Desert Spear is Peter V Brett's second work in the Demon Trilogy, and better than the Painted Man, his first novel in the series, but only by a narrow margin.
In Desert Spear the story starts with Jardir, a boy who grows up in the desert land of Krasia, where there are only Sharum (warriors), slaves and khaffit, which is what the Sharum call anyone who isn't a sharum. Caste is an important factor in Krasia since it determines whether or not you get to enjoy paradise with Ala, the Krasian God.
Although the influence isn't just traceable, it's staring you in the face, the way Brett weaves his story, doing a George R. R. Martin act, balancing several distinct and well-made characters as he goes along.
What's good about this book is the complexity of the characters; the Painted Man himself, Arlen Bale, is an identifiable byronic hero, his would-be lover Leesha is the typical village wise woman, a rough-tongued beauty who attracts Jardir's attention, and after getting what she wants, decides not to marry him after all.
That part is fun mainly because the Sharum of Krasia think the Thesans (the greenlanders) are all a race of yellers; this rapidly gets proven otherwise.
What's good about this book is the way Brett draws you into the plot. There is a lot of suspense, and a lot of action; when Arlen's lady love finally makes her own entrance, and Arlen walks the line between coreling and human and tries to make sure she doesn't, it reveals a depth of character in Brett's creations.
All of his characters, for that matter, are so well-defined, so real.
They are all average people, from humble beginnings. At the height of his power, Arlen Bale, the Painted Man, is still fallible, still human, even though his powers say otherwise.
Then comes the scenery, and the corelings themselves. In the first book, there were just a few varieties of corelings, demons that are born in the Earth's core; in Desert Spear, the shadowy lords of the corelings finally make their appearance.
These Mind Demons, as Brett calls them, are telepathic and bonded to a guardian more dangerous than most other corelings; and they're sentient and with human intelligence, all of which makes them even more interesting to follow. Brett puts a few POV chapters with the Mind Demon in prime focus, and although he tries to make it inhuman and sadistic, it works out that the mind demons get more of a hunter-esque personality instead.
Final conclusion: Desert Spear is, for once, deviating from the typical idea of fantasy stories; you have two messiahs, several powerful artifacts, immense numbers of demons, over dozens of demon lords; and no final villain in sight.
All of that means we still need a sequel to get somewhere in this book. For now, Brett's style and characters are damn interesting to follow.
Three and a half stars.