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The Desert Prince

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THE DESERT PRINCE is the second thick book I have read recently that is the first entry in a spin-off/sequel series that I have not read. I could follow along easily enough without that prior knowledge. I suspect the references to the previous war would have meant more, not to mention the connection to the "older generation", who I suspect are the main characters of the first series.

The world was interesting enough, with the various cultures existing under a hesitant peace after the war before - though one the main societies focused on is at odds with it. But what really gave the book heart was Olive's journey to self-discovery. Raised as a girl, kidnapped and forced to live as a warrior man, Olive identifies with both and neither.

The main thing, though, was that this book is long, and it felt it. It took me several days of deliberate effort to get through. It failed to grab me to the degree needed to make the book feel like it was passing quickly. Instead, it did take a lot of effort to keep going as I just wasn't hooked enough to be desperate to know what would happen next.

I think one of the reasons was the book would spend pages and pages on one of the POV chapters, without any mention or word of the others. And then there would be a long section from the other POV. It made it feel unbalanced. By the time I'd finished one POV's section, I would have just gotten into that POV and lost interest in the other. So then I had to adjust and the cycle would happen again.

I'm not sure I'll read any further, because I don't think I was interested enough to invest the time in reading what will doubtless be a lot of equally large books.
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Set fifteen years after the conclusion of the Demon Cycle, The Desert Prince follows the story of Olive Paper and Darin Bales, both shadowed by the legacy of their famous parents. 

This book has been written with an eye towards new readers; the complex setting and back story are elucidated throughout the narrative. Although it isn’t strictly necessary to have read the Demon Cycle prior to approaching this novel, I personally would recommend doing so first. If nothing else, you’ll spoil the conclusion of the earlier series for yourself – the fates of all of the main characters in the earlier novels are referenced here. 

The Desert Prince feels very different in tone to its predecessors. In part this is due to the writing style – the author uses first-person narration and the present tense throughout.  Additionally, the fact that the story is told exclusively by two teenage protagonists throughout the book inevitably results in something of a YA feel – not necessarily a bad thing. The two leads in The Desert Prince are amongst Peter V Brett’s strongest characters; both are interesting, well-rounded, and (at least within the fiction I have read) remarkably unique. 

If I have a quibble with this book it’s that the plot leans a little too heavily on the earlier Demon Cycle series. Nearly all of the characters here have very strong (usually familial) links to the protagonists of the earlier series and we don’t really visit any original locations of note. Presumably this will change in the two books to follow. 

Fans of Peter V Brett will not be disappointed with this novel. Recommended.

Thank you to NetGalley and HarperVoyager for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This book has the makings of a really strong fantasy!  I haven't read any Peter V. Brett before, but I didn't find that hindered my enjoyment of this story in any way.

I know a lot of the World building was probably done in the previous series, but I still thought it was brilliantly done in this book.  At no point did it feel like there was too much information too fast (as is often the downfall of fantasy novels!), and everything was cleverly built up until I was totally absorbed!

The characters were well written and captivating, and the battles were so engaging I felt like I was right there with them.  I will definitely be picking up the sequel!

I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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The Desert Prince
Thank you to Harper Collins and Netgalley for the ARC of The Desert Prince.
Ive tried to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, however if you haven’t read the Demon Cycle in completion and plan on reading this first (which I would not recommend) then some of the elements I discuss could be considered spoilers, in that case I would skip this review and instead just know that this book is amazing, you should add it to your TBR.
When we discuss Fantasy books the same titles and authors come up often, these people and stories hold their places in peoples hearts and at the forefront of people’s minds.  But theirs one author that I don’t think is mentioned nearly enough and that’s Peter V Brett, the man behind the Demon Cycle. I would love to explain to you all the reasons I love the Demon Cycle series, all the elements that make it so exciting, but its been four years since I finished The Core, and my old man brain wouldn’t be able to pick out anything but the major plot points. However, I remember well enough to know that Brett manages to hit every nail on the head when it comes to the four main elements of Fantasy writing, Characters, Worldbuilding, Plot, and Prose, and he does all of these amazingly well. 
The Desert Prince is no exception to this.
Honestly, this is Brett’s best book yet. 
The Desert Prince is set fifteen years after the events of The Core, Arlen Bales, The Painted Man, is gone, and the Demons have been for the most part, wiped out. Our book focuses on two characters, our first being Darin Bales, the Son of Arlen, Son of the Deliverer, the legacy of his father hanging heavily on his shoulders as people hope that he will be the man his Father was. And second being Olive Paper, Princess of the Hollow, daughter to Leesha Paper, Duchess of Hollow County, different from her mother in a lot of ways, living a life of confliction and secrets and again with the expectation of greatness weighing heavily on their shoulders. 
As I said, I genuinely believe that Brett is able to do everything right when it comes to writing, but in my opinion what he really excels in is his character building. The Demon Cycle would never have been the book it was without Brett’s ability to write rich and exciting characters. He writes characters you fall in love with and characters you want to hate but struggle too. He writes imperfect people with all the flaws of real humans, people that make numerous mistakes just like me and you, and even though he might have some of these characters become immensely powerful they are never overpowered, their humanity drags them down and their enemies always managing to surprise them.  
Brett played into this strength with The Desert Prince, and he wrote two incredibly brilliant main characters. This book is a two person POV, which is only one over the perfect amount of POV characters to have in a book, and because of how much I loved both of them, I will allow it. Olive is clearly the star of the book and is our main protagonist, I would say around 80% of the book follows Olive’s story. For those who don’t remember from the first series, Olive was born intersex, Leesha believing Olive is able to both produce a baby and carry one themselves, the plot of the story heavily following the struggle to deal with Olives identity in the world she lives in, different aspects of her life expecting different versions of her, to the point she is never really allowed to choose for herself. As always Ive read a few reviews and saw a few people commenting on how they sometimes disliked how Olive reacted when she found out certain decisions made regarding her life, measures of control put in place and secrets kept from her. I think Brett did a fantastic job of writing a fifteen-year-old character that of course would not act logically, let their emotions speak for them and did not understand why those choices had been made even if technically they were the right thing to do. 
“One day I will not be there to protect you, sister. Will you lay down and die?” The derision in her voice strikes harder than her kicks and punches. What was I apologising for? Not knowing secrets she made enormous effort to keep from me? Wanting a life of my own?”
Darin was a pure joy to read, as much as I loved Olive and her entire story, I’m devastated by how little page time he got. I’m not going to go into any great detail here, but Darin is beautifully written and feels so real, he’s perfect in the sense that we didn’t need another Arlen or someone that followed in his footsteps but instead needed something new and we got all of that with him yet gives us that gentle reminder of the character we loved the most in the previous series. Darin has so much promise and so much to give to this story, I love him. 
“My name is Darin Bales, and everyone says my da saved the world. Its fine, I guess. He died before I was born so I don’t really miss him, and Ive no shortage of family—blood and otherwise.”
I want to point out how impressed I was with Brett’s writing regarding sexuality and same sex relationships. A book with an intersex main character isn’t something Ive read before (I don’t believe) and reading about the confusion and issues that someone who doesn’t understand their own sexuality goes through gave the book something so much more important than the usual issues we would experience in a classic Fantasy novel. And not to trivialise any of the issues that people who struggle with these issues face, but as someone that hasn’t had to face those struggles I felt I could experience that a little through Brett’s writing and help me as a person understand it a little more. 
“We are what life makes us, sister,” Micha says. Again, that word, like a needle stuck through the heart of me. “Brother!” I snap, and it feels right. Micha is taken aback for a moment, but she takes a deep breath and immediately her tension eases. She Nods. “Brother. Forgive me if it takes some getting used to.” I’m so ready for a fight it takes me a moment for the concession to sink in.
The start of this book was honestly quite slow, and after years of peace why wouldn’t it be, the characters themselves had become older, fatter, and complacent and the book reflected that, but holy damn did it explode, Brett popped out from wherever he was hiding and after a powerful uppercut you suddenly know you aren’t in Kansas anymore. This book goes from strength to strength, Brett managing to build tension constantly, we go from scene to scene wondering what the hell will happen next. I burned through The Desert Prince in less than a week, which you may scoff at if you wish, for me these days managing to finish a book of this size in less than seven days is an achievement. 
tl;dr
The Desert Prince is a book that demands you turn the page, a book that is unrelentless in its need for another chapter to be read. Brett is a master storyteller and knows how to punch you in the gut when it comes to torturing you with a masterfully woven plot and I can’t wait for the next instalment so I can feel it all over again.
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The Desert Prince picks up fifteen years after the end of The Core and follows two POV characters: Olive, the child of Leesha and Jardir and Darin, the child of Arlen and Renna. The previous fifteen years have been, on the whole, peaceful but things are starting to take a dark turn once more. The demons are returning and they are after Olive and Darin.

The book’s predecessor was a largely entertaining read but it did have a lot of issues, mostly to do with pacing and there being too much filler. The first book, The Painted Man was very enjoyable but the rest of the series seemed to get too bogged down at times. When it was good, it was very good but there were times where I was incredibly frustrated by it. Characters would often disappear for hundreds of pages without a word and then just suddenly reappear which was very annoying when it was a character I actually liked and I had to put up with the annoying characters for more than half a book *cough*Leesha*cough*. By reducing the number of POV characters down to just Olive and Darin, The Desert Prince manages to avoid the worst parts of the previous series and manages to tell a tighter, faster moving and more enjoyable story.

I really enjoyed both Olive and Darin’s POVs. They both have their own challenges to overcome and Brett manages to write both very well. Olive is a hermaphrodite in the true sense of the Greek myth. She has been raised a girl by her mother but he is seen as a man by his Krasian relatives so a large part of Olive’s story is coming to terms with identity, especially when Olive is neither male nor female, but both. It’s a more literal interpretation of a teenager coming to terms with who they are and I liked the way Brett wrote it. Darin’s story is one of having to overcome the legacy of his father, especially when he feels that he cannot live up to Arlen and what he did.

Both Olive and Darin were very likeable characters. Olive has the stubbornness of her mother but not any of her annoying Mary Sue traits. Darin is rather adorable and I found him to be very sweet. The supporting characters are also enjoyable to read, I especially liked Selen and all the characters had their own distinct voices which makes them all feel like separate characters.

The Desert Prince tells a whole story but it does feel like a set up for a further plot. Not everything is wrapped up by the end and there are several plot threads that are left open to hopefully be picked up in another book. I had a lot of fun reading the book, it was paced well and I enjoyed reading the characters. It didn’t feel as bogged down in so much story as the Demon Cycle so hopefully future books will continue in that vein.
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Firstly, thank you so much HarperCollins and NetGalley for providing me with the ARC of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

For clarity, I haven’t read The Demon Cycle, so this was a whole new world to be me and definitely came in with a fresh perspective, no expectations, but was drawn in by the precis and the cover…I stayed for the story! I was immensely grateful for the glossary, it is holistic covering everything from social terms through to the Demons themselves, the wards and more. It really aided my entry into this pre-established world, and it mitigated my lack of awareness about a few of the larger characters from the previous series too. However, even without this I was able to pick up a large number of the terms as I read and my not reading the series previously didn’t ruin my enjoyment. 

This book is definitely epic fantasy, it introduces us to a cast of characters, the progeny of key characters from the original Demon Cycle. The key protagonists are Olive, Princess of Hollow and only child of the Duchess Leesha Paper, and Darin, the son of Arlen who died a hero saving the world. The story is mainly told from their PoVs, giving a strong sense of who they believe they are, what they believe they have to live up to and most importantly what they want from life. We are also introduced to friends, family and those with whom they have grown up with in this world following the conclusion of the Demon Cycle and destruction of demons. 

Peter V Brett writes in such a way that these characters leap from the page, they are young, daring, and unafraid of the consequences of their impulses and actions on many occasions…something that is definitely synonymous with youth, but who are also ready and willing to face those consequences. The exploration of gender identity and intersex that comes with this story was both unexpected and welcome, this was a key facet of the story and Brett did not shy away from it’s integration and from the challenges that it brings within societies; It was a most wonderful change from the norm of epic fantasy to see this topic normalised and a central theme within the story. 

I could talk for hours about this book, I was engaged from page 1 and found the gradual development of pace and story to be well managed and ensured that as a reader I was immersed rather than drowning in information and background…and yes, I’ve given this 5 stars and will now be hunting out the books from the original Demon Cycle series to prep me for the next book in this series!
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3.5 stars

I’m a little split on this book, technically it’s brilliant but for me I found it a bit of a struggle at times. 

What’s good about The Desert Prince. The 2nd half is pretty busy, there are plenty of quality, lengthy action scenes against the alagai (demons). These scenes are no-holds-back, certain characters die that you would not expect to die and it makes the scenes incredibly suspenseful. With this, the world building is good, in the sense of the creations of the demons, , the politics, the culture etc. I haven’t read anything by Peter V Brett before so this may have put me at a disadvantage in understanding certain things - there is a glossary at the back so you may need to use this as not everything is explained, assuming people already know!
Olive is ‘intersex’, having both male and female genitalia and presumably can both heir and carry a child. Th interesting exploration in this book comes to gender identity and the limitations of fitting in the box of your gender and your sex. Olive is raised as a princess however following a chain of events in the book she is treated as male, gradually they learn they don’t need to choose and be either/or, they are a person, not a sex. It’s a huge issue so I do feel like it could have been explored even further, but it’s still not something you see enough in books, as well as LGBT romance referred to so casually, as it should.

Things I struggled with. The pacing. I get it, you need to build Princess Olive up, as a girl, in order for the reshaping in the rest of the book, the pressures of their mother (and Darin the pressure of his fathers legacy) but it it feels like it goes on for a long time. This book felt incredibly long and took me longer than usual to get through. 
Olive also can be pretty frustrating at times. The character is 15 and it shows, while their narrative does admit to being unfair, their behaviour doesn’t show this at times. They are surrounded by people who sacrifice to protect them and yet, even with character growth, it’s a little bratty at times. Don’t get me wrong, Olive has a lot of potential and does make sacrifices for the greater good, but at times they’re a little whiney. Micha gives up everything for Olive, but Olive still treats her badly. I loved Micha so this isn’t something I’m ok with. Olive’s mother, Duchess Leesha, also, it’s clear she has made huge sacrifices to protect Olive (and I hope this is followed up in the next instalment) but Olive consistently acts wronged by her. The chapters dedicated to Darin and Selen were most enjoyable for me, Darin is an absolute sweetheart, he doesn’t see how heroic he is, he underestimates and undervalues himself and yet he still tries. Selen is just fun, there’s definitely more to her and I’d love for it to be explored but she’s a delight on the page.

Overall this book took a while to read and at times it’s a little confusing but you get the feel of what it’s talking about, but I did enjoy it, primarily for the supporting characters and the action, and I’m looking forward to the next instalment. Thank you NetGalley for the early copy to review.
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A new series from Peter V Brett set 15 years after the last Demon Cycle book, and the Demons have been destroyed.
In this book we follow Oliver Paper and Darin Bales as they try to live up to the expectations of their heroic parents in a new peaceful world. But the Demons have not gone and are biding their time, plotting revenge.
I absolutely loved this, it's a well constructed story with great characters, with very human flaws, and it was good to see some old favourite characters pop up from the first series.
A very satisfying read. Now I just have to wait 'patiently' for the next. 
Thanks to Netgalley and Publisher for the ARC.
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Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins for providing me an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

For context: I am coming off of this from an entirely new perspective, as I have not read the series this originates from. I wanted to come from this as a clean slate as the premise interested me and the cover was incredibly engaging. In hindsight it is probably useful to read the original series first but that does not impact my rating.

For new readers - keep in mind the glossary. It's intensely helpful when entering an established world. This isn't quite one I think you can dive into without keeping that in mind. There are some characters that orbit in the realm of this story that are evidently big players in the previous book. I didn't really know them.

This book was an extremely well written epic fantasy that I enjoyed. I loved that the characters were daring and intelligent, that because the characters were a bit younger the book waded into a coming of age tale. I have a deep love for epic fantasy that tackles characters a little younger than your standard heroes and Brett handles the cast with ease.  I thought it worked well for Olive and Darin. There was also a surprising exploration of gender identity that was unexpected. It is an unfortunate truth that I expect epic fantasies to remain relatively straight-laced in their talk of gender, so it's a welcome change to see it become more normalised.

I can imagine if one enjoyed the original series, this is going to be a hell of a read and a stellar start to diving back into the world. Now, I must go read the original books so I can be prepared for the next one.
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Thank you so much to Netgalley and the HarperCollins for providing me of an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review

The Desert Prince is a welcome return to a world I thought I had left many a year ago. While this is not technically part of The Demon Cycle series, I would absolutely recommend reading that series first. Not only is this book set in the same world but events and characters from The Demon Cycle series are integral parts of the plot. Even though I had read the previous series it was many years ago and I found myself getting confused as I couldn't quite remember what happened and who each character was.

Here we see the next generation of our favourite heroes from The Demon Cycle series. The sons and daughters of Arlen Bales, Ahmann Jardir and even Rojer Halfgrip. All these young characters are struggling being in the shadow of their famous and heroic parents. There are high expectations for them and they have big shoes to fill, whether they want to fill them or not.
Now the familial relationship between all the characters quickly becomes pretty confusing. We have sisters who are the age of aunts and aunts who are the age of sisters, many many half siblings and let's not even mention the cousins! In my ARC copy of the book has a little title saying "family tree" so I am assuming that in the finished article there will be a family tree for readers to to refer to while reading. This will be extremely useful and no doubt most readers will need to take a little look at it every once in a while. Similarly, there is a glossary in the back of the book and I encourage readers to take a little look at it and not be afraid to look up all the new words and phrases that pop up in the story.

The writing itself goes at a steady pace and is split up into the point of view of two characters - Olive Paper and Darin Bales. I enjoyed both characters but have a special place in my heart for little Darin. The secondary characters are equally enjoyable and varied. They are all brave and clever and strong in their own ways, there will be someone for everyone to relate to. With the characters of this book being a little younger (teenagers) than those in The Demon Cycle series, this book feels a little more in the Young Adult genre with themes of "coming of age" and "finding oneself".

Speaking of themes, a major theme of the book is that of gender. We have a wonderful portrayal of an intersex character struggling with their gender identity and ultimately accepting that they don't fit into the neat boxes of "male" or "female" and are just their natural authentic self. This is a fantastic thing to see in mainstream fantasy and I feel this aspect of the story was delivered in a mature, respectful and thoughtful way.

There is certainly not a neat wrapped up ending to this book and the reader is left wanting more, I'm already eager to read the next book even while this one isn't even published yet! I can't wait to see how these young characters mature further and tackle their next challenges.
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