SUMMARY: (4 of 5 stars) A very nice conclusion to the series. It’s a little bit predictable, but the likable characters and the gruesome-but-fascinating magic system make it very enjoyable.
SPOILER WARNING: From this point forward, I’m going to discuss this book without any concern about spoilers. So, if you don’t like spoilers you should stop reading now.
The Core is the fifth and final installment of Peter V Brett’s Demon Cycle series and I have to say it’s a good way to wrap things up.
I really enjoyed the first book in the series, but the following three were just okay in my opinion. But I finished a book the other day and I was lining up my next few reads and I got an email alert that this one came out. So, I figured I’d just go ahead and wrap things up. I’m glad I did because this is the second best book of the series.
Readers of the series will recall that the fourth book ended with the apparent death of the two main protagonists, Arlen and Jardir, one of whom we’ve been led to believe is the fabled Deliverer. Guess what. They didn’t really die. Arlen staged that whole thing so that he and Jardir could kill a buncha demons, yadda yadda yadda. Anyway, they’re back now because they’re going on a quest to kill the demon queen. Since they’re actually walking to The Core, it takes them months. Meanwhile, various supporting characters are all fighting demons on different fronts with their own concerns and conflicts. Bottom line: the good guys win.
So, here are some random thoughts on things throughout the book.
First and least importantly, the word “ichor.” This word is almost exclusively used throughout the entire series as a reference to the splashy viscera, guts, entrails, blood, internal fluids, raw tissue, innard, insides, bowels, entrails, insides, vital organs, gore, and whatnot of the demons. I get that the word “ichor” has a connection to the mythological and by using it and not other terms, Brett is able to maintain a sense of “alienness” to the demons. They’re inhuman, so we don’t want them to be described in human terms. I get it. But maybe the fact that they have insectoid social structures and the leader castes have giant, bulbous heads, weird eyes, and all that is enough. I dunno. I’ve never written a novel, but I do know that I got real tired of the word “ichor.”
It’s a tiny bit predictable. If you pause for a second, you can easily guess who’s going to have a baby, who’s going to die, and how the main threads of the story will resolve themselves. You saw the spoiler warning about so: everyone has a baby, Arlen and a bunch of supporting cast — some loved, some less so — die, and at the darkest hour, Arlen saves the day. None of this made it any less fun for me to read, though. But if you were looking for some new story structure or a twist ending, you probably shouldn’t tune into the final book of an epic fantasy series for that.
One specific comment: Is it just me or was the death of Jake whatshisface kind of gratuitous? The last time he made a significant appearance was back in like book two, I think. And Arlen got over the fact that his ex-girlfriend married him. It was no longer an issue. But in this book, Jake makes a sudden appearance and proves to everyone that he’s a craven little punk and then goes and dies two seconds later. I’m just saying this felt a little extra to me, like maybe Brett knows “Jake” in real life and “Jake” has welched on a bet or something.
The tone of this book is different. This is hard to put my finger on. And the earlier books bounced around in tone/style a little as well. But the reason I struggled with previous books was because some of them were just very sad and dark for me. This one was pretty upbeat throughout. The characters do struggle and some fail, but overall, it felt like the heroes were just straight-up kicking ass from dawn to dawn. This isn’t a legitimate complaint because I kind of loved it.
I don’t understand why there wasn’t any “payoff” for the fact that Olive is intersex. It seemed like it was going to be a really big deal and then it ended up being nothing. I mean, great for the positive treatment of an intersex character. But as a reader that felt like, “Alright, then.”
I hate the artificial folksy wisdom/mannerisms throughout all the books, but it was especially bad in this book. The worst scene was Leesha using a creeky rocking chair to manipulate the conversation among a whole bunch of people who don’t know her and are not native to the manners and society of her culture. It was just very weird and there are lots of touches like that.
I did like the magic system and the demons in these books. I would have loved even more exploration of the biology and social structures of the demons. I don’t fully understand the motives of the demons, but that’s OK. I love all the different kinds. (I noticed that the Krasians think there are only seven types of demon, but there are actually lots more that they don’ t know about. I thought that was a really nice touch.)
And there are lots of very likable characters throughout the books. Oddly, I didn’t like the main guys very much at all. I mostly enjoyed the supporting people.
So, yeah. This was actually my second favorite book of the series behind the first book. I’m glad I decided to stick with this series for it.