The Warded Man (Demon Cycle Series #1)

The Warded Man (Demon Cycle Series #1)

by Peter V. Brett

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

The time has come to stand against the night.

As darkness falls each night, the corelings rise–demons who well up from the ground like hellish steam, taking on fearsome form and substance. Sand demons. Wood demons. Wind demons. Flame demons. And gigantic rock demons, the deadliest of all. They possess supernatural strength and 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 mystery, and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile.

It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms. Once, under the leadership of the legendary Deliverer, and armed with powerful wards that were not merely shields but weapons, they took the battle to the demons . . . and stopped their advance.

But those days are gone. The fighting wards are lost. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers 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.

Arlen will pay any price, embrace any sacrifice, for freedom. His grim journey will take him beyond the bounds of human power.

Crippled by the demons that killed his parents, Rojer seeks solace in music–only to discover that music can be a weapon as well as a refuge.

Beautiful Leesha, who has suffered at the hands of men as well as demons, becomes an expert healer. But what cures can also harm. . . .

Together, they will stand against the night.

Look for Peter V. Brett’s complete Demon Cycle:

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345518705
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/23/2010
Series: Demon Cycle Series , #1
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 55,473
Product dimensions: 4.32(w) x 6.92(h) x 1.02(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Peter V. Brett is the internationally bestselling author of the Demon Cycle series, which has sold more than 2.5 million copies in twenty-five languages worldwide. The novels in the series are The Warded Man, The Desert Spear, The Daylight War, The Skull Throne, and The Core. He spends too much time on the Internet, but occasionally unplugs to practice kickboxing and dad fu. He lives in Manhattan.

Read an Excerpt

The Warded Man

By Peter V. Brett

Del Rey

Copyright © 2010 Peter V. Brett
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780345518705

Chapter One


319 ar

the great horn sounded.

Arlen paused in his work, looking up at the lavender wash of the dawn sky. Mist still clung to the air, bringing with it a damp, acrid taste that was all too familiar. A quiet dread built in his gut as he waited in the morning stillness, hoping that it had been his imagination. He was eleven years old.

There was a pause, and then the horn blew twice in rapid succession. One long and two short meant south and east. The Cluster by the Woods. His father had friends among the cutters. Behind Arlen, the door to the house opened, and he knew his mother would be there, covering her mouth with both hands.

Arlen returned to his work, not needing to be told to hurry. Some chores could wait a day, but the stock still needed to be fed and the cows milked. He left the animals in the barns and opened the hay stores, slopped the pigs, and ran to fetch a wooden milk bucket. His mother was already squatting beneath the first of the cows. He snatched the spare stool and they found cadence in their work, the sound of milk striking wood drumming a funeral march.

As they moved to the next pair down the line, Arlen saw his father begin hitching their strongest horse, a five-year-old chestnut-colored mare named Missy, to the cart. His face was grim as heworked.

What would they find this time?

Before long, they were in the cart, trundling toward the small cluster of houses by the woods. It was dangerous there, over an hour's run to the nearest warded structure, but the lumber was needed. Arlen's mother, wrapped in her worn shawl, held him tightly as they rode.

"I'm a big boy, Mam," Arlen complained. "I don't need you to hold me like a baby. I'm not scared." It wasn't entirely true, but it would not do for the other children to see him clinging to his mother as they rode in. They made mock of him enough as it was.

"I'm scared," his mother said. "What if it's me who needs to be held?"

Feeling suddenly proud, Arlen pulled close to his mother again as they traveled down the road. She could never fool him, but she always knew what to say just the same.

A pillar of greasy smoke told them more than they wanted to know long before they reached their destination. They were burning the dead. And starting the fires this early, without waiting for others to arrive and pray, meant there were a great many. Too many to pray over each one, if the work was to be complete before dusk.

It was more than five miles from Arlen's father's farm to the Cluster by the Woods. By the time they arrived, the few remaining cabin fires had been put out, though in truth there was little left to burn. Fifteen houses, all reduced to rubble and ash.

"The woodpiles, too," Arlen's father said, spitting over the side of the cart. He gestured with his chin toward the blackened ruin that remained of a season's cutting. Arlen grimaced at the thought of how the rickety fence that penned the animals would have to last another year, and immediately felt guilty. It was only wood, after all.

The town Speaker approached their cart as it pulled up. Selia, whom Arlen's mother sometimes called Selia the Barren, was a hard woman, tall and thin, with skin like tough leather. Her long gray hair was pulled into a tight bun, and she wore her shawl like a badge of office. She brooked no nonsense, as Arlen had learned more than once at the end of her stick, but today he was comforted by her presence. Like Arlen's father, something about Selia made him feel safe. Though she had never had children of her own, Selia acted as a parent to everyone in Tibbet's Brook. Few could match her wisdom, and fewer still her stubbornness. When you were on Selia's good side, it felt like the safest place in the world.

"It's good that you've come, Jeph," Selia told Arlen's father. "Silvy and young Arlen, too," she said, nodding to them. "We need every hand we can get. Even the boy can help."

Arlen's father grunted, stepping down from the cart. "I brought my tools," he said. "Just tell me where we can throw in."

Arlen collected the precious tools from the back of their cart. Metal was scarce in the Brook, and his father was proud of his two shovels, his pick, and his saw. They would all see heavy use this day.

"How many lost?" Jeph asked, though he didn't really seem to want to know.

"?Twenty-seven," Selia said. Silvy choked and covered her mouth, tears welling in her eyes. Jeph spat again.

"Any survivors?" he asked.

"A few," Selia said. "Manie"-she pointed with her stick at a boy who stood staring at the funeral pyre-"ran all the way to my house in the dark."

Silvy gasped. No one had ever run so far and lived. "The wards on Brine Cutter's house held for most of the night," Selia went on. "He and his family watched everything. A few others fled the corelings and succored there, until the fires spread and their roof caught. They waited in the burning house until the beams started to crack, and then took their chances outside in the minutes before dawn. The corelings killed Brine's wife Meena and their son Poul, but the others made it. The burns will heal and the children will be all right in time, but the others . . ."

She didn't need to finish the sentence. Survivors of a demon attack had a way of dying soon after. Not all, or even most, but enough. Some of them took their own lives, and others simply stared blankly, refusing to eat or drink until they wasted away. It was said you did not truly survive an attack until a year and a day had passed.

"There are still a dozen unaccounted for," Selia said, but with little hope in her voice.

"We'll dig them out," Jeph agreed grimly, looking at the collapsed houses, many still smoldering. The cutters built their homes mostly out of stone to protect against fire, but even stone would burn if the wards failed and enough flame demons gathered in one place.

Jeph joined the other men and a few of the stronger women in clearing the rubble and carting the dead to the pyre. The bodies had to be burned, of course. No one would want to be buried in the same ground the demons rose out of each night. Tender Harral, the sleeves of his robe rolled up to bare his thick arms, lifted each into the fire himself, muttering prayers and drawing wards in the air as the flames took them.

Silvy joined the other women in gathering the younger children and tending to the wounded under the watchful eye of the Brook's Herb Gatherer, Coline Trigg. But no herbs could ease the pain of the survivors. Brine Cutter, also called Brine Broadshoulders, was a great bear of a man with a booming laugh who used to throw Arlen into the air when they came to trade for wood. Now Brine sat in the ashes beside his ruined house, slowly knocking his head against the blackened wall. He muttered to himself and clutched his arms tightly, as if cold.

Arlen and the other children were put to work carrying water and sorting through the woodpiles for salvageable lumber. There were still a few warm months left to the year, but there would not be time to cut enough wood to last the winter. They would be burning dung again this year, and the house would reek.

Again Arlen weathered a wave of guilt. He was not in the pyre, nor banging his head in shock, having lost everything. There were worse fates than a house smelling of dung.

More and more villagers arrived as the morning wore on. Bringing their families and whatever provisions they could spare, they came from Fishing Hole and Town Square; they came from the Boggin's Hill, and Soggy Marsh. Some even came all the way from Southwatch. And one by one, Selia greeted them with the grim news and put them to work.

With more than a hundred hands, the men doubled their efforts, half of them continuing to dig as the others descended upon the only salvageable structure left in the Cluster: Brine Cutter's house. Selia led Brine away, somehow supporting the giant man as he stumbled, while the men cleared the rubble and began hauling new stones. A few took out warding kits and began to paint fresh wards while children made thatch. The house would be restored by nightfall.

Arlen was partnered with Cobie Fisher in hauling wood. The children had amassed a sizable pile, though it was only a fraction of what had been lost. Cobie was a tall, thickly built boy with dark curls and hairy arms. He was popular among the other children, but it was popularity built at others' expense. Few children cared to weather his insults, and fewer still his beatings.

Cobie had tortured Arlen for years, and the other children had gone along. Jeph's farm was the northernmost in the Brook, far from where the children tended to gather in Town Square, and Arlen spent most of his free time wandering the Brook by himself. Sacrificing him to Cobie's wrath seemed a fair trade to most children.

Whenever Arlen went fishing, or passed by Fishing Hole on the way to Town Square, Cobie and his friends seemed to hear about it, and were waiting in the same spot on his way home. Sometimes they just called him names, or pushed him, but other times he came home bloody and bruised, and his mother shouted at him for fighting.

Finally, Arlen had enough. He left a stout stick hidden in that spot, and the next time Cobie and his friends pounced, Arlen pretended to run, only to produce the weapon as if from thin air and come back swinging.

Cobie was the first one struck, a hard blow that left him crying in the dirt with blood running from his ear. Willum received a broken finger, and Gart walked with a limp for over a week. It had done nothing to improve Arlen's popularity among the other children, and Arlen's father had caned him, but the other boys never bothered him again. Even now, Cobie gave him a wide berth and flinched if Arlen made a sudden move, even though he was bigger by far.

"Survivors!" Bil Baker called suddenly, standing by a collapsed house at the edge of the Cluster. "I can hear them trapped in the root cellar!"

Immediately, everyone dropped what they were doing and rushed over. Clearing the rubble would take too long, so the men began to dig, bending their backs with silent fervor. Soon after, they broke through the side of the cellar, and began hauling out the survivors. They were filthy and terrified, but all were very much alive. Three women, six children, and one man.

"Uncle Cholie!" Arlen cried, and his mother was there in an instant, cradling her brother, who stumbled drunkenly. Arlen ran to them, ducking under his other arm to steady him.

"Cholie, what are you doing here?" Silvy asked. Cholie seldom left his workshop in Town Square. Arlen's mother had told the tale a thousand times of how she and her brother had run the farrier's shop together before Jeph began breaking his horses' shoes on purpose for a reason to come court.

"Came to court Ana Cutter," Cholie mumbled. He pulled at his hair, having already torn whole clumps free. "We'd just opened the bolt-hole when they came through the wards . . ." His knees buckled, pulling Arlen and Silvy down with his weight. Kneeling in the dirt, he wept.

Arlen looked at the other survivors. Ana Cutter wasn't among them. His throat tightened as the children passed. He knew every one of them; their families, what their houses were like inside and out, their animals' names. They met his eyes for a second as they went by, and in that moment, he lived the attack through their eyes. He saw himself shoved into a cramped hole in the ground while those unable to fit turned to face the corelings and the fire. Suddenly he started gasping, unable to stop until Jeph slapped him on the back and brought him to his senses.

They were finishing a cold midday meal when a horn sounded on the far side of the Brook.

"Not two in one day?" Silvy gasped, covering her mouth.

"Bah," Selia grunted. "At midday? Use your head, girl!"

"Then what . . . ?"

Selia ignored her, rising to fetch a horn blower to signal back. Keven Marsh had his horn ready, as the folks from Soggy Marsh always did. It was easy to get separated in the marshes, and no one wanted to be wandering lost when the swamp demons rose. Keven's cheeks inflated like a frog's chin as he blew a series of notes.

"Messenger horn," Coran Marsh advised Silvy. A graybeard, he was Speaker for Soggy Marsh and Keven's father. "They prob'ly saw the smoke. Keven's telling 'em what's happened and where everyone is."

"A Messenger in spring?" Arlen asked. "I thought they come in the fall after harvest. We only finished planting this past moon!"

"Messenger never came last fall," Coran said, spitting foamy brown juice from the root he was chewing through the gap of his missing teeth. "We been worried sumpin' happened. Thought we might not have a Messenger bring salt till next fall. Or maybe that the corelings got the Free Cities and we's cut off."

"The corelings could never get the Free Cities," Arlen said.

"Arlen, shush your mouth!" Silvy hissed. "He's your elder!"

"Let the boy speak," Coran said. "Ever bin to a free city, boy?" he asked Arlen.

"No," Arlen admitted.

"Ever know anyone who had?"

"No," Arlen said again.

"So what makes you such an expert?" Coran asked. "Ent no one been to one 'cept the Messengers. They're the only ones what brave the night to go so far. Who's to say the Free Cities ent just places like the Brook? If the corelings can get us, they can get them, too."

"Old Hog is from the Free Cities," Arlen said. Rusco Hog was the richest man in the Brook. He ran the general store, which was the crux of all commerce in Tibbet's Brook.

"Ay," Coran said, "an' old Hog told me years ago that one trip was enough for him. He meant to go back after a few years, but said it wasn't worth the risk. So you ask him if the Free Cities are any safer than anywhere else."

Arlen didn't want to believe it. There had to be safe places in the world. But again the image of himself being thrown into the cellar flashed across his mind, and he knew that nowhere was truly safe at night.


Excerpted from The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett Copyright © 2010 by Peter V. Brett. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Brett's debut builds slowly and grimly on a classic high fantasy framework of black-and-white morality and bloodshed. Young Arlen battles demons to save his mother while his father watches in terror; when his mother dies, Arlen runs away. Leesha leaves her village to work in the city hospital of Angiers after her betrothed claims to have taken her virginity. Jongleur Arrick Sweetsong saved himself from demons at the expense of a female friend, but he honors her last request and raises her son, Rojer, as his apprentice. Only near the end do the three strands of the story begin to intertwine. With its nameless enemies that exist only to kill, Brett's gritty tale will appeal to those who tire of sympathetic villains and long for old-school orc massacres."—Publishers Weekly

“I enjoyed The Warded Man immensely. There is much to admire in Peter Brett’s writing, and his concept is brilliant. There’s action and suspense all the way, plus he made me care about his characters and want to know what’s going to happen next.”—Terry Brooks

The Warded Man works not only as a great adventure novel but also as a reflection on the nature of heroism.”—Charlaine Harris

“An absolute masterpiece . . . The novel [is] literally ‘unputdownable,’ and certainly deserves to be the next Big Thing in dark fantasy.”—HorrorScope

“A very accomplished debut fantasy, broad in its scope.”—SFRevu

“A fabulous new fantasy series . . . that is likely to become a classic. Excellent fantasy literature.”—The Cairns Post ,Queensland, Australia


Peter V Brett 2nd B&N Interview

February 2011

My parents have always been avid mainstream fiction readers. They never really looked down on me for reading fantasy, but I don't think they understood what I saw in it, either. Neither of them had much interest in exploring the genre for themselves until I sold my first novel, The Warded Man, and supportive parenting forced their hands. My mom read it first. Then she called me. "I really liked your book."
I rolled my eyes. Of course she would say that. She's my mom.
"I have to tell you, I didn't think I was going to," she went on.
That got my attention. "Oh?"
"Now you're my son and I support you no matter what," she interjected quickly before I could get offended, "but I've never read a fantasy book and didn't know what to expect. I thought there would be all sorts of elves and monsters and dragons and I wouldn't know what was going on. You kids always sounded like you were speaking another language when you were playing Dungeons & Dragons."
I smiled. It was a fair point.
"But your book was about people I could relate to," my mom said. "There really wasn't much magic at all, and I didn't have any trouble following the story."
"I worked very hard to make the book accessible to anyone," I said. "No prerequisites."
My dad had a similar reaction. "I was proud of you for writing a book at all, but when I see the kinds of people your characters are and what they stand for, I really feel like I raised you right."
Ever since, they've been recommending the book to all their friends and family, many of whom are readers, but few fantasy fans. A lot of these people have taken the time to get in touch, admitting to me they bought the book just to be supportive, only to discover that they actually LIKE fantasy.
I am really proud to be an ambassador in that regard, but it surprises me sometimes that one is needed. After all, fantasy has always been a part of our storytelling culture, dating all the way back to those first humans huddled around the campfire, afraid of the encroaching dark. To ward off this fear, storytellers made up tales of demons lurking out beyond the firelight, helping them explore their fears and come to a better understanding of themselves and the world around them. These stories became myths, and form the moral center of human culture to this day.
Over the years, we've gotten better at pushing back the darkness, but its still out there, lurking past the porch light, looming beyond the street lamps. And let's face it. It still scares us. That fear is hard-wired into our genetic code, and every generation needs to come to terms with it, or become night's prisoner.
At their core, my fantasy stories are about people facing those sorts of fears. The only difference is, the demons in my world are real.

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Warded Man 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 510 reviews.
NickyRay More than 1 year ago
The Warded man is another hero's journey of a boy who is thrust from the womb of his home and into the terrible reality he lives. This novel follows Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer, each following similar coming-of-age arcs, jumping years, until they finally converge near the end of the book. Structure is good, but you must stray from it to keep things interesting. The story almost turns into Dune while Arlen is in the desert, but thankfully Brett decided to stop there, and instead give Arlen a Edmund Dantes-esque return as the titular Warded Man. There are some funny bits, some sweet revelations of the good in the hearts of some lowly characters and the action was often bloody and thrilling, but overall the inner story of the characters was flimsy, and Arlen essentially becomes the Batman of his world. Brett's prose would have gotten me flayed in school, he almost entirely tells instead of shows, often repeating the obvious multiple times in the same paragraph, then having the dialog repeat it again, never allowing for subtext. He bashes the reader over the head with the apparent, yet neglects details like describing what the demons actually look like until quite a few chapters in. The world that he created feels more like a rough sketch, which would work with a cast of strong and complex characters, but those are missing here. Another odd and bothersome aspect of this book is the constant examples of rape, incest, and molestation that permeate the story. About every other chapter has the characters in some conflict with sexual predators, or their own juvenile sexual issues. Particularly Leesha, who in the story is so beautiful that she turns any man alone with her into a drooling rapist. Well written, this may have lent itself to the complexity of the story, but it was not well done. This aspect was clumsy, predicable, and left me cringing more than once, and actually less interested in the character's fates. By the end, it felt like a heavy handed attempt to shape Leesha's and the others characters, but failed to do so. Certainly not the worst fantasy you could pick up, but if you want a well done, gritty, fantasy, check out Joe Abercrombie and the First Law series. Or just a great, original fantasy book, try The Name of Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and see how it's done.
Angelle More than 1 year ago
I received this new novel by Peter V. Brett a couple days ago from Del-Rey for review and so I decided to sit down from my few months being a mom to read it. I was so glad I did. The Warded Man is an intense ride that begins with the lives of three young children that through different diversities survive to fight on in a world where just the corelings or demons aren't the only things that should be feared. In this well written novel, you will meet Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer, each set on their own path by tragedy or by the evil of others. Their journeys are all thwart with different types of danger from One Armed demons to the evil of greedy men. Each one will have you wrapped around their stories as they pull you from the world you know into one that nights are feared and demons roam only to take you into that darkness never to return. The Warded Man is a well put together novel. With intense actions scenes that do not rob from the brilliant dialogue, the beautiful, yet, horrifying imagery literally engulfs you in a world that is filled with mountains, deserts, wall cities, and small villages. Each chapter brings you deeper into the shadows filling your mind with visions of small fire demons to the large stone ones. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves good fantasy and great action. It is a bit on the dark side with some violence to kids as well as to grown ups so please use discression when looking at it for kids younger than sixteen or so. Other than that, I implore you to give Mr. Brett a chance. I know I will be reading the next in his series for sure.....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Starts out slow but picks up into a pretty good book.
BC1130 More than 1 year ago
This is my first review of this book on B&N even though I have just finished reading the book for the third time in preparation for the 4th book Skull Throne to be released in March. I thought I might get bored in the 3rd reading but a good story never gets old. If you love the tried and true "old school" fantasies, you will love this story. This first book is all about Arlen, Leesha and Rojer and the circumstances which put them together, becoming friends and allies fighting against the demons who ruled the night.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such an amazing story with well thought out characters and their pasts. I have just finished the second book and had to stop to write a review. You wont be dissapointed with this series! Its been a long while sincive been so engrossed in a novel and the world created. I couldnt wait to figure out what happened at the end and at the same time sad it was over! Thankfully there are supposed to be 5 books in the series so i can keep enjoying the amazing world of the warded man.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This has become one of my favorite books. Great idea that is beautifully imagined, well paced, and artfully written.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Like Rothfuss
Anonymous 10 months ago
Great world building and character develpment. Interesting narrative structure.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book. It registered on my Goodreads feed as a recommendation. It starts off with three main characters who live in different cities, but all facing an internal struggle. They live in a world where humans are second class to corelings (demons) who come out every night to feast on humans. Do you conform to society or rise against the norm and fight?! Peter Brett did an excellent job with describing cities, rituals, and building complete worlds. I found myself enriched with his writing style and can’t wait for more! I can not wait to see what happens in book two.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best series ever. The character building is excellent as is the world building. There's many surprises to keep you enthralled with the book. I'm a simple person looking for away to relax and get away from life's stresses and this book does that in a way that you can identify with many of the characters and their situations. I recommend you read this series as it may start off slow to some, but stick it out and you will enjoy this book tremendously.
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It's as good as I remember the first read through.
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husband and I both enjoyed it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was fairly okay.
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16 almost 17 on August 27, brown hair, brown eyes, fit, athletic wears short shorts and crop top
SmalltownSR More than 1 year ago
A fantastic tale, well written, the world building is amazing, non stop action and heart break, a real page turner.
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