The second lengthy entry into the Demon Cycle series…
There are 4 distinct sections to the book.
If you came into this one directly from ‘The Warded Man,’ you’ll have to change gears rather abruptly. In the first section, we switch to the viewpoint of a minor character from ‘The Warded Man,’ the Krasian merchant Abban. We follow him from childhood up through the events we saw from Arlen’s perspective in the first book.
In principle, this sounds like a good idea. I complained that in the first book, Krasia was too much of a two-dimensional place based solely on stereotypes about the Middle East. You would think that getting inside their culture would help. Unfortunately, it’s more of the same. It continues to feel stereotypical, and becomes even more tedious when it’s just a retread through events we already know about… at length.
The second section starts 1/3 of the way through the book, and finally returns us to where we expected to be at the end of The Warded Man, following Leesha and Rojer. The third section concentrates more on Renna, and the last section brings us back more to Arlen (Mr. Warded Man himself) and demon fighting.
The latter three sections are an improvement over the first, but they still haven’t won me over. After some consideration as to the reasons – I know this is a widely acclaimed series – I think the main thing, for me, is that the book tries to address some serious issues for its characters, and creates some complex, difficult situations (including some involving rape, incest, abuse, murder, etc…) But – the way it handles those situations just feels to me rather shallow and awkward. It’s earnest, but not wholly convincing.
However, there is definitely a compelling aspect to this saga. I can understand why many fans of huge, sprawling fantasy tales endorse the series.
Some of the sections, on their own, would have gotten three stars, but the parts set in Krasia, and the those involving Renna’s family, bring this down to two for me.
I’m not totally writing off continuing with this series, but I think I’ll give it a break for a while and try a different epic fantasy next…