The Daylight War – Peter V Brett

Posted: April 28, 2013 in fantasy, Review

daylight warMy initial reaction to the arrival of “The Daylight War” in the mail was “It’s a brick”, and at 802 pages and a good 5cm thick, it very definitely is. It’s taken me a while to read it as well, because unlike some, I did not find Brett’s style especially compelling. Don’t get me wrong, the man can string words together well enough, his prose is nicely descriptive, and his characters are rich and complex. And he does have some clever ideas, notably in the way his magic works, including an innovative use for polyhedral dice. I also liked his use of the naturally occurring alloy electrum as the “magic metal” as opposed to the invented materials we commonly see in fantasy novels.

But… there are problems with the structure both of the world Brett has created and of the novel itself. Brett’s map doesn’t have a scale, but travel times suggest this isn’t a huge area, so is this “the last bastion of humanity” – or is there a “rest of the world”? In any case, the geography doesn’t make much sense. Rivers don’t just split randomly as they flow down from the mountains, and deserts form in the rain shadow of mountains, not simply to the south of forests.

Brett has three societies in conflict. To the south there is a desert people with an “Arabian Nights” culture, to the north is a wild western medieval people inhabiting temperate forests and grasslands, and then there are the alien corelings who are the principal antagonist in the series. Where the corelings come from isn’t clear, though there are hints that their appearance caused the downfall of an earlier more technological civilisation. However, this can’t be our world, simply because nowhere is there any geography, physical or social, that remotely matches. I also have difficulty understanding how humanity could have survived for so many centuries with the depredation of nightly attacks by the demonic corelings.

The novel itself doesn’t flow that well either, mainly because the narrative frequently jumps both in place and in timeframe, something that I found quite disconcerting, and forcing me to keep checking the chapter heading to figure out when it was set. For example, the prologue got me interested in one character, Inevera, growing up in the desert society, then chapter one jumped forward thirty years into the future, to the main characters from the earlier novels, with their annoying “western” accents.

It isn’t until chapter 7 that the narrative returns to Inevera, having visited various other groups of characters on the way. Around chapter 20 the novel reaches its first climax, with the wedding of two major characters followed by a major battle for the northerners. The southerners get to their climatic fight in chapter 27 after a bit more arguing. This is followed by a very odd dénouement where one major character decides to have it out with another, and then the book ends, very abruptly on a very literal cliffhanger. If I’d been the editor, I’d have sent the manuscript back for a good solid re-write with a view to straightening out the narrative, and losing a whole lot of excess verbiage. Oh, and Brett doesn’t believe in “drawing the curtain”, so this is most definitely an adult novel in both senses of the word.

Some of the difficulties I have with “The Daylight War” result from the fact that this is not simply the third book in a series – it’s the third part of what is in effect one enormous multi-volume novel. This is a tendency in fantasy writing I find deplorable, and Brett’s blatant attempt to taunt readers into buying the next book by causing them to wonder what will happen next, frankly isn’t going to work on this reader. He has not succeeded in getting me interested enough to care, and I have better (and shorter) books to read…

Harper Voyager

Supplied by Harper Collins NZ

Reviewed by Jacqui

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