Reviews: The Warded Man

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The Warded Man
This is an unusual book, but not because its themes or setting. No, it's unusual because it inverts the main flaw that is often associated with long fantasy novels: padding.

In this book years pass by without much note. At one point our POV character just leaves his home for adventure and in the next paragraph he is exploring an ancient ruin on the other end of the world. There is little to no padding, no fat, indeed often not even any breathing room for the story to stretch its legs, rushing forward like the author was just trying to get the establishing of the characters and the setting out of the way... which is a bit of a problem when 80% of the book is just that: establishing the setting and following characters who doesn't even get together and show why it was important to follow them until the climax of the book.

Combine that with mood-whiplashes, abysmal romance (though romance is thankfully not the focus of the book) and the majority of the characters being horrible, horrible people who rarely get their comeuppance and you can be in for some frustrating sections.

That said, most of the book is still pretty good. The parts following Arlen are generally the most interesting. Leesha's chapters are also good, though most of them are about her going down various trauma conga lines. Rojer's chapters on the other hand are, frankly, irrelevant and if he didn't play one important role in the climax he would have been completely pointless as a character altogether.

The setting is also interesting in its own way, though one has to wonder about its scale (in this case we are talking about entire civilizations and climates existing within a few weeks of foot travel from each other.) I would have also liked some more elaboration on how being constantly besieged changed human society (aside of turning the in-universe-arabic-expyes into a culture of fanatic religious blood knights... real original, btw...). Maybe later books deliver on that front.

The action is really good. It's tense, visceral and it is never a clear victory for the heroes. Injuries are gruesome and commonplace and they grant weight to even small fights. Too bad it only comes into focus in the last third of the book.

Overall it was a decent read with some fun parts, if a bit rushed. I would still recommend in the end, especially the Graphic Audio version.
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