Those of you who are familiar with Joseph Campbell and the concept of the monomyth are going to spot some very familiar structures in The Warded Man. While this may only be the first part of the Demon Cycle, Peter V. Brett makes liberal use of the Hero’s Journey for each of the three protagonists in the novel.
None of them get all 17 steps, but there’s plenty of familiarity in the basic structure here. In many ways it is extremely familiar territory for a fantasy novel. And by the end of the book all three of the viewpoint characters have reached a point of fundamental change. which leads to a satisfying conclusion even with further books to follow.
While the tropes may be familiar the setting is rather refreshing. Instead of being set in a medieval styled world, this is actually a futuristic setting that has been decimated by demons (themselves quite distinctive) and effectively reverted to something closer to the dark ages in mindset and technology. There are also hints of a Western feel to the setting.
Brett’s big issue is fear. Throughout the story he looks at what fear does to people. Either giving in to it, or fighting it. Everyone in the book is affected by fear. Whether of the demons, or family or themselves.
The demons are magical in nature we are told. And certainly they appear to be largely elemental (rock, fire, wood, sand). They can be warded off using special combinations of runes that have to be drawn with incredible precision and must remain uncovered in order to work.
There were a couple of times when I felt like there may be some holes in the logic behind the runes but the action kept coming so fast I never really dug into whether that was the case or not. It may simply be that the nature of them is not fully explained in this book.
The world that Arlen, Leesha and Rojer inhabit is a brutal one. It’s made pretty (unpleasantly at times) clear that at least out in the country women have the worst end of the deal. There is an interesting contrast in fact to be drawn between town and country in that respect though the book does not focus on it. That said the men’s lot in life is not a happy one either. Pain, beatings and the likelihood of death appear to be the norm in this world.
We watch these three characters grow from a young (pre-teen) age through to adulthood and they do grow. Their attitudes change and mature as life and it’s challenges molds them into what they become.
Interestingly Brett keeps the characters apart until very close to the end of the story and while each character goes through fundamentally life altering events none of them really address the central mysteries of the world.
What are these demons? Where did they come from? How will they be defeated?
We get a few teasing hints. The idea that they may be insect like in nature. The notion that Arlen may in fact be able to phase back to the core with them. But all of that is to come in future books.
What we actually get here is a much simpler story about three people becoming heroes, finding each other and saving a small town.
And just on that level it’s certainly well worth reading. But now I’m really eager to find out the answers to some of those bigger questions.
Now It’s Your Turn!
- Have you read The Warded Man? If so what did you think?
- Do you have a favorite post apocalyptic fantasy? What is it?