In writing this review of Peter V. Brett’s The Warded Man, I would like to focus on a quote from about two thirds of the way through the book:
Arlen’s fingers tightened on the metal spear as he stepped from the circle.
Cue cliffhanger chapter break. For me, this was a real “oh, crap” moment, on a par with seeing Aragorn’s forces surrounded by the Mordor hordes in the Return of the King movie, and perfectly encapsulates Peter V. Brett’s mastery of his craft.
This is just one of many excellently written scenes. This one in particular works for me for several reasons; first, the author has done his world building well. At this point in the story the reader is well aware of the likely consequences of Arlen’s stepping outside of the circle and has good reason to fear for Arlen’s safety.
Of course, none of that matters if the reader is not emotionally invested in Arlen. Brett has developed his character well. Arlen is not always likeable, but he is relatable. His decision to leave the circle, while terrifying, is logical and easily understandable based on Brett’s characterisation. The reader cares about what happens to Arlen and the consequences of his action. This can be contrasted with the other main characters, Leesha and Rojer, for whom such a move would have been totally out of character, certainly at this stage in their arcs. All of the main characters are equally well developed and engaging.
Finally, there is the setup for the future. Arlen has some speculation about the spear but no proof. It is possibly a game changer in the war against the demons. Part of the tension of this scene is what it might mean for humanity going forward. The stakes here are not just Arlen’s life, but humanity’s survival.
This scene is just one reason why I thoroughly recommend The Warded Man and its sequel, The Desert Spear. I anxiously await tomorrow’s release of the next chapter, The Daylight War.
I give The Warded Man five out of five stars.