Literature / The Warded Man
The first book in Peter V. Brett's quintology, the Demon Cycle
. The Warded Man
(also known as The Painted Man
in the United Kingdom) is the story of mankind's struggle to survive in a world where demons rise each night to kill those not protected by magical wards. Society has crumbled and humans survive in isolated settlements, ranging from cities to small hamlets. Few will brave the roads to travel between settlements. The book tells the tale of three children, each born in different hamlets, who manage to overcome tragedies and leave the safety of their homes to find their destinies.The Warded Man
was published in 2009 (2008 in the UK) and has been followed by the Desert Spear
. Brett has also released The Great Bazaar and Other Stories
, a collection of short stories set in the same universe. The third volume, The Daylight War
, was published in February 2013. The fourth, The Skull Throne
, was published in March 2015, and the series concluded with The Core
in October 2017. Paul W.S. Anderson
is currently planning to make The Film of the Book
This series provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Leesha's mom (physical and emotional abuse), and Harl Tanner (sexual abuse)
- Action Girl - Wonda and Renna.
- Adaptive Ability - May be the cause of some of the Warded Man's powers, not counting the titular wards. He has a noticeable healing factor, is able to keep up at a trot with his warhorse (while on foot) all day without any signs of exhaustion or even breathing hard, and starts to get pulled down into the Core with a demon he's pinning. This is explained in the book as being due to the warding magics gaining their strength by siphoning off the magic of the demons and channeling it into their bearer. It could also be at least in part down to him occasionally eating demons.
- Confirmed by Arlen in the first few chapters of The Daylight War.
- Adults Are Useless - Arlen's dad. His inaction leads to the death of Arlen's mother and eventually leads Arlen to go down a dark path of vengeance. Leesha's dad is a cuckold who allows his wife to walk over him and his daughter. Eventually though, he gets better.
- Don't forget that Rojer's master is a non-functional alcoholic who may have turned to drink in order to cope with the memory of surviving when everyone else in Rojer's hometown died.
- Advanced Ancient Acropolis - Anoch Sun, buried beneath the sands, is location of Kaji's (The First Deliver) tomb, crown, and spear.
- Affably Evil - Ahmann Jardir lays on the "affable" extra-thick when he visits Deliverer's Hollow. In general he has excellent manners for a Knight Templar warlord; it's sometimes easy to forget during his POV sections that he's the bad guy.
- And Man Grew Proud - After the Deliverer helped mankind defeat the corelings, man went to war with himself and the corelings rose up again to destroy civilization.
- Always Chaotic Evil - The corelings.
- To be fair, the drone corelings appear to have the same level of intelligence (and personality) as a rabid wild animal - they're smart enough to figure things out ( they can find weaknesses in wards, through experimentation, but they either can't or don't just look at ward-nets and see where the best spot to attack is) but they'll attack anything that seems weaker than themselves - including nominal "allies", like other demons.
- The third book makes it plain that the rank-and-file corelings are simply too dumb to make moral choices, acting entirely on instict with some low cunning to bolster it. The mind demons, on the other hand, play this very straight.
- Anti-Villain: Jardir, when left to his own devices rather than trying to fulfil Inevera's prophecies is generally a Type III. He's very determined to save the world from the corelings, and decent enough company if you hold to his warrior's ideas- and Everam help you if he thinks you're in his way.
- Artistic License – Biology / Anatomically Impossible Sex: in the third book, eunuch pleasure slaves exist among the Krasians: men who have had their testicles cut off, but are still capable of normal arousal and other sexual responses.
- Which is actually possible for men castrated after puberty ( especially if aided by medication as indicated in the book)
- Badass Army - Definitely Krasian dal'Sharum (warrior caste), especially Jardir's personal bodyguards.
- The Cutters of the Hollow are swiftly becoming legendary for their demon-killing prowess.
- Badass Beard - Common trait of Krasian men. Jardir encourages Arlen to grow one.
- Bare-Fisted Monk: Krasian dama and dama'ting (male and female clerics respectively) are forbidden to use weapons. Since they're the clergy of a Proud Warrior Race they don't let this stop them, and are extremely skilled at unarmed martial arts.
- Battle Couple: Arlen and Renna.
- Berserk Button: Nearly every character has one of these.
- Arlen is generally a nice person. Just don't call him the Deliverer.
- Jardir has lots of things that set him off, but never ever disrespect Inevera in his presence.
- Renna Tanner is one giant berserk button. Pretty much everything sets her off, but especially anyone who disrespects Arlen.
- Big Bad: The Coreling Queen is ultimately responsible for the demons' actions, and killing her to end the threat is Arlen and Jardir's ultimate goal in the final book. However, she's almost always off-page, so Alagai Ka/The Consort, the most powerful of the mind demons, serves as The Heavy.
- Blood Brothers: Jardir and Arlen are described as being blood brother by one character.
- Church Militant - Krasia's entire society is one.
- The Consigliere: Abban for Jardir.
- Cool Horse - Twilight Dancer, the Warded Man's warhorse. His horseshoes and the horns on his barding are warded enabling him to fight corelings.
- The Krasians get their own when they start breaking and taming wild Angerian Mustangs, the same species of horse as Twilight Dancer.
- Crapsack World - The two people with the power to fight the demons are a borderline Anti-Hero and an out-an-out villain. The villain is the one the demons are truly afraid of.
- Darker and Edgier - ...than The Runelords, which the plot shares a number of similarities with. See Follow the Leader, below.
- Demon Lords And Arch Devils: The mind demons. And the Queen whom they serve.
- Determinator - Arlen.
- Every Krasian warrior is trained to become one of these.
- Also the one-handed rock demon from The Warded Man. It followed Arlen to the Free City where he was apprenticing, emerging each night outside the walls to walk around the fortifications and test the multi-layered, impenetrable wards over and over again. Every night. For nearly one and a half years. And in the end it actually succeeds!
- Disney Villain Death: Maybe. At the end of book three, Jardir goes over a cliff and definitely hits bottom- but as the book ends right there, it's unclear at this point if he was killed or only seriously injured.
- Averted. The extract from The Skull Throne posted on Peter V. Brett's website confirms Jardir survived.
- The Dragon - In the second book, Arlen, Jardir and the two mind demons each have one.
- In the third book, we meet the coreling Consort, the oldest and most powerful mind demon, who is the mate and enforcer for the as-yet-unseen coreling Queen.
- Empowered Badass Normal: Arlen and Renna. Eating demon flesh has altered their biology, allowing them to store magic within themselves while still not being affected by sunlight.
- Engagement Challenge - Leesha gives one to Jardir that he fails miserably after he demands she wed her because she's carrying his child - to name the birthdates of all the children he's already got (All seventy of them) from his earlier wives.
- Fantastic Metals: Minor example, but electrum becomes very important in later books due to being the only thing that can perfectly conduct magic.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Krasia is clearly based on Arabic/Islamic culture, including requiring that woman wear heavy concealing clothing. The Thesan duchies have a more clearly medieval European feel to them.
- First Girl Wins - As of the end of the second book, it's not Leesha who finally captures Arlen's heart. As part of Arlen dealing with his past, he goes back to the place of his brith and ends up saving Renna. They end up renewing their Childhood Marriage Promise. Oddly enough Arlen's dad is married to, and has children by, her older sister.
- Follow the Leader: Man's enemy, a sinister, implacable Hive Mind consisting of several different sub-races, is emerging from deep underground, bent on wiping out humankind. The only defenses against them are magical symbols based on the enemy's own power. As the attacks grow worse, a hero emerges with the power to fight back effectively. Unfortunately, his quest is hampered by an evil warlord from a desert kingdom, engaged in a war of conquest with the aim of "uniting" (enslaving) all of mankind so he can lead them to victory and win great glory for himself. Sound familiar?
- Inevera, on the other hand, as a creepy female magic-user and devout priestess with an initially inscrutable agenda who is the advisor and lover of a Knight Templar would-be-conqueror, bears a much stronger resemblance to Melisandre than anyone from The Runelords.
- Functional Magic: Corelings draw their magic from the earth, which can be used for specific abilities or a wide range of them in the mind demons' case. Wards are special symbols that can be used by humans to leach demon magic from them and turn it against them. Initially we only see wards that are purely defensive, but ones that do a variety of other things are discovered over the course of the series. Demon bone holds residual magic, and when properly warded it can be used in unusual ways, such as Inevera's future-predicting dice and other implements of magic. The third book shows that mind demons can also use wards when they want to channel their power more precisely or wield it on a grander scale than is normally possible.
- Genius Bruiser: Arlen and Jardir are probably the two greatest warriors alive, but both men are also highly educated and quite well-read.
- Geometric Magic - The wards. In the backstory mankind had access to both offensive and defensive wards to battle the corelings. The offensive wards were lost. Until Arlen finds them again.
- Glass Cannon: Flame demons can breathe fire, which lets them pack quite a whallop, but the actual demon is only about the size of a dog and not physically all that powerful, making them one of the easiest corelings to deal with at close range.
- He Who Fights Monsters - The Warded Man, big time. To the extent that he frightens most people who meet him and he questions whether or not he's human any longer. In the end he begins to get better... maybe
- The Krasians devote their entire society to waging war on the corelings. Consequently everyone but warriors and priests are treated as sub-human.
- Hive Queen: The corelings have one. She hasn't shown up in person yet, but is stated be more powerful than even the strongest mind demon.
- Human Notepad - The Warded Man himself. The wards tattooed on his body allow him to fight and kill corelings with his bare hands.
- Implacable Man - The rock demon from the first book. After Arlen took its arm, it followed him for years, all the way to Krasia, until he finally killed it.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Bruna, a cranky old woman who is devoted to her work as a healer and shows compassion for Leesha when she needs it most.
- Keystone Army - The Krasians are the strongest human army in the world, but their Blood Knight tendencies cause clan to hate clan and individual to hate individual, often in pointless Cycle of Revenge situations caused by people holding their personal egos above the laws or the needs of the war. Only Jardir's status as Shar Dama'Ka holds them together. Once Arlen separates him from his people, they turn against each other over the course of a few months.
- Lady Macbeth - Inevera from the second book, so very much.
- The third book goes into her backstory, and reveals that she was every bit the scheming, treacherous, murdering bitch she was portrayed as in the second book, almost from the very beginning.
- At the same time we learn that unlike most of her contemporaries she is motivated not by a lust for power and politics but by a deep desire to save her people and all of humanity from what she sees as ( and in karasias case probably is) a slow, certain destruction. In the end she is every bit the Anti-villain/Knight-Templer Jardir is.
- Magic Knight: Anyone who gets charged up enough on coreling magic, particularly Arlen, Jardir and Renna.
- Magic Music - Rojer's fiddling has the power to soothe corelings and stop them from attacking. The moment he stops playing, they'll try to kill him again. His music also has the ability to enrage them further, to the extent that they'll throw themselves against wards again and again to stop his playing. It's hinted in the third book that this ability triggers the ordinary corelings the same way as the mind demons' telepathy.
- Marital Rape License - Common in Krasia, when wives literally swear to be obedient to their husbands.
- Massively Numbered Siblings: Jardir's fourteen wives have borne him fifty-two sons and at least eighteen daughters. Only a handful of them (The adults) actually make non-trivial appearances.
- Master Race - The Krasians see themselves as this, with a horrifying twist: Instead of seeking to simply dominate the rest of the world, when they embark on their war of conquest they deliberately, methodically seek out and rape all the foreign women they can in the hopes of siring more children with Krasian blood.
- Messianic Archetype - The Deliverer. The second novel sets to set up a conflict over exactly who the Deliverer actually is. Jardir betrayed Arlen in the first novel, because his manipulative wife has been grooming him to be the Deliverer, takes control of Krasia. As the descendant of the first Deliverer, everything points to his being the right man. The people of Deliverer's Hollow believe that Arlen is the Deliverer, because he taught them how to fight and brought the offensive wards. The nobility is less than enthused about allowing Arlen to call himself the Deliverer because it cuts into their power base. For his part, Arlen doesn't care and flat out tells people he's not the Deliverer; no one listens.
- There are hints that they both could be.
- Especially since the Deliverer is suggested to be more of a general than a Messiah.
- Mighty Whitey: Subverted in particularly mean-spirited fashion in the first book.
- Mind Rape - It's how the mind demons assault their victims.
- My Nayme Is - Lots of unconventional spellings: Arrick, Rojer, Erny, Wonda, Benn...
- Never Mess with Granny: Bruna doesn't put up with any shit from anyone, up to and including giant demons.
- Old Maid: Leesha constantly has to tell people that she's not too old. Of course when you consider that one of her childhood friends (who's not much older) has a daughter who's about to be married... Their culture - due to a scarcity of women - encourages women to start trying for children as soon as they start menstruating, just so that the corelings don't wipe humanity out. Given that Leesha's almost thirty, she * is* old by their standards - at least for someone who hasn't had any kids yet; even she mentions that she's starting to get to the point where "[her] best childbearing years are more behind [her] than ahead".
- One-Gender Race: Ordinary corelings are all neuter. Mind demons are all male. Coreling queens are always female, though its unknown if more than one of those exists at a time.
- One Steve Limit - Averted: there are sure a lot of female characters whose name is a variation on "Mary".
- Our Demons Are Different - The corelings rise up out of the Core at night and are destroyed by the sun. Wards repel them and unless a weapon is warded, it has almost no effect on them. The corelings are also elementally aligned and opposing elements weaken them.
- Outside-Context Problem - Old One-Arm was one for the Krasians: their wards were specialized for dealing with the types of corelings found in a desert - sand, wind, and fire. The arrival of a fairly large rock coreling, which the wards weren't tuned for and could use some of their traps against them, that had followed Arlen to Krasia devastated their ranks until Jardir rallied the survivors and Arlen broke out his personal set of wards, which included wards designed for Old One-Arm.
- The Paragon - Arlen is a variation on this. "Folk start looking to me to solve all their problems, they'll never learn to solve their own."
- Parental Substitute - Ragen's wife tries to become this for Arlen. He's less than thrilled about it and it damages their relationship until she finally stops. Arrick Who's at least partly responsible for allowing Rojer's mom to die tries to be one for Rojer, but his drinking and jealousy of Rojer's talent is part of what leads to his death.
- Power Tattoo - what happens when people start to tattoo wards on their flesh instead of painting them on wood or carving them in stone.
- Pride: Jardir's major flaw. Sure, he's about as decent a guy as you get out of the Krasian military training and genuinely wants to save the world from the demons- but he also truly buys into his role as the Deliverer and its attendant Omniscient Morality License.
- Proud Warrior Race - The Krasian culture is based on combat, primarily against the corelings. A man is either a warrior, which includes the ranged tribes, the warders, and the clerics, or he's nothing. The khaffit (non-warrior) caste are seen as honorless and are abused and raped by the warrior caste for kicks. The third book deconstructs this, as it's made increasingly clear that the Krasians are teetering on the verge of becoming a culture of straight-up Blood Knights rather than the honorable demon-killers they're supposed to be. Ironically, it's Inevera who first comes to this conclusion, full-on Lady Macbeth though she is.
- Rape as Drama - Leesha , Jardir , Reena Tanner and her sisters
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn - Krasians consider it as traditions and therefore do it after their breaking into Rizon. Abban and Jardir actually disapprove of it to varying degrees due to pragmatism: They want to conquer the north, not just sack it, and the tendency of the men to rape women who have influence among the people they are trying to subjugate and burn stuff that they needed taken intact are making things harder.
- Rescue Introduction: How Leesha and Rojer meet the Warded Man
- Revenge Before Reason: A major part of Krasian culture. Some Northern lords also take winning personal feuds (Which they often started for no real reason) to be more important than defeating the corelings.
- Silk Hiding Steel - Inevera is portrayed as subtle and delicate, but she proves to be a skilled fighter. Jardir notes (being the only one able to defeat her) that she could kill any of the Damaji (leaders of clerics, who have spent decades on combat training) before he even realized that he was attacked.
- Start of Darkness - The first part of the second book is devoted to Jardir's backstory. The third book does the same for Inevera.
- Straw Misogynist - Nearly all Krasians. By the third book, their society has begun to grow somewhat more progressive after Jardir decides he can't just throw away willing warriors because of their gender.
- The Spartan Way - Krasian system of military training.
- Squishy Wizard: The mind demons aren't all that tough physically. Unfortunately, they have vast Psychic Powers, knowledge of magic to put any human to shame, and the ability to call up any kind of Coreling they want.
- Thou Shall Not Kill - Leesha is raped by three men just because she cannot bring herself to kill them, which she could easily do.
- Training from Hell - Jardir's (and supposedly all Krasian boys') experience from sharaj (training area). During his training they are abused, bullied and even raped by both Masters and older trainees, have to fight for food, are encouraged to fight against each other and are allowed to see their families only once a month.
- Unusual Euphemism - Various forms of Core take the place of most of the typical four letter words, what with the Core being where the corelings come from and all. With demons rising in the night to kill people, telling someone to go get Cored is serious business indeed.
- In Krasia, the dama'ting (female clerics) are instructed in "the art of pillow dancing".
- Weakened by the Light: Sunlight disrupts magic. For demons, this makes sunlight lethal to them. For humans, it means that any magic they're holding burns off at dawn.
- Averted for Arlen and Renna. Eating demon flesh has altered their bodies to make them capable of retaining magic even during the day. Also for Jardir to a lesser extent, since the Spear and Crown of the Deliverer can retain magic in much the same way, and he can use that magic as long as he's touching the artifacts.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist - Jardir believes all the murder, enslavement and rape his army does serves a good purpose. Particularly the rape: he intentionally "breeds" any physically mature woman to his soldiers in the hopes of raising up a new generation of children of Krasian blood, which will of course make them superior to ordinary Northerners. Same goes for Inevera, who helped mastermind his rise.
- Worthy Opponent: Jardir and Arlen. Their relationship is described using the Krasian word zhaven, which depending on context can mean "brother" or "nemesis", or both at the same time.