By: Peter V. Brett
Pros: excellent characterization, immersive writing, fast paced
Cons: some readers may not like the brutal realism of the narrative (lots of rape - though nothing is graphically described)
The Desert Spear is one of those rare books when the sequel is better than the first book. Mr. Brett really comes into his own in this book.
The plot (and if you haven't read The Warded Man/Painted Man this will contain spoilers):
Jardir, now proclaimed Shar'Dama Ka (Deliverer), has left the desert to conquer- ahem - unite the men of the North under his banner in preparation for the Sharum Ka, the final battle with the demons.
Through flashbacks we get to learn how Jardir progressed to his current position, creating a sympathetic, though still brutal, antagonist. And if you don't like realism in your fantasy (rape, bullying, etc.) you won't like this.
Meanwhile, Arlen, going solely by the name 'the Warded Man', tries to ally the northern nations to fight against Jardir's forces. During this mission he encounters many people he hasn't seen since his childhood, meetings that cause him to question the decisions he has made. And though others hail him as their deliverer, he has no desire to take on that role.
Finally, we are reintroduced to Renna Tanner, whose father Harl became too friendly with his daughters after his wife's death. Her story is quite horrific.
Mr. Brett's characters are fascinating, and remain complete people, each with good and bad points. Even Leesha, Deliverer's Hollow's herb gatherer who, under a different author would be insufferably perfect, is written so well you like her despite her many many abilities. Each character's story is interesting and heartbreaking in its own way. In fact, I wanted to skim by the (well-written) fight scenes just to get back to the character based storylines, they were so good.
The demons get nastier, with a new breed introduced who are watching the two potential deliverers.
Final verdict: read these books. Peter Brett's one of the best new epic fantasy writers around.