John C Adams Reviews 'The Daylight War'
The Daylight War by Peter V Brett (Harper Voyager, 2013)
'The Daylight War' is the third in Brett's Demon Cycle series, the first two novels being 'The Painted Man' and 'The Desert Spear'. This series has catapulted him to well earned international bestselling author status and, along the way, he's produced swords and sorcery fantasy with a demonic, multicultural twist.
I had already read the first two books in the series, so I had no trouble at all jumping right in where 'The Desert Spear' left off, with Ahmann Jardir now seeking to hold onto the parts of the Greenlands he had invaded in the second book. Greenlanders and Krasians both face a common threat every time the sun goes down. Demons in various guises, from water and wood demons to mimic demons, rise up to hunt down humans for food and drawing power from their souls. Humans have learnt to paint, sing, play and embroider wards to protect themselves, but night is a dangerous time nonetheless.
Ahmann (who carries the title Shar'Dama Ka, which means First Warrior Cleric) and the Painted Man (who prefers simply to be called Arlen Bales) vie for recognition as the Deliverer, put on this earth by the Creator (who Krasians call Everam) to free mankind from the demons. Arlen has a pretty ambivalent attitude to this title, although not to the responsibility of saving mankind, whereas Ahmann is utterly determined to be recognised as the Deliverer. Both men would have no hesitation in laying down their lives to save their people from the demons.
This time around there was much more about women than in the first two books. I found that a very welcome development. Inevera, Leesha and Renna form the point-of-view foundation for 'The Daylight War'. The earlier books hadn't been particularly sympathetic to Inevera, Ahmann's head wife, who was often presented as a scheming harpy. 'The Daylight War' opens with a lengthy prologue portraying her rise through the educational system available for a select few women. She has been plucked from poverty and a drunken, useless father courtesy of a throw of the magic-infused dice that elite Krasian women use to foretell the future. Their training is brutal, harsh and often violent. I had new respect and empathy for Inevera as a result of this glimpse into her early life. Renna is betrothed to Arlen, and becomes his wife partway through the novel. She, too, suffered terribly in the earlier books, where she was abused by her father for many years. It was lovely to see her empowered by her warrior training and finding personal happiness at last. Leesha, a Herb Gatherer who has known her fair share of pain, is trapped between both women. She harbours feelings for Arlen, yet is conducting a relationship with Ahmann.
Krasian culture is described in complex and often eye-watering detail. I was on solid ground because I had read the earlier books. Although the plot that leads to the beginning point for 'The Daylight War' is very easy to digest, the culture, training of soldiers and women, and the foundations and rules of their religious belief are incredibly complicated. It's a great thing for any fantasy novel to be drenched in detail, but the words used for very different types of person or position were often very similar and there were times when I felt confused by the labels. The story was always perfectly clear, however, and the glossary helped me to clear up any mistakes as I was reading.
There was plenty of early action surrounding Arlen and Renna's fight against the demons, which gave way partway through to tensions between Krasians, who hold a huge swathe of the Greenlands at this point, and the Greenlanders who wish to expel them and reclaim their independence. The final part of the novel focused once again on the fight against the demons. There is plenty of action in this novel, but Brett's novels always strike a balance between fighting and romance. I love romantic fantasy, and I couldn't get enough of 'The Daylight War'.
Thank you so much for reading my review. I'll be back on Monday. In the meantime, the comments section is open.
Many thanks to Jordan Steranka, Jeremy Bishop and Evgeniya Litovchenko for providing the images for this blog via Unsplash.