THE DAYLIGHT WAR, the third book in Peter V. Brett’s DEMON CYCLE series, is all about delving just a little deeper into the characters. And while that comes at the cost of plot development, I’m mostly OK with that. Admittedly, this is a book with some pretty significant flaws, but the story has so much potential that I’m still eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series.
The first book, THE WARDED MAN, was full of break-neck action, expertly introducing us to new characters and new worlds without slowing down the plot progression or interrupting the excitement. In THE DESERT SPEAR, the second book in the series, Brett seemed to go off the path a bit, providing us Jardir Ahmann’s back story and more details into a Krasian society we’d already been introduced to. Now, with THE DAYLIGHT WAR, we open with a detailed account of Inevera’s back story, and it feels like the story relies on flashbacks even more than THE DESERT SPEAR did.
Fortunately, Brett’s characters remain his greatest strength. Inevera, Abban, Jardir, Count Thamos and Gared all had the opportunity to become one-dimensional villains at one point or another, but Brett does a great job of adding shades to their character. Jardir is basically a good guy, and was extremely likeable during his childhood flashbacks and throughout much of THE DAYLIGHT WAR, but he’s also hard and bent on conquest rather than cooperation. Inevera and Abban’s motives are sometimes selfish, and all the characters make mistakes, often deadly ones, but there’s something likeable in all of them.
The only major issue I had regarding Brett’s handling of characters was with Arlen and Renna, who too often strayed into becoming hillbilly superhero demon killers. Renna is probably the weakest character in the book, and Arlen was a stronger character before those two paired up. I don’t object to their relationship — it allows Brett some storytelling flexibility with Leesha Paper — but their interactions are the weakest in the book, especially contrasted with some of the other relationships that feel far more functional and better developed.
I’ve also got to say I wasn’t a terrific fan of the book’s ending. The confrontation felt forced, out of flow with the rest of the story, and the cliffhanger ending — come back for Book 4 to find out what happens! — struck me as cheap and a bit disrespectful to the reader, especially when it’s not an especially gripping cliffhanger.
The overall read wasn’t bad thanks to the strengths of Brett’s writing ability and the depth of his characters. I would have liked to have seen more plot development from THE DAYLIGHT WAR, but I’m hoping that as the Demon Cycle progresses, Brett relies less on flashbacks and writes stories with the same forward momentum that made THE WARDED MAN such a great read.