The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett
The Daylight War: Book Three of The Demon Cycle
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“On the night of the new moon, the demons rise in force, seeking the deaths of two men, both of whom have the potential to become the fabled Deliverer, the man prophesied to reunite the scattered remnants of humanity in a final push to destroy the demon corelings once and for all.
Arlen Bales was once an ordinary man, but now he has become something more—the Warded Man, tattooed with eldritch wards so powerful they make him a match for any demon. Arlen denies he is the Deliverer at every turn, but the more he tries to be one with the common folk, the more fervently they believe. Many would follow him, but Arlen’s path threatens to lead to a dark place he alone can travel to, and from which there may be no returning.
The only one with hope of keeping Arlen in the world of men, or joining him in his descent into the world of demons, is Renna Tanner, a fierce young woman in danger of losing herself to the power of demon magic.
AhmannJardir has forged the warlike desert tribes of Krasia into a demon-killing army and proclaimed himself Shar’DamaKa, the Deliverer. He carries ancient weapons—a spear and a crown—that give credence to his claim, and already vast swaths of the green lands bow to his control.
But Jardir did not come to power on his own. His rise was engineered by his First Wife, Inevera, a cunning and powerful priestess whose formidable demon bone magic gives her the ability to glimpse the future. Inevera’s motives and past are shrouded in mystery, and even Jardir does not entirely trust her.
Once Arlen and Jardir were as close as brothers. Now they are the bitterest of rivals. As humanity’s enemies rise, the only two men capable of defeating them are divided against each other by the most deadly demons of all—those lurking in the human heart.”
As much as I enjoyed the first two books in this series, I found myself with some serious mixed feelings about The Daylight War. And those mixed feelings apply to just about every aspect of the novel, so I think it’s probably best if I address each element in turn, rather than talking about the novel in general.
First, let’s tackle the plot. Brett spends a lot of time using flashbacks to flesh out events, much as he did in The Desert Spear. Whereas the device worked well before, it’s not as effective this time around because he’s covering the same ground that was covered in the first two books, just from a different point of view. While I found those flashbacks to be interesting (sometimes more interesting than the “present” of the tale), their inclusion reduces the page count given to moving the plot forward. As a result, the novel’s overarching story covers only about a month, and a good chunk of that time is skipped over due to lack of action. Judging by the title, I expected that the Daylight War would actually start, but if it did, it didn’t amount to much more than a few days of demon action.
The setting also has that odd “I liked it but not much happened” aspect. The sequences given over to Inevera, Jardir’s wife, give readers access to the secretive world of the Krasian priestesses, which hasn’t been seen before. I really enjoyed seeing the customs and rituals and traditions of the women—especially as it contrasts well with the world of Krasian men that was showcased in the previous book—but again, it doesn’t move the plot forward.
The parts that focus on Rojer and Leesha, and the parts about Arlen and Renna, all have a bit more variety of location but all end up in pretty much the same places we’ve seen before. I didn’t enjoy their sections as much, perhaps because the author did such a good job of bringing Inevera’s world to life that the rest of it fell flat. We’ve seen the residents of Cutter’s Hollow fight demons before, so it isn’t as fresh in comparison with the mysterious halls of the Krasian priestess stronghold.
Finally, let’s turn to the characters. For the first time, we get the point of view of the enemy as we follow the powerful mind demons in their search for Arlen and Jardir. This not only gives readers a chance to see how demons view our world, but it also gives us some insight into demon society. It’s not written to make them sympathetic, because they’re not meant to be so, but it does give motivation to a race that until now has been a mystery.
We also spend a lot of time with Inevera, which I liked. Finding out her motivations and discovering what her childhood was like gave me a better appreciation for how she’s been shaping events. Arguably, she’s the most interesting and fleshed-out character in this particular novel. She makes a sharp contrast to the characters whom we are already supposed to know, but who all pale in comparison. Rojer rarely engages in the hijinks that marked him in the previous books, spending most of his time in a wagon having sex with two Krasian women and fine-tuning his ability to affect demons with music. Leesha’s existence seems boiled down to being a bargaining chip with Jardir. Arlen has abandoned his dark, brooding aspect to become something like a down-home country boy who just happens to fight demons (and those two facets of his personality do not mesh well at all).
But it’s Renna who set my teeth on edge the most. Over the course of the novel, she goes from being a strong-willed and likeable female character to something completely different. She continuously frets about how she thinks Arlen will leave her behind if she can’t turn herself into a demon-killing bad-ass, and those feelings cause her to alternate between mooning over him and antagonizing him. She quickly devolves into a hostile, anti-social, snarling feral child. There’s little to like about her by the time she gets to engage in some heroics, and by that point, my dislike of her was so strong that I didn’t care.
So, in a nutshell: the flashbacks were more interesting than the “present day” of the story, most of the characters weren’t as likeable as I remembered (and a couple flat out annoyed me), and the main plot barely advanced at all. The promise of the title didn’t pan out, but I still found a lot to enjoy nonetheless. It’s kind of a paradox, I know. This definitely isn’t Brett’s best work, but I think most fans of his novels will find enough to enjoy to keep them coming back for more.
Also by this author: The Desert Spear
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on February 18, 2013.
Series: The Demon Cycle
Publisher: Del Rey
Page Count: 656
Publication Date: February 12, 2013
Acquired: Provided by the publisher as an e-ARC through NetGalley
Read an excerpt