Review: The Daylight War by Peter V Brett

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Oct 20, 2013
4th March 2013 09:44 AM


The Daylight War is the third in Peter V Brett’s Demon Cycle, detailing humanity’s struggle against demons that rise in the night to prey on them. Two powerful protagonists have been named as the Deliverer – the one who will unite the whole world in war against the demons – and Arlen Bales, the Painted Man, denies it, claiming all men can be Deliverers if they fight against the evil that threatens to overwhelm them. Ahmann Jardir however, embraces the title and has begun the daylight war to conquer the known world, which he believes must do, if mankind is to prevail. But as human resistance has grown, so the demons have become more formidable.

The book opens with a long prologue that tells the backstory of Inevera’s initiation as a nine-year-old into the dama’ting, the selected few that become Holy Priestesses, who have the ability to cast dice made from demon bones to see the future. Further chapters show how she rose to become Jardir’s first wife and advisor, but the main narrative picks up exactly where The Desert Spear finished: Arlen and Renna surrounded by dead corelings and the body of the shape-shifting demon, which nearly killed them. Arlen learned from the mind of the coreling prince that the next attack will come in thirty days, and needs to get to Deliverer’s Hollow to prepare. But the roads are often clogged with refugees fleeing Jardir’s invasion, and Arlen feels compelled to help them. Renna works to become a worthy companion to him, and secretly begins to eat demon meat, when she learns it is the source of his magical power, hoping to become like him

In Everam’s Bounty, Leesha and her party are preparing to leave to return to Deliverer’s Hollow. Jardir and she have become lovers and he continually presses her to become one of his wives, hoping to gain political advantage over Northern Territories in doing so. But her mission in Everam’s Bounty was to discover what his forces were capable of, and she knows she will try to make Deliverer’s Hollow resist his armies if she can. Rojer marries Jardir’s daughter and niece and his fiddle playing, combined with their singing, is shown to be an awesome weapon against demons, killing them by sound alone. They head back North in a Caravan with Jardir’s warriors accompanying them as protection, and the story moves towards climactic battles as the new moon approaches, and the inevitable confrontation between Arlen and Jardir.

Brett’s continued inventiveness within his world is solidly shown. The Daylight War is book three of a proposed total of five, and he manages to wield the story-telling between the characters in a way that never distracts. In the acknowledgments of The Desert Spear Brett spoke of the difficulties of weaving eight pov characters into a cohesive story, and that practice stands him in good stead in this book. Information is given from the differing points of view, and whilst some of it we already know, and it can become repetitive, the added perspective of a different character adds a dimension to it that is obviously going to be important in the coming books. The increasing ingenuity of the demons gives some surprises that the reader won’t see coming, and the simultaneous demon battles* in Deliverer’s* Hollow and Everam’s Bounty are extremely well-worked, and the hopelessness and the triumphs stay fresh in the mind long after finishing the book.

Perhaps one of the weaknesses of the book is Leesha. In the first two books she was drawn as a strong, forceful character whose knowledge grew along with her abilities, and she was someone people respected and listened to, who achieved a great deal. In The Daylight War she achieves little – if anything her character diminishes because Brett allows her character to regress and she adds almost nothing to the grand picture. It’s as though she’s reduced to sniping at characters around her, rather than actually contributing knowledge, or showing she is still a force to be reckoned with; one whose interests aren’t selfish. Allowing her to become pregnant, when she is probably the most skilful Herb Gatherer in her world, (and would know how to take precautions) seems a very lazy trope; the distractions of her mother around her form a storyline that becomes very tiresome in its repetition, and it becomes implausible it would continue this way. Thus far Brett has not allowed any of his major characters to die; Leesha’s mother may be a good place to start.

The confrontation between Arlen and Jardir is over very quickly, and that seems a pity, because we’ve been waiting for it a long time, and it is a literal cliff-hanger ending. And unfortunately, it is an anti-climax, because Arlen has already informed Leesha that the demons have learned all his plans for Jardir, and he ‘needs to do something they won’t expect’, which reveals the lie of outcome of their confrontation.

At 800 pages it is a satisfyingly long story, though the typeface is larger than The Desert Spear. Brett said that the first draft of the Daylight war was 243,000 words, and slightly longer than The Desert Spear, so I imagine the printed version is fairly close to that figure. As part of the ongoing Demon Cycle, I know there are more surprises ahead, and more epic battles to come. I look forward to it.