By Author Peter V. Brett
When I started working in the bookselling business almost a decade ago, I had been stuck in a long reading hiatus. I had read a bunch of fantasy novels before and was already quite of fan of the genre, but like all my hobbies, it ebbed and flowed with time. I don’t always recall when I’ve read certain books, but I will always remember when I first picked up ‘The Warded Man,’ from the shelf of my store. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but I was drawn to the cover and the synopsis gave me some good vibes, so I picked it up. That book sparked and reignited my passion for reading, and not only has it not faltered since, but it’s grown to burn brighter and stronger, leading me to start this blog among other things. I absolutely adore ‘The Demon Cycle’. I have recommended that particular series to more customers than any other series in the last eight years, no contest. One day I hope to do a re-read of the series and post reviews about those books. For now, let me just say that for a long time it stood as my favorite fantasy series since my teen years when I read ‘Dragonlance’ and fell in love with Fantasy. As things stand today, only ‘The Faithful and the Fallen’ has garnered as much of my admiration and praise as ‘The Demon Cycle’. All this to say, when Peter V. Brett announced his next book would be a direct sequel to his first series, I flipped the duck out. I could not be more honoured to be reviewing an early copy of this book. And so without further ado:
Warning: Some significant spoilers from ‘The Demon Cycle’ inevitably made their way into the review. If you have not read it already, drop everything and go read it you fools!
‘The Desert Prince’ picks things up fifteen years after the events of epic proportions that closed out the last book of ‘The Demon Cycle: The Core’. The demons have all but been exterminated by the heroic actions of Arlen, the warded man himself, as well as his friends and companions. The demon queen has been destroyed and a new generation of humans can now grow up in a time where people can finally feel safe.
I was absolutely giddy at the thought of coming back to this world filled with the characters I loved so much. Even if literally all my favorites didn’t make it to the end of the Demon cycle, there were still plenty of old faces to make me smiles from the nostalgia. I knew from the get go that this new series would be featuring the children of our old heroes as the main protagonists, but yet the first thing I wanted was to see how their parents were doing. The ones who I followed through tears and laughter for five books all those years ago. I cannot tell you how good it felt to see Gared, Rena, Leesha, Jardir and yes, even Inevera, again. I think the author really stroke a perfect balance by giving us old school fans enough time with our old favorites while using his undeniable talent for character development to slowly, but surely, make us care about our new heroes.
Speaking of which, I cannot talk enough about how impressed I am at how the author wrote one of his main characters as intersex. This was a first for me and I certainly cannot claim to know much about living life as someone who was born with both reproductive organs. However, reading about Olive Paper’s upbringing in a world where she is raised as a woman, and who is later confronted with her masculine side in very meaningful ways, was something completely unique and very compelling. I really like this character and her development arc is one of my favorites in any novel. To hear her thoughts, to witness her confusion, her internal questions, and the frustrations of her reality really deepened the bond I felt with her and gave a lot of substance to her character. The fact that Olive is the child of Leesha Paper and Ahman Jardir also bring it’s very own tapestry of expectations to Olive’s life and no one understands her struggle with her family’s legacy more than our other main character.
This bring us to Darin Bales. The only child and son of Arlen Bales, the Deliverer himself, and of his wife Renna. Two of the most formidable warriors of their time, who accomplished more heroic deeds than almost anyone else during the Demon Wars. Living with that kind of legacy hanging over your head cannot be easy, especially when you don’t seem to have many of the particular gifts that made your parents so legendary. Even myself as a reader, I started this book with sky-high expectations for Darin. I wanted to see him do all kinds of epic stuff life his parents did before him. I really enjoyed some of his inner dialogue, often noticing people looking at him in weird ways, almost as if they were waiting to witness something awesome. I saw myself in those bystanders. I saw the same eagerness, and at first, the same disappointment. I don’t know if these were written with this kind of phenomenon in mind but if so, kudos to mister Brett for being so meta! Indeed, Darin is not his parents, and his self-confidence suffers a lot from it. I think it’s fair to assume things will develop for our young characters and that they will hopefully forge their own paths out of their parent’s shadows onto their own glorious deeds.
We also meet the children of Rojer Half-Grip, who was such an important character in the Demon Cycle and one of my favorites from that series (I’m still mad at you Peter btw). Before his demise, Rojer’s wives were expecting children of their own and I was so glad to see them show up in this sequel. I am a bit sad that they were not main point-of-views, but I have a feeling that might change in the future. I am especially eager to learn more about Arrick, who is the son of not only Rojer, but also of one of my absolute favorite characters from the first series, Sikvah. Together with his half-sister Rojvah, they are an important part of the story and while they were not as developed as Olive and Darin were, I am hopeful we will see more of them in future books.
It’s also worth noting that The Demon Cycle was written using third person perspective, whereas this book is using the first person perspective. I found the change quite refreshing and it also showcases Peter V. Brett’s talent as a writer and storyteller. I find it especially apropos in this book in regard to our two main character’s inner dialogue which is so vital to their development and hearing it as told directly by them was a great choice.
One of the things the author had really impressed me with in his debut series was his sense of pace and his knack for writing exhilarating action sequences. I was glad, if unsurprised, to see that like his storytelling abilties, he’d honed his craft at writing those in even more impressive ways. From the gore-filled demon attacks to the more personal one on one sharusahk-driven fights, every single battle is glorious and terrible to behold.
‘The Desert Prince’ is a statement by it’s author that his first series’ popularity was no fluke, and cements him as a top notch author in my book. Peter V. Brett not only brings everything he does so well back to the table, everything he was already great at feels even better this time around. This new book is pure joy for fans of ‘The Demon Cycle’, but also offers such a solid story and thrilling entertainment on it’s own that even new readers will have no problem in finding themselves enthralled by this world. I’ve said it many times over the years that this world, it’s story and it’s characters, would be perfectly suited for a TV adaptation if given the proper care and support to respect the original material. Until this happens, I will be perfectly happy reading them again and again until the next book comes out.
Score: 9.5/10 – Masterpiece