Book Review: "The Core" by Peter V. Brett
Here I am again faithfully reviewing another book from Peter V. Brett's The Demon Cycle Series with the same amount of excitement as each installment prior. I'll do my best to avoid spoilers though this book is well into a chronological series, so you have been warned.
For time out of mind, bloodthirsty demons have stalked the night, culling the human race to scattered remnants dependent on half-forgotten magics to protect them. Then two heroes arose—men as close as brothers, yet divided by bitter betrayal. Arlen Bales became known as the Warded Man, tattooed head to toe with powerful magic symbols that enable him to fight demons in hand-to-hand combat—and emerge victorious. Jardir, armed with magically warded weapons, called himself the Deliverer, a figure prophesied to unite humanity and lead them to triumph in Sharak Ka—the final war against demonkind. But in their efforts to bring the war to the demons, Arlen and Jardir have set something in motion that may prove the end of everything they hold dear—a swarm. Now the war is at hand, and humanity cannot hope to win it unless Arlen and Jardir, with the help of Arlen’s wife, Renna, can bend a captured demon prince to their will and force the devious creature to lead them to the Core, where the Mother of Demons breeds an inexhaustible army. Trusting their closest confidantes, Leesha, Inevera, Ragen, and Elissa, to rally the fractious people of the Free Cities and lead them against the swarm, Arlen, Renna, and Jardir set out on a desperate quest into the darkest depths of evil—from which none of them expects to return alive.
It's no secret that The Core took me much longer to get through than the previous installments for several reasons--and none of these reasons are bad. When I first purchased my copy of Brett's most recent installment of his series, the sheer terror of this book being the last of the series struck me. Any avid reader will know the fear of a great journey ending. Not only does this fear make you hesitate to start the first page of chapter one, but it also motivates you to take your time. I would say this is ultimately what happened here and why this review took so long to take its place among my blog posts. This at least my excuse to justify any inherent laziness on tackling this review. So without any further delay, let's talk about The Core.
Brett's latest book picks up exactly where we left off in The Skull Throne. This continuation, without any time skips, is great because the entire series has been building up to the moment our heroes finally challenge the demon-infested core of the planet. It goes without saying that by this point, our expectations are high and we don't want to miss a moment. Arlen, Jardir, and Rena are putting into motion their plan of forcing the captured Alagai Ka as a guide through the core. Leesha and Inevera fight for humanity's survival, respectively. Everywhere the demons use the full force of their armies to carry out humanity's extinction. The stakes literally couldn't be higher.
What I can confidently say works with this latest book is that we know this chapter of the series has been a long time coming. The entire series up until now has prepared us for whatever these pages will hold, and it couldn't feel any more epic and grand than it does. As mentioned earlier, the stakes couldn't be higher, but neither could the desperation our characters feel towards survival. The tension of Arlen and company reaching their destination alive is palpable. The anxiety that comes from Inevera and her armies barely scraping by makes your fingers shake. The horror that Leesha and her troops are at one point outwitted by the demons makes you sweat. This part of the story is The Demon Cycle's endgame, and every page adds to that stressful rush that comes with a finale. What's more, that final battle before the end is the perfect dynamite explosion following a long-burning fuse.
Of all the books in Brett's series, The Core feels like the largest in scale. I almost want to say this book is the best in the series so far, but "so far" are the keywords here. When I finished reading The Core, I had some reservations regarding some loose ends that didn't get tied up. Being a lover of Brett's writing and a writer who is inspired by it, I was surprised, to say the least by Brett falling on habits uncharacteristic of his writing. The entirety of his series boasts four books (other than this installment) of direct writing that answers every question one way or another. At first, I suspected, there's going to be a book after The Core. There has to be. Then I got to the ending and felt a new fear that made me think about Game of Thrones' awful show runner-controlled end to the series.
No, I'm not creative for making this joke. Yes, I am serious that I thought this for even the briefest of moments. I formally apologize, Peter V. Brett, I was vulnerable.
I had several criticisms prepared regarding the strange neglect towards plot points but had to backspace every word I typed in the draft of this review after going to Brett's website. There I discovered his progress update on his latest book and the exciting reveal of what explains these unanswered questions. If you'd like to read his update for yourself, here's the link: [X].
As it turns out, it appears The Demon Cycle Series has concluded with the addition of The Core. The series if over but we're not done with it yet as Brett is gearing for a second Demon Cycle Series that will take place fifteen years later. According to that lovely little update on his website, it looks as though we already have the title of the next book: The Desert Prince. Since we can expect this upcoming series to address these unanswered questions, I'll save my criticisms and eagerly await our second round through Thesa with a new generation of heroes.