An improvement on the first two instalments in almost every way, The Daylight War sees Peter V. Brett successfully pull all the elements together and really hit his stride. Don't get me wrong, The Warded Man and The Desert Spear were both solid reads, but the technique was a bit rough around the edges, especially in the transition between the two, where it almost seemed if the story had gotten away from him.
Much as he did with the second instalment, Brett casts us back in time to open up the novel, introducing us to the back story of Inevera. It's a truly fascinating tale, perhaps more so than her husband's, which truly serves to flesh out her character and better definer her edges. Rather than transform her from villain to hero, as the opening of The Desert Spear did for Jaridr, it lays the ground for a more sympathetic understanding of her motives, and establishes her as a much more cunning and dangerous foe. Most interesting of all, we get to see the 'truth' behind her die casting, the unvarnished facts as she reads them, not as she interprets them for others.
In terms of technique, Brett does a far better job of weaving in her history while keeping the story moving forward, although I suspect that may be a deliberate move on Brett's part. It's only in seeing how he treats Inevera's story that we truly recognize how Jardir, like Arlen, had so much uninterrupted space to dedicated to his back story. That dedication, especially when contrasted to Inevera's more traditional telling, puts the two on an even footing, so to speak, further clouding the question as to which (if either) is the Deliverer.
In terms of the other characters, Renna proves that her heroics in the closing chapters of the second book were not just an anomaly, while also developing her relationship with Arlen in some rather intriguing ways. There's a desperate sort of happiness there that is entirely unexpected, humanizing Arlen even as he demonstrates just how close he's come to the Core. I wasn't sure about her role after the last book, and I still have a nagging fear that there's either a fall or a betrayal in her future, but Brett succeeds in making her a partner worthy of The Warded Man himself. More importantly, he doesn't allow questions of love and duty to blind Arlen to the truth, resulting in some surprising (but welcome) revelations late in the story.
Already a favourite of mine, Rojer really outdoes himself in this volume, earning himself a place at the forefront of the battle. He grows and matures as the mantle of responsibility settles a little more comfortably upon his shoulders; he makes an awkward, politically arranged, suspicion-laden marriage not only work, but become a high point of the story; and he even comes to terms with his past, as he's forced to publicly confront Arrick's misdeads . . . and lingering legacy. He's not the flashy, attention-demanding hero that Arlen is, but neither is he the meek, content to linger in the shadows, sidekick that he seemed set up to be in the first two volumes.
If there were to be a weak spot for me in the characterization, though, it would definitely be with Leesha. The drama, the romantic entanglements, and the teenager-like angst were just too much for me. The power and the strength that she showed in the first two volumes really seemed to be leached away here, as she began feeling sorry for herself and almost insisting that she be defined by the men in her life. It's a shame, because she clearly has a significant role to play in future instalments, but perhaps Brett is taking her down a few notches to that he can make her resolution more powerful.
The story progression follows a weird arc once again, with some early developments, a lot of waiting, and a premature climax. Fortunately, there's a lot of story between developments, with the evolution of the Hollow, the new application of wards, and the rather stunning theft (and subsequent enhancement) of tactics by the demons more than enough to keep things compelling. It's an even darker tale than the first two volumes, with stakes both grim and dire, yet there's a sense of hope that's entirely refreshing. Once again, though, there's an oddly impatient transition to the true climax of the story, with an abbreviated major confrontation, and a cliffhanger ending that is as brilliant as it is excruciatingly painful.
Compelling, exciting, and thoroughly entertaining, The Daylight War is certain to please fans of the first two books. Even if it doesn't quite tell the story I expected, and denies us the fight we most desire until the very end, it's still a beautiful piece of storytelling.
Published February 12th 2013 by Del Ray
Hardcover, 639 pages