Peter V Brett - The Daylight War


"The Daylight War" is my favorite novel yet by Peter V. Brett, and it's one of the best fantasy novels that I've read. It describes how, after the events of "The Desert Spear," Arlen and Jardir prepare for the coming new moon.

The rest of this review will not contain spoilers about "The Daylight War" (though it will describe plenty of broad trends and things that you learn very early on), but it will assume that you have read the previous two books and spoil those.

POVs and Subjectivity
In the first book, there were three point-of-view characters (Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer). In the second book, Brett threw in four more (Mind, Jardir, Abban, and Renna). In the third book, we now have even more (Inevera), bringing the total up to 8! That's definitely enough to make me complain about fragmentation, especially when there are at least 5 minor characters that get a substantial amount of ink, but yet the story felt cohesive. Even more so than the last one, in fact.

One of my main criticisms of "The Desert Spear" was that the history of Jardir was a bit long and disconnected from the rest of the story, and I didn't feel that I could very easily empathize with the culture that was being presented. Part of the problem is that "The Warded Man" didn't strongly develop Arlen's time in the desert, so the focus on Jardir seemed out of place. However, when "The Daylight War" tells Inevera's story, it builds off of Jardir's story: in "The Desert Spear," Jardir sees the extent to which Inevera is shaping events and hiding things from him. Hers is a story that I had already wanted to know more about. Also, Brett tells her story a bit faster than he did Jardir's story.

I love what Brett does with subjectivity. After reading Inevera's story, we have seen the events when Arlen is in Krasia three times. By the end of the book, we also hear of it a fourth time as the characters retell their experiences. None of the stories are really wrong. They just aren't complete on their own. But each person's story of those events is essential to their overall story and to their narrative as an individual. It isn't a problem that Brett has so many POV characters because each story feels incomplete without the others, so adding in the new POVs both creates new, unique individuals and informs the narratives of the other individuals. All of this in addition to exploring how we tell stories and how important the subjectivity of an experience can be.

The Characters
Brett's books are good because of the characters, and in the second book, I disliked a lot of the characters. Rojer didn't do that much. Arlen thought that he was evil and suffered existential angst, so he was antisocial (despite being a great leader), which was bad for the world. Jardir exercised the leadership that Arlen didn't, but he didn't value human life and he had low standards for women, northerners, and khaffits, the non-warrior caste. Leesha was okay.

All of that changes in "The Daylight War" thanks to the events at the end of "The Desert Spear." Now, I like all of the characters even though they don't like each other. Rojer grows a spine and upgrades his magic, so even though he's still not quite as epic as Arlen, Jardir, or Leesha, he's still a force to be reckoned with as well as someone who sets an example for others to follow. After Renna brings Arlen back at the end of book 2, he upgrades both his power and his personality. Not only can he use mind demon tricks, but he finally feels connected to the world rather than separated from it. I no longer have to agonize over him being so stupid all the time! Now, not only does he have a moral system that won't accept injustice, but he is willing to lead others on that path. And Jardir, with Inevera's help, becomes more liberal. He's still not the guy that I would throw my hat behind, but he becomes less foreign and more approachable. Also, as he gets more accustomed to the spear, crown, and cloak of Kaji, he gets his power upgraded, too. Leesha continues largely the same as she did in the second book, though I'm expecting some more scientific explorations in the fourth book.

Oh, and that thing where Arlen is different from everyone else and thinks that he's a demon and it isn't just his tattoos? In book 3, we learn why that is, and my guess from early book 2 was totally correct.

Jardir and Inevera present an interesting counterpoint to Renna and Arlen. Arlen and Jardir both play the role of deliverers in their societies, but in many ways, Arlen's more similar to Inevera and Renna to Jardir. The role that Arlen plays is the intellectual. He knows about all of the societies and about all of the demons and their powers, so he knows what to do, he has too much angst to do what needs to be done. It's Renna's force of personality and brute strength that keeps him grounded and points him in the right direction. The role that Inevera plays is also the intellectual. She, with her dice, knows the general shape of things to come, so he knows what to do, but because of her social role, she can't directly do them. It's Jardir's force of personality and brute strength that implements her plans. Despite those differences, though, there is a common theme of the woman making the man and of the benefits of the person making the plans being grounded.

One of the mind-ward powers that I want to feature is the ability to see auras. When using the ward-sight, someone can see shifts in other people's emotions (once they know what to look for). It isn't quite mind reading, but it allows Brett to develop his deliverers more. They might be empathetic normally, but now they can actually see what people are feeling, so they become quite imposing religious figures in their ability to deal with people.

The Setting
Everyone's power upgrades and Inevera's story allow Brett to delve into lots of different types of magic. We see after Arlen's fight with the mind demon that he can use demon magic now, so we get to learn how that works. It's fairly cool, but it starts seeming more like a traditional fantasy genre spell caster and less unique (though the experience of it in the book is much more nuanced). We see during Inevera's fight with Leesha and with the mind demon that demon bones can act as magic batteries, so we get to learn more about how that works.

We also see more of Rojer's musical magic, but I wasn't terribly happy with that. Brett features a couple of songs in his book, but he doesn't bring them to life. The songs just didn't seem very lyrical. In "Name of the Wind," Rothfuss features music strongly, but he spends more time describing how his characters interact with it than describing the music itself or the lyrics. I got the sense that it was because Rothfuss cared more about the characters and that he wasn't a musician himself, so he didn't think he would be able to do the songs justice. Brett, on the other hand, tries to give a full picture of the songs, but he doesn't quite succeed.

There's quite a bit of sex. It's a little awkward. In previous books, there was only a little bit; now, it seems like every character is having sex and gossiping about it with everyone else. Even the recollections of the past are more sexual. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that, but I don't think it's Brett's forte. Brett is a good author when he's talking about the big picture stuff like everyone's overall philosophies and the war with the demons and the like. Brett isn't as good when talking about the details, whether that's one-on-one combat and the tactics within a battle or sex. His books didn't focus too much on the individual battles, which was good because that isn't the kind of author that he is. Now he's spending more time on sex, which isn't his strong suit.

The Ending
Wow. Just wow. For me, the ending can make or break the book. Some people have criticized it, but it's great.