At first look, The Warded Man seemed like just another fantasy novel. I was excited to have the opportunity to review this book, but I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular. I read the back cover and knew that there were demons in the story. Cool. So I picked it up and started to read.
Boy, were my expectations blown out of the water. Arlen’s story drew me in. His village is attacked, his mother wounded. His father freezes rather than risk his own life, so Arlen is forced to step up and beat back the aforementioned demons, known as corelings, to save her life. When his mother dies anyway, Arlen runs away from home, vowing to find a way to fight the demons.
Leesha’s story bound me in tighter. The young and naive girl’s hopes to be a wife and mother are shattered when her betrothed spreads rumors that she’s given up the goods before the wedding. In a fury at his lies, she calls off the marriage and takes refuge with the local healing woman.
Rojer’s story sealed the deal. At 3 years old, Rojer’s family is attacked by corelings and killed. Poor Rojer is crippled in the attack, losing two fingers to one of the demons. Rojer’s mother is killed protecting him, and at her last request, the Jongleur Arrick takes the young orphan to raise him.
The book consists of three sections with several chapters each. The first section tells of the history of our three main heroes. The second section manuevers the players into position. The third brings the trio together for the first time in a resounding conclusion.
The storytelling reminded me strongly of The Wheel of Time. Maybe it’s just the classic fantasy set-up of mysterious stranger coming to help the young hero come into his own after his family is attacked by evil baddies. That’s not a bad thing, and the way that classic story is handled is unique and captivating. I enjoyed the language of the tale. It flowed smoothly and didn’t get in its own way.
The Warded Man is a fast-paced, engrossing tale of youth coming into it’s own in a harsh world. It focuses on the need to fight, even in the face of extreme adversity and the near surety of being overwhelmed. It also explores humanity’s tendency to “group-think”. There are glimpses into how rumor and religion affect the individual as well as the group.
Overall, The Warded Man is worth the read. I recommend it to anyone with a soft spot for traditional fantasy of the likes of Jordan, Eddings, Brooks, or Goodkind.