The Skull Throne: Demon Cycle, Book 4

The Skull ThroneAuthor: Peter V. Brett
Book Name: The Skull Throne
Series: Demon Cycle
Order: #4
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Okay
3+stars


 

 

Blurb:  The Skull Throne of Krasia stands empty.

Built from the skulls of fallen generals and demon princes, it is a seat of honor and ancient, powerful magic, keeping the demon corelings at bay. From atop the throne, Ahmann Jardir was meant to conquer the known world, forging its isolated peoples into a unified army to rise up and end the demon war once and for all.

But Arlen Bales, the Warded Man, stood against this course, challenging Jardir to a duel he could not in honor refuse. Rather than risk defeat, Arlen cast them both from a precipice, leaving the world without a savior, and opening a struggle for succession that threatens to tear the Free Cities of Thesa apart.

In the south, Inevera, Jardir’s first wife, must find a way to keep their sons from killing one another and plunging their people into civil war as they strive for glory enough to make a claim on the throne.

In the north, Leesha Paper and Rojer Inn struggle to forge an alliance between the duchies of Angiers and Miln against the Krasians before it is too late.

Caught in the crossfire is the duchy of Lakton—rich and unprotected, ripe for conquest.

All the while, the corelings have been growing stronger, and without Arlen and Jardir there may be none strong enough to stop them. Only Renna Bales may know more about the fate of the missing men, but she, too, has disappeared. . . .

Review:  At first, I wasn’t even going to write a review on this because I was so conflicted I just didn’t know where to even begin or how I really felt about it.  After thinking on it and having it drive me crazy I decided that I apparently needed to just get it out.

From a general standpoint, the concept and basic story is still pretty interesting and is really the only reason why I decided to read this one after the first three frustrated me so much.  They are actually pretty good, but there are also so very many specifics that make me want to toss this across the room and that just out and out piss me off.  There isn’t a rating for “This is good, but it also totally sucks.”

For the first time, we didn’t spend over half the book focused on stuff that has already happened and that we apparently have to suffer through from yet another character’s viewpoint, so that was a plus.  Sadly, Mr. Brett still managed to find ways to bloat this with so much that was rather unnecessary filler.  This could have easily been cut down by about 1/3 at least.  I have no problem with lengthy books.  In fact, those are typically some of my favorites, but only when every bit is important to the overall story.  That isn’t the case here.

Once you wade through all the stuffing, you then have to deal with seeing characters that have been pretty great in the series suddenly get a personality transplant into something rather ridiculous.  We saw it between book one and book two with Leesha.  With this one, it was Rojer.  He had his moments of self pity in previous books, but he seemed to get over those and get a backbone.  In this, he kind of becomes pathetic and only interested in getting yet another wife (don’t even want to get into the cultural overload in this series or how pathetic or horrible every single woman is portrayed).  He isn’t the only one.  By the time this book was finished, I don’t think that there really was a single character that was left even remotely likable, with maybe the exception of Arlen and that is only because he hardly has a second of page time, yet another annoyance.

Not only does the author do a pretty thorough job of destroying the personalities and likability of the majority of his characters in this book, he decides that it is a good idea to go on a giant killing spree and knock off a few pretty major characters as well as a whole slew of other secondary, but still prominent characters.

Between the personality changes and so many characters dying and the fact that not a single character is now left in this story that isn’t a self-serving, greedy, hateful creature, by the time I reached the end of this book I was ready to root for the demons to wipe out the human race because they were all too stupid to live.  While I would like to know how this all ends, I don’t think there is enough left to like after this book to suffer through all the garbage that I just can’t stand enough to read any more books in this series.

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The Daylight War: Demon Cycle, Book 3

The Daylight WarAuthor: Peter V. Brett
Book Name: The Daylight War
Series: Demon Cycle
Order: 3
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Good
3+stars


Blurb:  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.

Ahmann Jardir has forged the warlike desert tribes of Krasia into a demon-killing army and proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, 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.

Review:  Again we have a book that has been bloated with redundancies and stuffed with dullness to the point where it does an impressive job of drowning out the rest that is actually pretty great.

It was bad enough when we had a rather large percentage of book 2 being a rehash of many events from book one, but presented from a different character perspective.  Here, we have almost all of those same events getting presented yet again from a third character’s perspective.  It was interesting, but not awesome the first time, as those were my least favorite parts of the book, but to have had them redone now three times in all three books in just stupid.  We didn’t get a single bit more useful information or addition to the story at all by going over it again.  The amount of time it took to even skim through all that to ensure I didn’t miss anything actually important was way more than I wanted to spend and it was surrounded by an awful lot that was just dull.

With the repeat and some truly boring filler, this book probably could have been cut down to about 1/3 of its size and been a stellar book because all the rest is actually pretty awesome, though I think it is pretty official that I cannot stand Leesha’s character.  I was a bit iffy on Reena after the last book and while I liked her better here, she had her stupid girl moments where I wanted to smack her.  Arlen is still the best in this series by far and there just wasn’t nearly enough time spent on him with all the rest going on.

I’m developing a serious love hate relationship with these books and I’m still not sure if they are worth the time it takes to wade through to get to the good stuff.

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The Desert Spear: Demon Cycle, Book 2

The Desert SpearAuthor: Peter V. Brett
Book Name: The Desert Spear
Series: Demon Cycle
Order: 2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  The sun is setting on humanity. The night now belongs to voracious demons that prey upon a dwindling population forced to cower behind half-forgotten symbols of power. Legends tell of a Deliverer: a general who once bound all mankind into a single force that defeated the demons. But is the return of the Deliverer just another myth? Perhaps not. Out of the desert rides Ahmann Jardir, who has forged the desert tribes into a demon-killing army. He has proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer, and he carries ancient weapons–a spear and a crown–that give credence to his claim. But the Northerners claim their own Deliverer: the Warded Man, a dark, forbidding figure. Once, the Shar’Dama Ka and the Warded Man were friends. Now they are fierce adversaries. Yet as old allegiances are tested and fresh alliances forged, all are unaware of the appearance of a new breed of demon, more intelligent–and deadly–than any that have come before.

Review:  After really loving the first book in the series, I ended up rather frustrated with this book.  I’m still impressed by the world and the general concept that surrounds this series, but there were a couple of things that dropped the rating on this book for me from where I rated the first one.

The attitude and culture surrounding how women are viewed and treated in this book is pretty contradictory.  It would work better if we were talking about the way Krasian society treat women versus the rest of this world as they are different cultures, but the differences and contradictions are actually within a single culture.  Women are in one moment expected to be pure and chaste with only their husband and on the next page that same woman is being chastised for still being a virgin and encouraged to find and take a lover.  The two views and how they play out within the society do not mesh.  I don’t even want to discuss overabundance of the theme of rape throughout this book.

I’m not a fan of characters that are fickle and we see that with several characters in this book.  I don’t have a problem when characters change their minds when given reason, but I have a problem when characters turn their views, opinions or morals on a dime without explanation or reason.  The biggest example is with Leesha, who has apparently spent her entire life avoiding having a physical relationship with a man, preferring to find one that is worthy of her trust only to jump on a man that has given her no reason what-so-ever of being deserving of her trust and is more than likely an enemy, which she is well aware of.  It goes against her character as it has been built.  Besides that, there are at least 3 separate characters whose affections for other characters are easily turned towards others without second thought or skipping a beat.  It just makes what were previously characters that I was enjoying feel flaky and much less strong character wise.

The biggest downside I had with this book was the nearly 1/3 content that was focused on the history of the Krasian characters, some of which was even just a repeat of events from book one, but from a different character perspective.  Since this group is my absolute least favorite in this world, this part of the book seemed repetitive and tedious.  Much of it could have been cut or condensed and the reader still would have been able to get a better feel for the culture and characters that were needed in the series that we weren’t able to get in book one.

I did still enjoy this book despite those things.  I want to know more about what happens from here, but may find myself skimming a bit in the next book if I have to run across more of the same issues.

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The Warded Man: Demon Cycle, Book 1

The Warded ManAuthor: Peter V. Brett
Book Name: The Warded Man
Series: Demon Cycle
Order: 1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars


Blurb:  As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise–demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards–symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.

Review:  Finally!  A truly inspired fantasy worth reading.  This book has a beautifully crafted, unique world that is easy to get lost in.  It and the incredible characters are well articulated so it is easy to see what it is you are reading.  There is a lot that this book needs to cover to get the series going, so there are a few parts that may seem a bit slow, but are more than worth it to get to the really good stuff, of which there is lots.

The characters are wonderful, fully rounded personalities.  Each having their unique talents that we get to see germinate and grow through this book.  I liked that we got to watch that growth.  It is done in a way that we see all the important parts along the way without it becoming tedious or repetitive.  It stays interesting all the way through.

I am absolutely digging this world and all the different parts and possibilities with it.  Magic of this style, with the wards and the actual work and learning that goes into the different talents of our main characters, is exactly the kind of thing I love in a really good fantasy book.  Nothing is free and easy.  It takes time and effort to be truly great at it.

After reading this first book, as a reader, you know there is so much more to come and you are anxious to devour it.

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