The world is infested with demons (see also vampires, zombies, etc.) that rise from the ground like mist at sunset. They are incredibly powerful, all but impossible to kill, and are ravenously hungry. Anyone caught outside the protection of magical wards is doomed to a grisly death. People live in remote villages unable to communicate or travel due to the impossibility of being caught outdoors at night. Although a few stalwart messengers travel the land, braving the nightly demon onslaught with portable warded circles.
Arlen is a young boy living in a remote village who is so horrified by his father’s cowardly refusal to suffer almost certain death to save his mother that he runs off into the night (presumably to become demon chow) only through unbelievable luck, is saved and brought to a remote city where he can pursue his dream of becoming a messenger.
Although really what he wants to do is get all these people to stop huddling in their semi-safe warded houses at night and take the battle back to the demons. So he travels to the warrior desert people of Krasia (read: middle easterners) who are warlike, make their women wear burkas, are suspicious of foreigners, but routinely battle demons. Of course the mean Krasians steal the legendary spear Arlen has found. But not before he copied all the super special wards that were on the spear. He then travels the desert close to death, starving, and tattooing his body with powerful wards. I don’t want to spoil any surprise for those who didn’t see this coming from the very beginning but Arlen becomes…..the warded man.
This was a reasonably enjoyable book that felt like an amalgamation of better books (Wheel of Time, The Passage, Name of the Wind, etc.). The concept of demons who have all but overtaken man seemed original at first but then quickly settles into your basic “young boy journeys to become powerful hero” stuff. The main characters are all brave, kind, smart, and wonderful. Also flat and forgettable.
Also there is an undeveloped romance shoehorned into the end of the story that particularly bothered me. This woman is gang-raped by bandits (mercifully we learn about this after the fact and don’t have to actually read the nitty gritty) and suffers no emotional trauma due to this. So she happily has a romantic interlude with the hero just a few days after this brutal episode. To which I say no. Just no. If you don’t want to deal with a woman loosing her virginity by being raped by a troupe of heathens then don’t write it into your story. But if you DO choose to have her suffer this fate then there damn well better be some repercussions. Because this is a pretty heavy thing to have a young girl just toss off like it was nothing.
There will presumably be a Book 2 to follow but I’m neither intrigued enough by the author or the story to care to continue.