Well, I’ve just finished reading the second book in the Demon War sequence (Peter’s very clear it’s not a trilogy, but that message doesn’t seem to have got thru to the marketing and sales people). I’d really been looking forward to this book, cos I’d enjoyed the first one (The Painted Man) so much.
How did it compare to the first? Well, the Painted Man’s (i.e. Arlen’s) thunder is stolen a bit by Jardir, who believes himself to be the Deliverer rather than Arlen. Thus, we get a strong theme of ‘dualism’. There are two Deliverers, two main female leads (Leesha and Jardir’s first wife), two coreling princes, twin versions of Reena at the end, and so on. The parallelism kinda works cos it hints at two paths for prophecy. It echoes the polarisation of good v evil, light v dark, friend v enemy, etc. It creates a consistent pattern for the book. And the book is largely written in two parts – the first half describing Jardir’s life, and the second half Arlen’s. The two halves flirt with each other and nearly overlap, but our two protagonists don’t actually meet in this book. It leaves things hanging a bit, making us eager for the next book, but also leaving us (well, ‘me’ anyway) a tad dissatisfied. It could just be my personal preference, but I like to see more resolution in a book of so many pages.
Of course, no book is perfect (even mine). Some may find parts of the book a bit ‘domestic’ or lacking in action – but others will like that balance. Some may think there’s too much mention of rape, others may not. Some may think the handling of the ‘muslim’ people in this book is a bit too obvious, others may not. Ultimately, the book avoids making any clumsy judgements and leaves you to reflect upon your own views of the world.
On balance, I think Desert Spear is more subtle than it might first appear. It’s certainly original and fresh. I just hope the demons start becoming more formidable and sneaky in the next book, a book which I’m highly likely to go out and buy as soon as it’s on release. So, it’s a score of 9/10 from me, even though I have mixed feelings about the book.