The Warded Man (Demon Cycle #1) by Peter V. Brett *spoilers*

the warded man

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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 members 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, the will stand against the night.

So, I have sat on this review for…forever. All of my friends love this book. I actually enjoyed this book. But it gave me nightmares. Not from the subject matter – as would be expected – but from one little scene and the reactions of the character that totally ruined the book for me.

It ruined the book for me so much that I decided not to continue with the series. I have the paper copy of this book…and I decided not even to shelve it at home. Those who know me are all O_O right now. She didn’t shelve it?? WTF

How badly could it have ruined the book for me when I gave it four stars, you ask? Well, spoilers ahead. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

To start with, I don’t even think I can put my thoughts together with enough…calm to even write a real review. So I decided to go back to the group discussion I had about this book and pull/post those comments:

And now, let the spoilers commence!! You should stop reading right now if you don’t want the shit spoiled out of this book right now.

So, I finally finished. There were not too many surprises as I figured out where the author was going pretty early. That didn’t bother me because I enjoyed the ride.

I really enjoyed The Warded Man and really have only two complaints:

-WTF could have compelled the author [to write in the raping of Leesha???! After being a virgin for 27 years the fucking author has her losing her virginity by fucking gang rape???!?!? That’s just bullshit and it really lessened a lot of the enjoyment of the ending of the book for me. I fricking get the fact that a woman being raped is realistic. But guess what? I don’t read fantasy for realism! If the author wanted to rape the poor girl he should have done it earlier in the book, IMO. On top of that, if the author was going for realism he would have had to remove the quick and positively thrown together relationship between Arlen and Leesha. It’s completely unrealistic that she would be gang raped of her virginity on one day, violently protest the deaths of her ravishers the next day, and offer herself to Arlen a few days later. As you can tell, I have a major problem with this. It makes me seriously hesitate on the next book.

-My other issue is the plot line with the guys who live in the desert. It really doesn’t bother me that much. It’s really the former.

Now going back and reading the spoilers that I missed, I have to say that I agree with Ala and Colleen regarding my connection to Arlen after he became the Warded Man. He became rather blah. I also expected that I wouldn’t fall in love with Rojer and I was totally right. Not impressed by him at all.

Carol said: Totally with you on the rape/”offering” herself to Arlen. Not emotionally realistic or consistent. So much time was devoted to the sex issue with her hulking dude, and then to suffer a traumatic event and then be okay after that long history? Didn’t buy it. Besides the fact that it was unneeded.

(Me again)Yeah, I didn’t buy that at all. To me it felt like [the author looked down and said, “you know what I need here to make Leesha a more sympathetic character instead of a Mary Sue? Rape! It’ll be perfect!”

Then 2 chapters later he realized that there were no romantic relationships in the book so he decided to toss one in “for the ladieees.” Ugh.

What really pisses me off about the whole scene is that the author could have accomplished the same activity without raping the virgin. Really? You build up her virginity for almost the entire book and then have her gang raped. Thanks, Peter. That’s perfect. I appreciate that. Can’t think up anything else?

/fed up of fucking rape as “the realistic bad thing that happens to women” fucking trope soapbox

______

At this point, a group member directs us to a post that Brett made about Leesha getting gang raped:

Peter Brett said: “I’ve put off responding to this thread a bit, both to let everyone have their say before commenting, but also so that I could consider my response carefully. This is a difficult topic to discuss, because sexual assault is (and should be) an issue that raises powerful emotional reactions in people. Those reactions are unique to each of us based on our personality and experience, and when they clash, emotions can flare quickly. I’ve been burned by this topic before, but I’ve really been enjoying the conversation in this thread. It’s been very civil and mature.

The sexual assault of Leesha and her ensuing copulation with the Painted Man is easily the most controversial thing in The Warded Man. A small percentage of readers even say it ruined the story for them. If I went back in time and cut out a few key scenes from the final manuscript, I’d probably go up half a point or more in my Goodreads rating, sell more books, and would have to weather far fewer attacks on my character in some of the negative reviews (all of which I read).

But I wouldn’t do it. I believed then, and continue to believe now, that everything that happened in those scenes was in-character, valuable to the plot of the series, in line with reality, and something I wanted to comment on.

Sexual assault is a lot more common, both historically and even in our modern society, than most people are willing to acknowledge. One of my best friends is a sex crimes prosecutor in New York, and she will casually tell me stories that are traumatizing just to hear, much less experience firsthand. Yet people do. It destroys some victims, and brings out an incredible strength in others that they never knew was there. Strength that lets them not only pick themselves up and go on with their lives, but to approach it with a new perspective that helps them accomplish great things. I have had the privilege of knowing several of these amazingly strong people, and feel it does them a disservice to pretend they aren’t among us.

I know a lot of people enjoy a safer brand of fantasy, where some of the uglier aspects of human nature are whitewashed out. I respect that, and often share the feeling. There are times when I am in the mood for JK Rowling, and times I am in the mood for George RR Martin. Sometimes I want Terry Brooks comfort food, and other times I want Joe Abercrombie to make me uncomfortable.

With my own work, I wanted a world that felt real to me, where we see people at their best and at their worst. Sometimes the same person. We all have our demons.

With regards to what happened between Leesha and the Painted Man… their facebook relationship status is set at “It’s complicated”. I think Amber said it well that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to act after being victimized. Every person is unique, as are the circumstances they are put in. But that said, and though it is seemingly counter-intuitive, it is actually quite common for victims of sexual assault to seek out a consensual encounter soon afterward. This is for a wide variety of reasons, including but not limited to a desire to take back control of one’s sexuality, erase the previous encounter, or hedge one’s bets on paternity.

There were lot of factors at work leading up to the Leesha/Painted Man hook-up; a lot of powerful emotions. I think most people know what that feels like. It not like it’s unusual for young and sexually inexperienced people to make unexpected connections during periods of upheaval in their lives. Quite often, this leads to consensual sexual encounters that both partners have mixed feelings about afterward, but are unable to resist at the time. Heck, it’s practically on the curriculum at most universities.

I would like to point out that this particular encounter took place not “hours” after Leesha’s initial assault, but two and a half days later. It seems like less because there are only a few pages in the book for the reader to absorb the initial assault and then shift gears, but that was intentional. The characters were still disoriented, and I wanted the reader to be, too.

Both Arlen and Leesha were arguably at the lowest points of their lives, feeling ostracized and misunderstood by everyone around them, and spiritually violated. Personally, I don’t find it strange at all that they saw that reflected in one another and chose to try and take comfort in each other’s arms, even though they knew the act itself would be a stressful, emotional experience for them. The driving theme behind the story is the facing of one’s fears, and both Arlen and Leesha are terrified of relationships and what comes with them. The fact that they are both virgins in their mid-twenties in a world where most people get married and start having kids at thirteen is a testament to this, and their encounter was an attempt to face that fear.

As to the question of whether the events have changed Leesha, they unquestionably have, but changes of that sort take place over a long period of time. Immediately after, Leesha is forced to unceremoniously (if temporarily) shove all her own problems to the side and take on the responsibility of Herb Gatherer of Cutter’s Hollow and address the immediate problems facing the devastated community. That she was able to do this is a testament to her strength, but she will be continuing to deal with the ramifications of what happened throughout the series.”

And here’s how I felt about that:

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Thank you very much for that link. It was very interesting. I’m tempted to send the author a pm with a link so he can know he hit a few others…

And how funny is it that gang raping the virgin is much more important than selling more books. *sadfacepalm*

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But at the same time…I am not feeling his commentary…and I think that it feels like what a person who has never been violated or has ever lived in the fear of violation would say. Saying that rape is common is like saying the sun rises & sets every day. We get that. My issue is the location of the book in which the rape fell and the way he set up the rape happening. If he was looking for realism then Leesha wouldn’t have been a 27 y/o virgin to begin with considering the current state of this world. That was an authorial decision to build up her situation in that way so stop passing the buck at “sexual assault is realistic.” Men get sexually assaulted regularly as well…but I seem to notice a decided LACK of male rape in fantasy books.

I think it was also…insensitive placement rather that “realism at work.” If the rape had occurred at almost any place besides right before the end of the book…I might have had a better feeling towards it. Instead of going to bed high off of the humans’ success in finally standing up to demons I go to bed feeling dark and low with a gang rape scene floating by.

Another issue is…Damn it, Brett! Other things happen to women besides rape! That shit shows up every book and a half! I don’t want “realistic sexual assault!” I bought a fantasy book for god’s sake. Most guys don’t finish a fantasy book and think to themselves “that could happen to me” so why is it that most men feel the need to put rape in a book and call it realistic? Shit, let the woman get ripped to shreds by demon, too. Maybe disfigurement? Why wasn’t Rojer raped and Leesha disfigured? Come on! I get damn tired of “rape = realism”

I’m not going to lie, the part with Leesha being raped – even though it wasn’t graphic really put me off the whole series.

While I was reading The Warded Man I kept thinking that the set up and most of the ideas in the book were not that original but it was very fresh, you know? I felt that Brett had taken several rather old ideas but gave them a very fresh and new take that I enjoyed. There was not one single thing that happened in the book that surprised me other than the violence to women and the incest but I was really enjoying the new spin the author had.

Then gang rape of Leesha after all the other male = total jackass & female = weak & silly issues AND the author saying that the rape was there for realism just…put me off of the whole thing. I really don’t give a good damn if rape = realism. Last I checked demons attacking humans at night ≠ realism, so an author telling me that he needs to include a gang rape because it’s realistic…well, it bothers me. Add that to the fact that this particular trope has been killed, beaten and then stomped in the mud. There was nothing fresh about that trope. It has made me second guess what the author would offer in the second book and really ruined the idea of the “freshness” of this author. I have no intention of reading The Desert Spear anytime soon, maybe never.

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3 thoughts on “The Warded Man (Demon Cycle #1) by Peter V. Brett *spoilers*

  1. Pingback: An Aficionado’s Guide to the Top 100 Fantasy Books of All Time – Part 3 | books, life, & wine

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