Random House, 2008, 453 pages
The Warded Man features a world where demons stalk the night, hunting humans who have long forgotten the magic of their ancestors. But all is not lost, as some hold out hope that a savior will release humanity from the demons' terrifying reign.
Like space operas, epic fantasy series are a pleasure of mine that still disappoint far too often, especially as I get older and more jaded and also have read so many books in this genre that it's hard to do something new. So I'm really more interested in the storytelling and prose than I am in the unique twist an author puts on yet another tale of doughty fighters, bards, and mages in not-Europe fighting some diabolical enemy.
Peter Brett's The Warded Man hits most of the epic fantasy tropes — a young man is determined to rise above his station and lead his people to victory over an enemy that seems undefeatable. He becomes the bestest ever by discovering arcane secrets no one else has in centuries, and seems destined to be a Chosen One to defeat the great evil.
Standard plot aside, I did enjoy this quite a lot. The world of The Warded Man may or may not be ours in a fantasy future — the "Ancients" had a great industrial civilization ruled by Science, until the "Corelings" arrived. Corelings are demons who rise from the center of the Earth every night and kill every living thing in sight. The only way to survive is with magic wards that act as protective barriers. So humanity is now concentrated in towns and cities defended with magical wards, and everyone huddles inside at night for fear of demons, who occasionally get past the wards. The few travelers in the Messenger's Guild are brave and suicidal souls who use portable ward circles to stay alive when they camp on the road, with packs of demons howling at them all night a few feet away.
There are three main characters: Leesha the Healer, Rojer the Bard, and Arlen the Mage/Fighter/Monk. Okay, they never use those labels, but basically those are the character classes.
Arlen is the "Warded Man" of the title. He gets the idea of tattooing wards on his skin, after learning super demon-fighting ninja skills from a stint of playing Mighty Whitey down in Desert Warrior Culture Land.
Leesha is the Fantasy Female who spends the first part of the book being the teenage hotty with a Difficult Mother, gets mentored by an ancient herbalist/healer/witch, and most of her chapters are about 50% Leesha is the Best Healer Ever and 50% Leesha Is So Hot Every Man Wants Her.
Rojer's storyline is basically Oh Look Music Affects Demons Too Why Did No One Ever Figure This Out Before?
My synopsis is a bit tongue-in-cheek because this is really standard epic fantasy stuff. But it's got enough of a sense of fun and adventure and not trying to be super grimdark, even while being Serious Epic Fantasy, that I want to read the rest of the series. This first book introduces our three main characters, walks through their childhoods and all the events that shape them, while doing a fair amount of worldbuilding, and by the end, brings them together to form a party of adventurers who will, I guess, go on to fight demons and liberate the world. Or something like that.
Fun stuff, somewhat reminiscent of Brandon Sanderson, maybe David Eddings and Terry Goodkind (though I've read little of them and didn't much like what I read).
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