The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
At times, I believe that humanity is doomed to destroy itself. Actually, I feel that way a lot, although it saddens me. Which is why I prefer reading fiction that is hopeful, or with humans triumphing over the destructive forces within them or around them. Tales in which the monster of the story is a fantastical beast of the inhuman variety, defeatable, even if it requires cost and sacrifice on the part of people.
I couldn’t even imagine living in a world in which every night, demons take over, and prey on humans. Fear becomes the primary motivation. One’s life is lived around the rising and setting of the sun. The only thing that protects humans from the demons is the wards, which must be assiduously maintained. That is the existence of the characters in this book, and it affects them all in different ways. Surprisingly, despite this ever-present menace, people still manage to have their own little dramas, squabbles, and tendencies to treat each other poorly. You would think that human spirit would triumph in these dark circumstances? Not so much. Or maybe it does. You’d have to stay tuned to see.
The Warded Man focuses on three main characters: Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer. Both Arlen and Rojer lost their mothers to the demons, their lives and futures shaped by these ugly experiences. Leesha’s mother is like her own personal monster. She’s harsh, cruel, amoral, selfish, and scheming. Leesha has vowed to be nothing like her. She finds a calling as the apprentice to the Herb Gatherer (the healer of all diseases and wounds) in her town, a way to find meaning in her life, other than being wife to the man who told lies on her and ruined her trust and her reputation along with it. Her decision to work with Bruna, the ancient Herb Gatherer for her little town, will lead her onto a path that intercepts with Arlen and Rojer’s path, and it won’t be an easy journey for any of these three people.
Although this story started out slow, and I was dismayed at depictions of human nature at its worst, ultimately I was vanquished by this engrossing story. It was a slow conquest initially. I found myself wanting to keep reading, and after a while, I couldn’t stop reading. The demons were very scary, and their attacks on the humans downright horrific. The sense of entrapment, fear, and the lack of options in the face of a supernatural threat that seems unbeatable really got to me. I wanted to see someone find an answer. I wanted someone to step forward and to find a way to prevail against the demons.
People have been waiting for the Deliverer to come back to protect them from the demons. Will the Deliverer come, or will the people have to save themselves? This story might be about demons on the surface, but deep down, the real theme of The Warded Man is the everyday sort of courage. The courage that keeps a person going without losing hope, and giving in to the darkness. A very important lesson that this book taught me is that the hero is within you. You can’t always wait on someone else to save you. You have to save yourself. And once you’re ready to do that, you might find that you can help others to do the same for themselves and for those who are in need of help and who truly are incapable of fighting for themselves.
This could have easily been a loss for me had the story been written differently. Bloodthirsty demons preying and always destroying people, seeing the good guys never win, doomed to continually destroy themselves and each other, and unable to triumph over the obstacles that they fight against, has no appeal to me. But seeing people fight back, taking back the night and renouncing the power that fear can hold over a person, now that interests me.
And I have to admit, the Warded Man was absolutely cool as all get out. He was a total bad*ss, a man who created himself from scratch, and wears the scars to show for it. Together with Leesha, and Rojer, they make an awesome team. If I ever had to fight demons, I will call them in for my reinforcements. They are my kind of demon hunters. This story inspires me to fight my own demons in my everyday life. And that’s the kind of hopeful message I need right now.
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