Feb 11 2013 5:00pm

Demons Night and Day: Peter V. Brett’s The Daylight War

A review of The Daylight War by Peter V. BrettPeter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle has gained readers over the course of the first two installments, The Warded Man and The Desert Spear, and reader anticipation for The Daylight War has been quite high. In the first two novels the demons, which rise in the night, were the greatest threat facing humanity. While the demons are still very present in The Daylight War, humanity’s remnants need to get their collective heads together before the demon threat can effectively be vanquished. In many post-apocalyptic stories—and a case can be made for The Demon Cycle as a post-apocalyptic story—the trigger event marginalizing human society becomes window dressing as the story progresses and the human character’s conflict takes center stage.

Perhaps the most popular current example of a human conflict against an apocalyptic backdrop is The Walking Dead (in both comic and TV format). Sure the zombies are still an ever-present threat, but the characters’ struggles against each other is what drives the story, as their competing ideologies and beliefs define each individual character’s reaction to the threats. The same can be said of The Daylight War, as the clash of cultures between those who consider Arlen to be the Deliverer and the desert dwellers claiming Jardir as the Deliverer.

As in previous installments, Brett intertwines the origin story of a major character with the current conflicts, namely the looming threat of Waning, when the position of the moon gives rise to a greater number of demons in the night. This time the “secret origin” of Inevera’s past—her growth as a sorceress-priestess and eventual self-maneuvered union with Jardir—parallels and directly relates to the “current” action of the novel. This structure of character origin intertwined with a progressing storyline is an extremely effective narrative device that echoes the landmark graphic novel/comic book series Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Brett has worked with the same framework of the story for the first three volumes (Arlen, and to a lesser extent Renna, Rojer, and Leesha in The Warded Man and Jardir and Abban in The Desert Spear), and for me, his parallel storytelling allows for ample dramatic tension on multiple levels.

The mythology/worldbuilding behind the demons hinted in the previous volume is revealed slightly more here in The Daylight War, as Brett peppers in chapter passages from the POV of the demons, providing readers with a glimpse of their society and race as a whole. Whether he will continue to expose more of the demons’ nature and origins remains to be seen, but I enjoyed the slow reveal unfolding here and I am very curious to see how much of the demons’ history Brett will allow readers to see.

The characters of Rojer and his two wives, as well as Leesha and Inevera, become caught up in the ideological clashes between the two cultures. Rojer becomes even more closely entangled with the Krasnian people, Leesha has a very intense sexual relationship with Jardir—so much that Jardir wishes to marry her—and Inevera continually pushes Jardir to ensure that Arlen is dead so that he may, without doubt, be appointed the Deliverer.

Brett’s three Demon Cycle novels thus far have showcased humanity and its most extreme reactions to the demon apocalypse. Violence, sex, violent sex, attitudes towards fear, destiny, and greed are all amped to eleven in The Daylight War. Whereas some have leveled criticism that the previous installment included rape as too predominant of a theme, here in the third volume it does not factor in as much, as a plot device. Rather, sex is a powerful tool to be used for manipulating people, showcasing weakness and power, while also a physical expression of love between characters. In other words, sex is a very powerful and integral element in life in Brett’s world just as it is in our world.

While I enjoyed the novel immensely, I have to admit to some minor issues I had with The Daylight War. One of those problems (and admittedly this may be my  ownpedantic preferences at work) stemmed from the fact that several characters’ names were either very similar, or worse, all began with the same letter (for example, quite a few Krasnian characters' names begin with the letter “A.”). My other minor problem is more of an internal conflict as a reader, because while it makes complete logical sense from the standpoint of the story and the characters’ development over the course of the three novels and this novel specifically, the ending was rather abrupt. Again, these were only minor issues for me. On the other hand, credit is due to Peter Brett for ending the novel in the fashion he did—let’s just say a cliff is involved. It may frustrate and anger some, but regardless, I admire Brett’s gumption in not shying away from what—at this point—seems to be an ending to this novel that best suits the overall story he’s telling in The Demon Cycle.

Brett has indicated that he’s a fan of Terry Brooks, and much of that comes through in these books. Though I haven’t read the entirety of Brooks’ output, I’ve often likened these books to Terry Brooks’ Shannara series with more of an edge, more of a bite, and maturity. Along with Brandon Sanderson and Daniel Abraham, Peter V. Brett is at the forefront of purveyors of epic fantasy whose teeth were ground on the likes of Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, Terry Brooks, and David other words, with The Daylight War, he’s at the top of his game.

I give this my highest recommendation (including the first two novels in the series.)

The Daylight War is out on February 12 from Del Rey.

Rob Bedford lives in NJ with his wife and dog. He reviews books and moderates forums at SFFWorld and runs a blog about “stuff.”

1. Johnaz
So ,is book 3 any less rapey than the previous books ? otherwise i have no interest in reading this series anymore.
Robert H. Bedford
2. RobB
Whereas some have leveled criticism that the previous installment included rape as too predominant of a theme, here in the third volume it does not factor in as much, as a plot device. Rather, sex is a powerful tool to be used for manipulating people, showcasing weakness and power, while also a physical expression of love between characters. In other words, sex is a very powerful and integral element in life in Brett’s world just as it is in our world.
3. Sapph
Your review certainly highlights the confusion you had with names.

The Desert Spear didn't have the backstories of Jardir and Ahmann: Jardir IS Ahmann. His name, rendered in a western fashion would be Ahmann Jardir. It showcased the backstories of Jardir and Abban.

Rojer's two wives weren't Leesha and Inevera. I'm not even sure how you could make this error. Even if you didn't remember the names of his wives (Amanvah and Sikvah (vah meaning daughter)), how you could confuse them Leesha and Inevera is beyond me. Leesha and Inevera are both major viewpoint characters.

Finally, Jardir's desire to marry Leesha isn't the result of their sexual relationship, but the cause of it.
Robert H. Bedford
4. RobB
I wasn't trying to imply Rojer's wives were Leesha and Inevera, bad wording/punctuation on my part I suppose. I intended to say that Rojer and his wives, as well as Leesha and Inevera become more entangled in the clashes between the two cultures. I didn't confuse Leesha and Inevera withe each other or their wives, so apologies on my part.

Another typo again should read: Jardir and Abban in The Desert Spear.

I've touched up the review to clear up those issues.
Mike Dorr
5. Westmarch
Just finished this book up and really enjoyed it. It's a pretty straightforward story but it's populated with enough interesting characters to keep you invested. A spolier thread may be interesting.
6. Kirshy
I also just finished reading the book, a few hours ago to be exact. I really enjoyed it, was looking forward to, and am mostly satisfied with the outcome of the story. PVB has said that the series is supposed to be a quintet (5 books), and as such I think this book suffers as a middle book. There is not much forwarding of the plot. A good chunk of it is Inevera's past and Arlen and Renna just getting back to the Hollow. I'm hopeful, especially with the "cliff hanger" ending that the next book will advance the plot significantly further than this one did. I also found the ending to be a bit of a slap in the face. Especially since we're going to have to wait at least two years for book 4.

But what I did find satisfying was that we learn a lot more about the magic system in this book. As much as I enjoy the characters and the overall story, the real draw for me has been the fantastical bits and pieces.

I also agree with Rob that the Krasian names were hard to keep track of. I also had the same issue with the Krasian honorary titles. If I had reread the last book prior to picking this one up that might not have been so bad, but I haven't read it since it first came out, so it did get confusing with Damaji this and dama that. Yikes. It was a lot to take in.

And I've got to say, that even after two books I'm still not a fan of Renna. Hoping she amounts to more in the next book.

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