Just finished Peter V. Brett's The Warded Man, and what a great book it turned out to be! I wasn't sure at first... the first chapter is painfully slow. And starting off, the plot seems to be very standard hero's journey blah blah blah. Well, as so often happens in novels, chapter two followed chapter one, and BAM! The story leaps forward at a break-neck pace, and leaves all of your boring fantasy tropes in the dust.
Corelings stalk the night. They are ancient, immortal demons, who rise from the ground each sunset to prey on anything that moves. Like all good demons, they prefer mankind as their main entree--animals only being tasty appetizers, and destruction of buildings, farmland, and any other item useful to man just plain fun. This creates such a cool dilemma for people to overcome. Nobody (at least as far as we know at the books beginning) fights Corelings. In fact, everyone cowers behind wards at night in stark fear. Well, eleven-year-old Arlen thinks there is a better way to deal with the demons. He thinks that men ought to fight, even if it means their own deaths. He discovers just how much fighting back costs as he leaves his village behind for the wider, more dangerous world.
The limits placed on society in TWM are quite intriguing. If demons stalk the night, and people can't defend themselves against the horde, what happens to commerce? To nations, and knowledge? Most people are trapped behind the wards of their own homes or cities, living life unaware of their own imprisonment. Brett gets major props for the tension he's created in his world by cutting everyone off from everyone else.
I could tell you more about the characters, or about the magic and action scenes, but I don't want to spoil the fun. If you haven't picked The Warded Man up, and if you're a fan of fantasy, you deserve to treat yourself to this excellent tale. There is some sexual content, though none that became too descriptive. Two things that bothered me: most of the men (aside from main characters) seem much too willing to rape any woman they come across, and most married women (aside from main characters) seem to want to commit adultery. Again, nothing becomes too descriptive that I think it explicit, but the fact that the majority of people are scum bags kind of got under my skin. I suppose this qualifies TWM as dark fantasy, which is what I typically prefer, so didn't get turned off by it. I thought it worth a warning, though, for those of you who stay away from the dark side. On the bright side, the language is practically as clean as a whistle. I don't recall a single F word in the book.
The Warded Man gets 4 out of 5 stars. Give this one your time!
-as an added note, the narrator, Pete Bradbury did a great job. He read The Dragon's Path, which I reviewed a few months back.