The Desert Spear – Peter V. Brett

I have a feeling that I might have things thrown at me for this review. I didn’t hate the book, but I also can’t sing its praises like many reviewers seem to be doing. All I ask is please give me a head start before you start lobbing debris in my direction.
The Desert Spear was one of my most anticipated reads this year. I noticed last week that it had just come off an epic sized hold list at the library so I picked it up and immediately started devouring it.
Brett sets himself to work right away focusing on the desert culture and bringing to life the villain in The Warded Man, Jardir.  He ruthlessly describes aspects of the Krasian culture like the warrior training young boys are entered into, rape, an overarching caste system that seems to permeate every aspect of life and dumps Jardir in the middle of it all. This section was very well written and it’s obvious that it was important for Brett to flip the tables a bit and describe Jardir’s life and motivations. His writing is mature and he truly is ruthless with many of his aspects of culture, not glancing over anything that may be important to the reader. 
While many reviewers seem to feel that this section was too long, it quickly became my favorite part of the entire book. It was well thought out, very well executed and written in a mature fashion that makes The Warded Man look docile. Furthermore, Jardir is a very complex character in a complex world. If Brett decided someday to write a book dedicated to him, I don’t think I’d mind it at all. If Jardir wasn’t in this book, the shining diamond in the ruff plot wise, I doubt it would have succeeded.
This book is much longer than The Warded Man, which took place over years while The Desert Spear takes place over months. This is a good and bad thing. It means, on the one hand, that there isn’t a huge backlog of events to slog through (aside from Jardir’s section). However, it also means that there’s a massive book dedicated to a few months and thus; there are large portions where not much seems to happen. While the characters all seem to grow, evolve and become more than they did in The Warded Man, there isn’t much overall progress in the plot. Things happen, but it reminded me quite a bit of the Wheel of Time books (please don’t hurt me) that Jordan wrote toward the end that just kind of hovered with not much happening but movement. There was some bits of excitement, some bits of action, a few wow’s thrown in but otherwise the plot seems to be stuck in limbo neither progressing nor retreating from where The Warded Man left off.
It’s obvious from this book that Brett has hit his literary stride. There was no uncomfortable writing hiccups, or any parts where it was obvious that the author was trying to figure out how to properly execute his plot. He hits the ground running and because of that the writing itself was smooth, descriptive and much more enjoyable. He seemed more comfortable in the tale he was telling, which made it easier for me as the reader to enjoy the overall story being told.
The strength of The Desert Spear isn’t the plot, which in my opinion did a lot of basically nothing. No, the strength is in character relationships and this book seems to be focused on exploring those relationships rather than really progressing along the storyline of the daylight war much. The relationships were interesting, and very well done with a few unexpected turns thrown in. The relationship progression leaves the door open for some very interesting plot twists in books to come.
However, herein lies another issue I had. Brett seems to shove Arlen almost onto a back burner in this book and the sections he did spend on Arlen, paltry as they are, were short and pretty uninteresting when compared to some of the other details happening in the book. It’s a pitty that he did that, as Arlen is one of the most mysterious, compelling and interesting characters in the book.
Rojer was another character who I had high hopes for in The Warded Man but who seemed to miss the mark in The Desert Spear. As other reviewers have mentioned, he spends most of the book whining about Leesha or Arlen or both and though his fiddling is interesting, he’s one of the most stagnate characters in the whole book. It’s unfortunate, because he showed so much promise in The Warded Man
I had the biggest issues with Leesha. First, I should say that I don’t think what happened to her in the first book was well done and that has really put a damper on her in my mind since it happened. She spends a lot of time in this book wrestling with that situation, which, in my opinion was unrealistic to begin with. However, in The Desert Spear she seemed to fill every “I am woman, hear me roar” stereotype Brett could throw at her. She’s independent, strong willed and so beautiful the whole entire world falls in love with her at a glance. Please. I get the desire to create a strong female who has been through a horrible event and I get that she is basically trying to rewrite current traditions and perspectives toward women in this book, but it’s just unrealistic when put in context.  
I guess now that I have complained I should say that I didn’t hate this book. I really didn’t. It’s a strong entry into Brett’s series and any fan of The Warded Man will probably end up being a fan of The Desert Spear. The idea behind these books is incredibly interesting. The world is well thought out but it’s not the plot that keeps this book going, it’s the relationships, and Jardir. The Desert Spear was a good read and while it had some critical problems I couldn’t overlook, I feel strongly that Brett has shown promise despite the flaws I pick on in this review. Regardless, this is a very strong entry into the series and I highly look forward to the next installment, as Brett seems to be growing and maturing with each book he writes. The Desert Spear has pleased most fans of the series for good reason. I look forward to seeing what Brett can come up with next.  
3.5/5 stars

14 Responses

  • Aidan Moher

    Very similar to my impressions of the novel, especially the comparisons to Wheel of Time and the strength of Jardir's section.

    I don't think you needed the paragraph at the end, though. Just a simple wrap-up to the review would have felt truer to your opinion. It's alright to take issue with a novel, especially when you justify your opinions clearly (as you've done).

  • Sarah

    I guess I was trying to sooth any overly ruffled feathers with that last paragraph. Thanks for the comment!

  • Brenda

    I still need to read the first book, so I probably won't read your review here, in case of spoilers for the first one.

  • Aleksandra

    I actually don't think this is a bad review! Although I loved The Desert Spear (although not as much as The Painted Man) I agree with you! I think that I read that he'll dedicate more time to Rojer in the next book. I love the series 🙂

  • Carin B.

    I have not actually heard of this series, but it sounds like it could be interesting. The comparison to WoT worries me a little because I've heard so many bad things about the progression of the series (i.e., writing pages and pages of nothing I guess. People said it got very boring). You wrote a really nice review and hopefully the next one will be better than this one.

  • Sarah

    Carin, the start of the WoT books were really good. In my opinion they started to fall apart at book 8. However, I've heard that Sanderson has breathed new life into the series as a whole. I haven't read Towers of Midnight yet, but I plan to fairly soon…

  • Phil

    I also agree with you on most of the less positive aspects of the book (mostly Rojer whining, lack of Arlen and story advancement). I had not really seen Leesha in that light but in retrospective I think you're right again.

    It's not easy to write a review about a book in which you found several flaws even if you think it was good enough as a whole. As Aidan said, I think you did a good work.

  • Emily

    I definitely had a big problem with Leesha's portrayal in The Desert Spear, as well as the portrayal of most of the other secondary female characters as well. Very few were portrayed convincingly or in a positive manner when it came to sexuality. I'm still waiting for a woman in this series to be sexually active and not be called a whore, or use sex for her own gain.

    And yet, I will be most likely be picking up the next book in the series. The writing is that addicting.
    This was a great review!

  • Jared

    Agree with Emily (and the original review). Leesha's portrayal was AWFUL. In fact, every woman in the series seemed obsessed with her "womb" – a word that probably hasn't been written that many times in a single volume since Victorian midwifery.

    I liked the Jardir section, if only because he was a fairly entertaining fantasy stereotype, whereas the other characters largely spent their time a) being miserable and b) having sex. Considering how brilliant The Painted Man was, I'll stick with this for the next book, but I'm hoping this was just a bit of a hiccup, and not a sign of things to come.

  • Mark Timmony

    I hear what you're say but I must admit I didn't have the same issues with it.

    This book – while I do not in any way believe it was a 'place holder' – was more 'a get all the threads in line'. And that being said I really enjoyed.

    I don't agree that the plot hovered, it did move forward but that wasn't the point of this book, the point of the book was aligning the parts that are going to be used going forward.

    Anyway, great review. It's good to have a differing opinion – and I thought your last oaragraph was fine. There is nothing wrong with clarifying your position – especially if it could be taken out of context.


  • Melissa (My words and pages)

    I have heard a few saying the same about Leesha. I have not read the book yet, but I do have it on the shelf here to get to. Sounds like this is the middle child. A lot of character building and drawing here to prepare us for book three. I am really curious to get into the book here sometime… Thanks for the honest review.

  • Jamie Gibbs

    A good, honest review 🙂
    I'd heard a lot of praise for the Desert Spear, but if plot is sacrificed in favour of character development (whilst this isn't a bad thing) I may not rush to read it.

  • Ryan

    I'll agree with you on that Jardir was a very much needed and well played section of the book. I literally went from hating the guy to being someone of understanding why he is what he is.

    I couldn't even stand Leesha in Warded Man, and Desert Spear didn't help much either. I'm interested to see what #3 'Daylight War' brings to the series.

    This is Ryan from WatchPlayRead btw, love your reviews here! 😀

  • Sarah

    I really hope "The Daylight War" brings the series back to the quality of "The Warded Man"… I really was disappointed with this books and felt it doubly strong because I wanted to read this book SO BAD.

    Thanks for the review compliments! It's good to see you on here!

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