is some of the questions I have with Brett's book:

1. Why is it so damn long? He could have cut out 200 pages and not lost much.

2. What's with all the sex? Everyone is the book is either doing it or wanting to do it, causing it to read like some 14 year old boy's fantasy of how grown adults are supposed to act.

3. Why is every strong woman in the story portrayed like a scheming succubus?

4. Why does everyone in the hamlets sound like they're from Oklahoma?

5. How is it that the characters suddenly turn from yokel-farmers to Demon-Killing Jujitzu masters after only two weeks and a few lessons? The demons, so terrible and fear-inspiring in "The Warded Man," become little more than cannon fodder in this sequel.

6. Why is Peter Brett so averse to the word "said"? The author shows his lack of proficiency in the use of dialogue tags, which become clunky and distracting after a reading, over and over again, that someone "hissed" when he/she reacts in anger to a certain comment. Nobody actually talks in this book, but they "hiss," "snarl," "snort," and "spit" more than a bunch of farm cats in breeding season.

Basically what killed it for me was the characterization in this book, which ranged from mediocre to downright awful--so bad in places that it caused me to put the book down and shake my head, thining "There is no way a real human being ever would have (done/said/thought) that just now..." I found myself skimming through the last 100 pages just to get it over with.

It's too bad, really. What started out as an excellent story concept has derailed into a clumsy caricature of a good fantasy epic, which--in more capable hands--might have been a really good read.
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