Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Desert Spear The Desert Spear
by Peter V. Brett
Harper Voyager

Supplied for review by Harper Collins New Zealand

Reviewed By: Ross Temple

The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett is the direct sequel to The Painted Man - the first volume of The Demon War epic fantasy series. That tells you most of what you need to know. It is the nature of the second book in a fantasy trilogy for it to be a bit of a struggle. The first book sets the scene and develops the history and power of the characters. The third book conducts the final battle against the great evil. But the second book is just a transition. The usual form is to give the main characters some sort of intermediate evil to dispose of. Usually at the end, the main character has gained some sort of special talisman or power that will aid them in the third volume.

There is another trick the author can use in the second book. That is attempt to expand the universe of the series by adding new lands and characters. That is the course Brett takes in this sequel. In the first book, three characters and a very limited land are explored. The first third of The Desert Spear is spend in another land building the history of another player in the drama. It is a big risk, taking the action away from the earlier thread. Particularly when the first volume was a powerful and gritty work. Sadly, this risk does not really come off. The story of the desert warrior that opens this book is well told and brutal but it throws the balance of the work out. By the time the focus returns to the original three characters, the momentum is lost. As it becomes a multi-threaded tale, the book does not seem to flow properly. Transitions happen at odd points in the tae. The book feels unbalanced throughout.

In so many ways this is a pity. Brett has a real talent for telling an earthy and compelling tale as he did with The Painted Man. His evocation of a world besieged and just hanging on in the face of an onslaught by demons that rise out of the ground at night is gripping. In the second book, the individual pieces of writing show at times that he can keep you gripped. It is a pity that the structure of the book lets it down.

As a sequel, this book is only ever likely to appeal to those who have read the first volume. Perhaps this is for the best, because it does not stand on its own merits. Fans of the first book had best be prepared for a struggle while on their way to the third volume climax to the tale.

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