The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett is one of the most polarizing fantasy series on the market today. The spectrum of reactions from fantasy fans seem to have with this series ranges from: Love it, Like it but it has problems, hate it, and DNF’d it after book two or three. Very few other fantasy series have had this type of reaction on the SFF community and I do not see many bloggers or booktubers talk about this series in great detail through the years. For the record, I fall into the camp of Like it, but the series has several problems that have made my love of the books diminish over the years. The purpose of this post is not to try and change peoples minds who hated the books, but rather to provide further context into the series as a whole, what the positives and negatives are, and let readers decide for themselves if the books are for them. These opinions and words are entirely my own and I am hoping to shed some light on the confusion this series has with SFF readers. Lets take a deep dive.
For the purposes of this post, I will be discussing some events that take place in The Warded Man and will also be discussing more general themes and actions that the rest of the series contains. The Demon Cycle takes place in the desert world of Thesa where several different nations may have there differences but they have one fear in common, nightfall. As the sun sets on Thesa, the corelings or demons rise from the core to seek vengeance from humanity. The only safety mankind has are defensive wards or objects with ancient symbols that keep the demons at bay, but sometimes the wards break and the humans have to suffer the wrath of the corelings. The world wasn’t always this way as ancient men and women use to fight the corelings in open field battle, those days are long gone. As the corelings continue to grow in strength and the human numbers start to dwindle, three humans make the ultimate choice to fight the demons beyond the protections of the defensive wards and take the fight to them.
Peter V. Brett has introduced a lot of interesting ideas and concepts to a classical tale at its heart. The use of wards and charms as protective weapons against evil has been done before, but in this case it is done with a fresh spin. The corelings themselves are interesting creatures themselves. There are several different type of corelings of different sizes, strengths, and elemental attributes. There is even a hierarchy to the demons which is expanded upon in later books. We are introduced to several main characters throughout the course of this series but I will only be discussing the three main characters in the Warded Man before moving on to the positives and the negatives of the series.
First character we follow is Arlen. Growing up in the small town of Tibbets Brook, he sees first hand the devastating effects the corelings are having on the town and knows that the defensive wards will not last forever. Determined to do something with his life, he leaves his hometown and decides to become a messenger. On one of his trips, he gets stranded alone in the middle of the desert with nothing to protect him from the demons but his defensive wards and they fail. Being forced to flee he stumbles upon the Ruins on Anoch Sun and discovers a lost treasure that can save the world. Arlen finds a spear with attacking wards written on the spear and is now in possession of the only weapon to combat evil and he intends to share it with the world.
The second character we follow is Leesha, a herbalist and healer in Cutters Hollow. Caught in the mix of town politics and the desire of her mother to marry her off to the town brute, Leesha notices the effects the corelings are having on Cutters Hollow. The men of the town defend the citizens from the demons but many are falling to their death and it is Leesha’s job to mend them for future battles and something needs to give. Leesha has ideas of her own on how to combat the demons but no one will listen to her until an unlikely savior come to her aide. The final character we follow in The Warded man is Rojer, a performer and musician with a strong gift for playing the fiddle. Trained as an apprentice, he starts to perform in front of a crowd and slowly building his popularity and catches the eyes of businessmen and women. Rojer finds himself on the wrong end of a beating and is tossed out into the night beyond the protection of the wards with nothing but his fiddle. As the demons attack him, Rojer plays his fiddle as a last resort and sees the devastating effects music has on the corelings. They are either stopped in place, driven mad, or forced to fight each other depending on the rhythms Rojer plays and he must share his knowledge with Thesa.
I would now like to take a deeper look on the overall positives and negatives of the series as I see it.
Positives: The characters in the demon cycle are written very well and Peter V. Brett does a great job of making the reader realize the fear in the world possesses. Most of the world truly lives in fear of the night with the drive and desire of our three main characters to find a solution is what keeps the plot moving forward. The magic system is also an overall positive to the series. Peter V. Brett does a great job of fleshing out the magic system little by little over the course of his five book series and the stakes are raised each time a new revelation about the magic system is revealed. This is not just related to the magic of the wards, but the magic involving the demons as well. There is a big overall theme in the Demon Cycle involving religion and the idea that a savior will return to vanquish the evil of the demons and this savior is known as the Deliverer. In addition to this, there are multiple different cultures in Thesa that interpret this savior very differently and learning about these new culture is another positive Brett introduces in his series. The Krassian culture is a warrior people where the men are responsible for battling the demons and over the coarse of this series we see their practices and beliefs put into question. For the sake of survival, they must adapt to the way of the world or face defeat. Peter V. Brett also pulls no punches in being cruel to his characters and you re always kept on your toes throughout the series.
Negatives: If you are a reader whom needs good romances to enjoy a series than you will be disappointed with the Demon Cycle. The romances aren’t written very well and there is one romance in particular that will make you want to pull your hair out. It comes completely out of left field and it doesn’t make sense to the story, so you shouldn’t expect any Romeo and Juliet moments. Another negative is the abundance of violence and rape especially in book one. This wasn’t a deal breaker for me but I know this is a huge red flag for some readers and it needs to be made clear that these events take place in this series. The flashback chapters, especially in books 2 and 3, can be seen as a negative as well. The flashback chapters can feel slow, redundant, and not ultimately not amounting to much of anything through out the books. In fact, books 1, 2, and 3 contain one scene involving three important characters and each book contains that same exact from a different perspective. This idea was quiet interesting, but I felt that Brett was going back to the well one time too many. The final negative I would like to discuss is the ending. No spoilers, but I felt the ending was predictable and unsatisfactory for the overall series. This could be just a me thing but I have heard other readers having this same reaction as well.
To sum up this long winded article, when reading the Demon Cycle you have to weigh the good and the bad together. Some of these negatives I have listed above will be deal breakers for some readers, but I believe there is more good than bad with this series and it is definitely worthy of a read through. If you do decide to give this series a go, I would recommend at least finishing up until book 3 where a lot of the great moments of the series reach its climax.
I hope you found this article insightful and informative in seeing if this series is for you. I look forward to your comments on this series and doing a reread myself in the near future, but until then stay safe my friends!
I haven’t read it, but the premise sounds quite interesting. Too bad it is such a controversial series.
It is, but the series is worth a try. Book 1 is great and then it’s starts to slag in some places but it is addictive.
I found the first book to be one of the best books I’d read in years, if not decades, which is why it was so hard to deal with the direction Brett took the series.
I actually found the rape and culture of rape in the later books to be more problematic for me and that is why I abandoned the series. I have to be honest, it turned my stomach and put him squarely in my authors to avoid place. While I’ve been regretful a few times that I didn’t finish the series, once I re-read my review for the final book I read, those regrets vanish.
Did you finish the series or are you just part way through?
I have read the whole series. The series has a lot of issues but the magic system and ideas kept me coming back and I loved the Skull Throne. But book 5 as lackluster to say the least and it left a sour taste in my mouth for years. Rape in fantasy isn’t a deal breaker for me but I can see my it is a red flag for others. This is one of the most polarizing series I have come across, but I wanted to sheet some light on it for everyone to see and decide for themselves.
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Good to know you’re approaching it from reading the whole series, I wasn’t sure from your post or not.
I think this series is going to disappear from everyone’s radar in just a couple more years. I haven’t been paying attention, but I haven’t heard anything publicity wise, about Brett writing more. Do you know, is he still writing?
I know he wrote a novella called Barren in 2018 that takes place in the Demon Cycle Universe but nothing beyond that. I haven’t been following him that closely
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Great review! My husband has the first few books, and I have thought about getting into this series. As you noted, opinions have been quite….varied. It’s still on my TBR, and I do hope to get to it….eventually (there are already a ton of books I plan to read this year!).
Thank you for sharing this 🙂
Your welcome! It is more polarizing then I originally thought, but definitely worth a shot. I love the Warded Man! I hope you enjoy it!
Great series, a bit redundant in parts, but tons of great characters. It is a violent world , so why the rapes it it shocked anyone is surprising. Also tame compared to the violence, rape and other disturbing things to be found in Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. So why it should be controversial is beyond me.
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