The Warded Man
by Peter V. Brett
Edited by Liz Scheler
Review by Mel Jacob
Del Rey Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345503800
Date: 10 March 2009 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In his Del Rey debut novel The Warded Man, Peter Brett begins with Arlen, a young farm boy from the hamlet of Tibbet's Brook. In Arlen's world, demons threaten men each night. Any human found outside at dark must protect himself with magic wards the creatures of the night cannot pass or risk dismemberment and death. The sun kills them so they must return to the Core below ground each dawn. Humans once possessed magic and then progressed to science, but the demon wars took science away and only the wards remain of magic.
When demons attack Arlen's mother, he rushes to her defense while his frightened father stays behind the wards and stares in horror. He manages to hide her in the pigsty where the stink hides their scent. They shelter from the rain beneath a slop trough for the night. Come morning he and his father take her to the local herb gardener, but her injuries need more than the healer can offer. She urges them to transport the injured woman to another, two days away. Arlen fears his mother may not survive the trip, but he forces his father to continue.
Angry over his mother's death and disillusioned by his father's cowardice, Arlen runs away. Adept at making wards, when forced by darkness to stop, he draws them in the dirt. He survives with injuries, but incurs the enmity of a rock demon he maims. Rescued by a Messenger and jongleur, he accompanies them to Miln, one of the free cities.
A woodcutter woos Leeshia, a young woman approaching womanhood. When he attempts to force himself upon her, she fights him. However, he brags to his friends he succeeded, and the entire village believes him. Leeshia's mother, anxious for her to marry the young man, beats her when she refuses. Disappointed and angry, she flees as darkness falls to the home of the local herb gardener, but demons block her way. Saved by the old woman, Leeshia becomes her apprentice.
Demons attack Rojer, a child of three, and his family. They cripple him, but his mother gives her life to save his. With his parents dead, a jongleur adopts him, and he becomes an entertainer with an affinity for the fiddle. Even the demons love his music. On the road one night, demons attack the jongleur's warded camp. In a drunken rage, the man knocks Rojer from the protected circle. Horrified, he jumps out to save Rojer and succeeds, but at the cost of his own life.
Arlen hates demons. Leeshia has sworn to protect all living things and abhors killing of any sort. Rojer seeks a place to belong. The novel follows these three characters as they grow into adulthood and overcome enemies. Trials and obstacles block their paths. They are survivors despite what life tosses their way. In time, their paths cross and they join forces.
Brett provides complex characters and plenty of action as the humans fight the demons. Since he signed a three-book contract with Del Rey, readers can expect to see sequels.