Book Review: The Warded Man

The Warded Man

From Goodreads:

As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.

I got around to reading this book a few weeks ago because both I and my friend Shannon (@conflictedesire) had copies, and we decided to read them together. As with pretty much everything I read these days, this is a book that I originally picked up in the first place because of a lot of people recommending that I pick it up and read it. The peer pressure can get kinda heavy when you hang out with a bunch of other book nerds.

Unlike the rest of the books they’ve recommended, though, I did not love this one. I’m sorry, Shannon, I really wish we’d picked something better for our first read together.

The book isn’t all bad, of course. It has many of the hallmarks of a standard fantasy, and I can see how, for a certain audience, it would be a good fit. It’s got a strong good versus evil plot, some exciting battles, and the tantalizing hints of more underlying story and a vast, ancient world, that usually draw me into longer fantasy epics, and are what I really enjoy about the genre.

The magic system is pretty cool, a ward-based system where wards drawn by the characters create magical barriers and have other effects on the demons that rise out of the ground every night. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get more specifics of the system, instead being limited to a very vague view of the character drawing “a warding circle”, a task which apparently requires great skill, but of which we know practically nothing. This complaint is probably more due to my personal preference for hard magic systems a la Sanderson, though, and it was a fun magic system overall.

Even without the other issues it suffers from, I found the writing to be a bit simplistic. There is a bit too much telling, and not enough showing, and I felt that several scenes could have done with more of an immersive feeling and less straight-up infodumping. It felt as if the author was only putting some of these scenes into the book to get from the previous action scene that he had written to the next he wanted to write. This, I feel, is probably something that will get much better in the series as it goes on, and, for a first book, it’s not an insurmountable problem. I also found the plot to be straightforward and predictable at times, again, something that usually gets better later in a series.

Unfortunately, I won’t be continuing with this series—not any time soon, certainly. I had much larger issues with the story than just the first-book writing style problems. The largest problem I had with this book was the portrayal of the female characters. Many of the female side characters seem to only be there as objects of desire, someone to be slept with, or saved from the demons. I had hopes at some points of the novel that these problems would be rectified, but they never were. The main culture of the novel respects women only as mothers, which reduces their value to essentially baby-making machines, and places a stigma on any woman unable to have children. When Arlen ventures to another country to visit another culture, instead of being shocked at how the women are treated completely as subservient property, he is only disappointed by how his male friend is treated poorly because he is a merchant and not a warrior. His only issue with being offered a wife—or wives—of his choosing is that he doesn’t want to be tied down.

Leesha, the female viewpoint character of the novel, gave me a bit of hope for a while. Bruna, her mentor, is awesome in many ways, but… Leesha can be best described as miss “Beautiful McBoobs.” She is the constant object of desire of her entire town. At one point, she travels on the road with a man who attempts to rape her. She managed to fend him off… by dosing his dinner every night so that he cannot perform in bed. The book seems to indicate that, even though he pulls her clothes off and does pretty much everything else to her, since he cannot “perform”, everything is fine. (Also, how thick does he have to be to not realize what’s happening?)

There is also rape later in the book, though it is offscreen. I did not feel like the results and reactions to it were handled very well. At all.

In summary, The Warded Man was a book that took a well-worn path that many fantasy novels have taken before, and started off with some cool action and an intriguing magic system. However, I got bogged down by the amateurish writing and, more than anything, the poor treatment of female characters across the board. I give it two of five stars because parts of the plot were enjoyable, but I definitely do not recommend it.

The Big Bang Theory Tag

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My friend Jessie, from Jessie Reads Everything, tagged me to do The Big Bang Theory Book Tag, which was created by Terri from Reading by Starlight. It looks like a lot of fun, and I’ve never done one of these before, so I decided to try this one and see how it turned out. It was a lot of fun, and I had to think about some of my choices for quite some time, but in the end, I think I’m happy with all of them.

I’ve only seen the first season of TBBT, and while I found it quite amusing, I didn’t feel the need to watch any more (I’m not much of a TV person. The only other show I’ve seen in the last decade is Game of Thrones.). Regardless, I’m familiar with most of the ideas, either from the first season or seeing the inevitable memes online. Without further ado, here goes!

1. The Fish Night Light

A book that may have been rocking its crazy but was still kind of brilliant.

The-Mirror-Empire-cover

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley is one of those books that has everything and the kitchen sink. Carnivorous trees, brutal blood magic, parallel worlds, satellite magic, societies with 5+ genders, utterly crazy religions, and so on. The book is just overflowing with the crazy ideas, and Kameron mostly manages to pull it off, though it does occasionally have the feeling of a train crashing downhill while you pray that the driver will be able to regain control before you hit the bottom.

2. The Hawking

The author that would be like your equivalent of Physics Genius meets Stephen Hawking.

BrianMcClellan

Brian McClellan. Like Jessie, I was originally going with Sanderson, but I decided that since I’ve already met him, I should use this one for another author. Brian writes some great books, and is a student of the Sanderson. He’s a beekeeper and overall awesome person. I’ve actually gotten to beta read some of his short stories and novellas, and I’m in the acknowledgements of one or two of them, and I’m really, really looking forward to meeting the person behind the books at WorldCon this year.

3. The Euclid Avenue

The book so full of bumps and (plot) holes that it proved annoying to read.

sorcerer

Before you crucify me, hear me out! I had a really hard time coming up with this one. By the time they get through editing and everything else, most books have pretty solid plots, and very few plot holes. I’ve recently been relistening to the Harry Potter series, and they have some plot holes you could fly a broomstick through… How did the Dursleys ever get off that rock? Why would you send students to their dormitories after a troll gets in, when they’re already safe in the great hall, and one of the dormitories is in the dungeon? Perhaps most importantly, did Dumbledore really believe that any of the enchantments on the Stone, except possibly his own, would prevent Voldemort from getting it? They were weak enough for 3 first years to get past, and that’s without any summoning charms or blasting spells or anything that would have made some parts of it much easier.

That’s not to say that I don’t love the books, though. They, and their characters, are utterly amazing. The plot holes just bothered me a little more this time around.

4. The Spock Napkin

The book for which you had low or moderate expectations, and then it was so beyond awesome that you wanted to hug it and love it and shout about it forever.

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The Emperor’s Blades. This was the second ARC I ever received, and I won it in a sweepstakes competition. It was a debut, and I really hadn’t heard anything about the author or the book beforehand, and I’ve had rather iffy results with books I randomly select in the past. But it blew me away, and I am so much in love with this one now that I am pushing it on everyone I know while eagerly anticipating the third volume in the trilogy, THE LAST MORTAL BOND, which I need more than water. (Cover art below because it’s just so frigging amazing.)

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5. The Awkward Fanboy

The book that seems to follow you around the blogosphere, and you know you don’t want to read it but it won’t leave you alone.

Heir of Fire

I read the prequel novellas and the first two books in this series, and I’m the black sheep on these. I didn’t enjoy them very much, but everyone says they get better and they’re always pushing me to read the next one. I will get around to it eventually, as I have a copy, but I’m not expecting it to be a book that I love.

6. The Classified Materials

The book with a spoiler so huge, when anyone asks, you just can’t even say because the spoiler is such a big part of it.

A-Storm-of-Swords

Some weddings and stuff happen in this book. People die, occasionally. So many twists and turns in the second half of this novel, and they’re what make it so interesting, so discussing it without these twists is practically impossible. (And yes, I dismissed several Sanderson novels, especially Hero of Ages and Way of Kings, for this spot because I wanted to keep it at just one book per author on this list.)

7. The Jiminy

The book that gets mistaken most often for the wrong genre, and you’re constantly arguing for why it’s this other genre/subgenre.

Sword_of_shannara_hardcover

This one is always classified as straight up fantasy, but, as we find out in the history lessons in the opening chapters, it’s really a far-future earth, in what is really a recovering post-apocalyptic setting. Brooks has gone back and explored this in deep detail in some of his other series, showing us the transition from the earth we know to the world of Shannara, and it’s fascinating. People still insist on calling it straight up fantasy, however.

8. The Adhesive Duck

The book that was all cute and cuddly and then WHAM YOUR FEELS AND OW AND YOUR HEART AND WHAT JUST HAPPENED.

Firefight

Of course there’s Sanderson on this list somewhere… I don’t ship hardly anyone, but I do ship Megan and David, and they are just so cute. Also, I love Mizzy and the new team we’re introduced to, and the setting is just so dang cool… And then there’s the Sanderson avalanche at the end of this that makes me want to cry. So many feels for so many characters. It would be spoilers to say who, but, well, if you’ve read it you know what I mean.

9. The Zazzy

The book that’s got so much personality that it’s just ZAZZY and there’s no other word for it.

This one is just awesome all the way through, and all of the characters are so vibrant. Kell, Lila, Rhy, the Danes… They all have such unique attitudes and they’re so well written, they really imbue the book with their personalities. And that’s not to mention the various Londons, all of which have their own personalities too…

10. The Hot Troll

The book you thought would be beautiful and fabulous and then it turned out to be horrible and gross.

The Warded Man

I’ve not been repulsed by this book in quite a while. I finished reading it this afternoon, and there were several points I wanted to throw it across the room, not because of the agony it caused me through its characters (A la Red Wedding. Everyone chunks their book across the room at that point.), but because it was just so… Yuck. Rape all over the place, combined with a distinct lack of agency by any of the female characters (except maybe the one who is hardly onscreen and then dies), and a series of cultures, each of which disrespect their women more than the last, just really set my teeth on edge. The book itself, without this, probably would have been moderately entertaining, and I’ve heard lots of people who love this series, but the way sex, rape, and female characters in this book were treated really ruined any enjoyment I had. I’ll be reviewing it soon.

11. The Zarnecki

The book with an antagonist so evil/mean/disgusting that you’d drive many hours just to knee him/her in the … well you get it.

the-hunger-games-trilogy

President Snow. I didn’t go for any of the obvious, out-and-out “you kill me or die” villains. They don’t strike the same loathing into me as the quiet, manipulative, political villains, the ones who know exactly what they’re doing, exactly how many people they’re messing up, and have such complete control over the main character’s lives that I just have to shudder to think of them. And President Snow is one of the best examples of this kind of character I’ve ever read. He forces Katniss and Peeta to play along with his games, forces them to smile and pretend there’s nothing wrong, while he destroys their lives and ruins their futures. *shudder*

12. The Train Tour

The book with the development/ending/sunken ship/whatever that proved so upsetting, you contemplated running away forever so you didn’t have to deal with your feels.

Hero of Ages

Okay, so I lied. I did include 2 Sanderson books on this list. Anyone who has reached the end of The Hero of Ages knows what I mean. “I am, unfortunately, the Hero of Ages.”… And if you’re feeling particularly brave, let me know, and I’ll send you some fan-art that’ll leave you sobbing, whether you’ve read the book once or a dozen times.