Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Warded Man with my friend, Libby

Sometimes when I read a book, a specific person will come to my mind that I want to chat with about what I just read. When I read The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett, I thought of my friend, Libby. She is also a lover of fantasy books and it was at her house and through her connections that I got to meet Brandon Sanderson. She's currently undertaking the enormous task of reading all of the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time books before Sanderson comes out with the 12th book this fall. We're talking about thousands of pages of reading, people. She's no light-weight reader. When I asked her to get a copy of The Warded Man and read it so I can pick her brain, she did it in, like, two days.

I picked The Warded Man to read because the description I read said it was for people who like Brandon Sanderson. Well, that's all they had to say to get me to read it. I have some thoughts about that comparison and some ranting about the book in general, but let's see what Libby has to say too. Just as a warning, we got some spoilers going on here.

Jenny: So, what do you think? Sanderson-worthy? I can see how they make the comparison, since Sanderson is an amazing world-builder and that is what Brett is doing in The Warded Man, and pretty successfully too, in my opinion.

Libby: First, I'd like to say a little 'hello' to the folks in the RHE world. I'm so honored that Jenny would pick me to help her review this book. She is seriously my hero in all things literary. I am a light-weight reader when compared to Jenny.

So, on to the book. When Jenny asked me to read it, I decided I wasn't going to find out anything about it. I didn't even read the dust cover when I got it from the library. I assumed from the name that it was something about a man with special markings on his body, but I didn't know it was fantasy until the 2nd or 3rd page. I like seeing how a story unfolds and to me one test of a good storyteller is how completely he can envelope me in the first chapter. That is one reason I love Sanderson books: he is a master of showing just enough in those first few pages to make me want to continue on into his worlds. The Warded Man does have a very unique world. One of the scariest I think I've ever encountered in a fantasy novel.

I liked Brett's characters. The three main characters possessed both good and evil facets to their personalities; most of the "bad guys" had redeeming qualities, and Bruna is just cool. Brett uses his characters well to tell the story and I was pulled into the story quite rapidly. To answer your question, though, I don't know that I would put Brett on the same level as Sanderson, as a storyteller. I can see why reviewers would compare their writing: strong female characters, religious themes, creative worlds, and awesome magic. My biggest complaint with The Warded Man is that I think Brett relied too much on sex to create tension in his story. Sanderson, on the other hand, uses dialogue, intrigue, politics, and other non-physical human relations to create tension and make his stories flow. I felt like anytime the story was slowing down a bit (i.e. no big, scary, human-eating demons seen for a few pages) Brett tried to pick it up by throwing in a sex scene or a conversation about sex. Sorry to be so prudish, but I had thoughts of giving up on the whole book after Arlen and his father stopped at that farm on their way to find help for his mother. But I always finish my homework so I pushed on and skimmed when I needed to, though that wasn't the last time I considered just putting it down for good. Am I being a prude?

Jenny: Heck no, that was one of my complaints. Was the incest that necessary? It did nothing for the story and just made me want to toss my cookies. And another sex-related annoyance was when Leesha was raped, then promptly knocked boots with Arlen all after having carefully guarded her virginity for twenty-seven years. I was floored. Does Brett know women at all? Has he ever met a woman? Is he just stupid?

On a positive note, I loved the development of each character. Arlen, seeking out ways to battle the demons, or corelings, that rise from the depths of the earth each night, eventually separates himself from everyone he loves thinking that's the only way to accomplish his goals. Leesha, brilliant herb gatherer who just wants to be loved for who she is, not how beautiful she is. Rojer, running from his own personal demons and trying to make a name for himself. Following their stories and seeing how they intersect was a big part of the fun for me. And yes, this was one of the scariest books I've read in a long time. And I like to be scared.

Sanderson is still a better writer, hands down. Comparing the two in my mind just makes me want to go re-read the Mistborn trilogy for some truly satisfying reading. I just wish I didn't already know how it ends, darn it. Maybe I wouldn't cry so hard at the ending this time.

This is something I often do when I read a book, so I'm going to throw out the question for Libby. If this book were made into a film, who would you want to be cast as? Male or female. Who would you want to pretend to be, knowing that when you went home at night, you'd still be yourself. I like villains myself, but since most of the villains in this book are demons, I might actually have to pick a good guy.

Libby: The first two are easy: I'd pick Sean Astin to play Rojer. Christian Bale would be Arlen (must be that whole misunderstood Batman image he does so well). Leesha is more difficult. I can picture a lot of beautiful actresses pulling it off, but I would love to see Anne Hathaway try it. I would cast James Cromwell as Cob, I think Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) would make a great Ragen. I'm not sure about Arrick. For some reason, I'm picturing Orlando Bloom. Not because I think he'd do a great job, but I can't picture any other male with long golden hair. And he'd be a bad guy I'd love to hate. I think Geena Davis would be a perfect Elona. There's a villian you could play. She was just plain nasty, worse than the demons, I think.

As for who I'd like to pretend to be, it's definitely Bruna. She is just so smart and sassy. I love how she knows everyone's secrets and isn't afraid to use that knowledge when she needs to. She's just a nice, bossy old woman who is in control of everyone.

Jenny: You're right, I would like to be Elona, being all mean, nasty and manipulative. Good fun. I wasn't thinking of who I'd want to cast in the movie, but I love your suggestions. Were you thinking of Sean Astin just because he's short? I totally picture Rojer as short. Christian Bale would make an excellent Arlen, but I like pretty much everything he's in. I think whoever ended up doing it would have to sit through so much makeup to put all the tatoos on. Yikes.

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm itching to read Brandon Sanderson's new book, Warbreaker. All this talk about his amazing writing is putting me in the mood for something awesome. Thanks for coming to visit, Libby!

Libby: Oops! I misunderstood the question. I almost always try to cast the actors who would play the characters in the book. It helps me to keep their faces in my head while I'm reading. I just love Sean Astin as an actor. I think he'd be perfect as Rojer because he's short and stocky and child-like. I always picture him as Rudy or Sam.

I know! The Warded Man was just enough like Sanderson that it makes me long to read some good fantasy. Of course, like I told you, I've made a mid-year resolution that I have to improve my brain (no matter how painful it is) so I'm forcing myself to drag out one of the non-fictions from the bottom of my library stack before I dive into to Warbreaker. I read Warbreaker when it was still in its Word version online. I really enjoyed it then, so I can only imagine it will be even better.

Thanks for inviting me to your blog, Jenny. I am an avid fan. Every time you review a book, it immediately goes on my holds list at the library.

Jenny: Well, I've got Libby under my influence, now for world domination.


  1. Good review! I enjoyed the magic system in this book as well, and think that Brett could have made a better story using politics, intrigue, and other story-telling elements than using sex.

    Here is one additional comment regarding the casting: I would cast Andy Sirkis as the voice of the one-armed demon and Naveen Andrews (Sayid from Lost) to play Jardin 'The Deliverer'. I wanted a little more development from the viewpoint of the demons and the demon world. That is one of the things I like about Sanderson and Jordan. You get to see the viewpoint from the bad guys, which to me makes the story that much richer. But all-in-all, an interesting world and good character development. It will be interesting to see where Brett takes the story

  2. Hmm, I'm pretty sure I'll skip this author. Being the fantasy dabbler that I am (as opposed to hard-core fan), I won't waste my time. But, a new Sanderson book? Now THAT'S worth getting excited about!