“And there is the difference between us.

Your people live to fight,

while mine fight to live.”

I was quite surprised when I had finished this book. The Desert Spear is everything the Painted was and everything it wasn’t. It’s the same story, has the same progression and arc, and has a similar character-building, yet it is so very different. The world of the corelings seems a bit empty and leaves much to the imagination of the reader, but what the book lacks in description of the surroundings, it more than makes up for with its interesting and memorable characters.

Saying that I have mixed feelings about this book would be a great understatement. On the one hand it feels so real and pristine when it deals with how a Chosen One would act and be manipulated in real life, especially in the opening third of the book. I’ve always been of the opinion that a Chosen One can never unite the forces of mankind behind him with sweet words and valor, which is often the case in epic fantasy. A more realistic Chosen One would however achieve unity through strength and necessary – albeit often cruel – deeds, which we have seen throughout our own history. DS shows us this in a great way. But on the other hand it suffers from the same flaws that made me think The Painted Man was a good novel and a fastpaced story, but nothing that I would remember in a few years. The world of Arlen and his friends seems so wierdly constructed, it doesn’t have the same bite and stark surface Krasia has. The reason for this is because the general setting of the story is a standard European medieval world, which shows clearly in the Free Cities, yet it seems the rural regions have been inspired by 18-19th century America, and it’s this mix of inspirations I find a bit odd.

The plot: This is one of those books that you either love or hate. It opens up were we left off, some time after the great battle where the previous book ended. The plot in DS is good and I didn’t find it too predictable. I was unsure about the relevance of a few passages, but I’m positive they’ll be important for the third and final book. Some find the fact that the book opens with a series of flashbacks of Jardir’s life to be a bad choice, but I think it’s a good way of opening the book with a slower pace and offering insight into the character of Jardir. He becomes more likeable after those first two hundred pages and it becomes easier to understand why he’s doing what he’s doing.

The setting: DS continues to have some of the problems PM had. Brett doesn’t spend a whole lot of time on describing what the surroundings look like, or how people are. Sometimes this can be good, as it doesn’t slow down the pace, but as in PM the world tends to feel empty. The Desert Spear doesn’t have this problem to the same extent as its predecessor, because much time and effort have been put down in building the city and culture of Jardir’s people. I love fantasy set in medieval pseudo-arabic worlds, which I rediscovered after reading Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed earlier this year, so it’s just another reason why this book appealed to me. However, one of the few things I didn’t like with DS is the fact that it is set in a postapocalyptic world! By the Gods, if I have to read one more fantasy medievalesque novel that features a long gone advanced civilization, I think I’m going to be sick.

The characters: This is one of the major things I liked about this book, especially when it comes to Jardir. The main characters are all refreshingly deep and interesting, as are most of the minor characters. Heck, even Leesha’s mother seemed to have a few more dimensions this time around. But I have to say that Abban is one of my two favorites. Although he seems to be the humble servant of Jardir he’s more sly and cunning than what he shows the world and I think he’ll have a bigger part to play before the end. Leesha is better in DS, even though for a moment I feared she would turn before my eyes into one of Robert Jordan’s creations from the Wheel of Time. But she never becomes one of those insufferable harpies and I have to say that she was the second of my two favorites. The interactions between the characters are great, as are the dialogues.

The technique: Brett knows how to write a fastpaced book. I thought the slang the farmers used was a bit irritating, but I guess it is a necessary thing to distinguish the rural regions from the cities. I don’t know. DS has a satisfying buildup towards the climax as it starts with a rather slow pace and finishes with a bang. And I didn’t find any passages to be boring. The book had my attention from beginning until the very end.

The finish: All in all, the Desert Spear is a huge step forward from the Painted Man. It has its flaws, as well as its ups and downs, but its a fantastic book and offers a different approach to the stale institution that is the Chosen One in the fantasy genre. Brett is a great writer. He knows how to keep your attention throughout the book and suggests some fantastic scenes, which he leaves to the reader to assemble for himself. Some will hate this freedom, meaning he didn’t spend enough time describing the surroundings, others will love it for what it does to the pacing. He doesn’t shy away from the more grittier and darker parts of the story, but writes it all stark and raw and real, giving the reader the choice to form his own opinion about the characters. ┬áMurder, rape and violence are ‘ordinary’ things. And nothing is free in his world, because every gift demands something in return. Some moments will fill you with disgust, but it’s all part of the story and shouldn’t be kept behind the scene. Gone is the naivety that I thought plagued its predecessor and I can’t do anything but look forward to the third and final book, which will without a doubt deliver a bittersweet conclusion to this terriffic trilogy.

Final verdict:

  • Good character progression and great interactions between them
  • Arabesque fantasy! That’s always a plus in my book
  • Great pace and straightforward writing from the beginning to the end
  • An unorthodox approach to a certain cemented aspect of the fantasy genre
  • Postapocalyptic nonsense… Ugh…