REVIEW: The Desert Prince by Peter V. Brett

The Desert Prince by Peter V. Brett is the first novel in his Nightfall Saga. There are a lot of fans of Peter V. Brett in the halls of Grimdark Magazine, and he has long been on my periphery as an author I would like but have yet to read. The Desert Prince is my first experience of Brett’s writing, and I regret not having picked him up sooner. Within pages, I was hooked and knew that this would be a writer who would put me in my happy place. I had no prior knowledge of his earlier series in this world, The Demon Cycle, and as such, I do not believe it is essential to have read this to be able to enjoy The Desert Prince. Brett explains all the critical details of this world’s history, politics, and religion as part of the narrative of The Desert Prince. However, readers who have liked The Demon Cycle will undoubtedly be pleased with the chance to return to this epic world and learn the exploits of its next generation. For people like me who are only beginning to discover it, Brett’s The Demon Cycle series has multiple novels and novellas to escape in, and the next book in The Nightfall Saga, The Hidden Queen, is out now from Harper Voyager.

The Desert PrinceThe main characters of The Desert Prince, Olive Paper, Darin Bales, and their friends, have grown up in times of peace. Fifteen years have passed since the end of the Demon War, and the exploits of their parents have become tales told in ale houses. But both Olive and Darin feel the pressure of having legendary parents and living up to the expectations people have for the offspring of heroes. Olive, the Princess of Hollow, has her whole courtly life mapped out. Stifled by constant restrictions, her resentment grows as she feels forced into a role she does not quite fit. Darin, on the other hand, has the freedom that Olive yearns for. He can roam where he pleases and choose how he spends his days. But Darin faces the same pressures to live up to his father’s immense legacy – and when your father died to save the world, Darin feels like a constant disappointment. But when it is discovered that demons are, in fact, not defeated and events outside of their control thrust them to the fore, it falls to them to fight, or all will be lost.

Although the main characters in The Desert Prince are young, Brett’s writing is firmly in the adult fantasy arena. It is a chunky book, at around six hundred pages, but this includes extra tidbits of information, such as a glossary of terms, character genealogy, etc., at the end of the main novel, which I enjoyed as I am a big fan of extra worldbuilding. I am usually a slower reader with new worlds, so I expected The Desert Prince to take me a couple of weeks to get through. It did not. I read this book every chance I got. I stayed up later than I should have. I read as I cooked dinner. I read instead of turning the television on in the evening and devoured The Desert Prince in a few days. It is the sort of fantastic epic fantasy that feeds the soul of fantasy fans. I am so glad I have many of Brett’s other works to pick up soon. The Desert Prince is not entirely a grimdark novel (something Brett discussed with Grimdark Magazine’s Beth Tabler back in 2021 when the book was released) as there is quite clearly a “right” side to be on – after all, ‘all are brothers in the night.’ However, the characters within The Desert Prince are complex and compelling. There is a lot of unpredictability; just because someone is human does not make them a good character. Some make wrong choices for the right reasons or do the best for their people at the expense of others. Brett also deals with some weighty topics in The Desert Prince and does not shy away from the dark moments, but there is always an underlying hope and a sense of moral duty.

The friendships of Darin, Olive, and their cohort are a core part of The Desert Prince, and I imagine this will continue in The Hidden Queen. Part of this comes from the fact that the main characters are in their mid to late teens, and The Desert Prince is their “coming of age” novel. The bonds they have formed as children are being stretched and reformed as they explore who they are as young adults and find where they fit in a world away from the decisions made for them by their parents. As I often find, the fighting or action scenes in The Desert Prince were some of my favourite parts of the story. Although there are many, they are essential to the narrative, and both progress the plot and add important details to the characterisation. Brett’s thorough descriptions of the fight scenes were so easy to visualise for me that they felt almost cinematic.

Overall, I would describe my experience of reading The Desert Prince as utterly immersive. Although the perspectives shift from Olive to Darin and back, they are equally enjoyable, and I could follow both narrative strands easily. I think Olive’s perspective is the one the reader spends more with, and my only criticism is that I wish it had been a more even split between the two, but that’s because I think Darin is just as compelling as Olive and is as deserving of pages as she is. As the first novel in a new set, Brett understandably ends The Desert Prince with the reader wanting more, but I still found the ending satisfying in tying off the loose threads of an initial instalment. It has whetted my appetite for The Hidden Queen, and luckily, that is already on my shelf, so I shall get to it very soon.

I purchased my copy of The Desert Prince with no obligation to review it, but Peter V. Brett and the team at Harper Voyager sent me a copy of The Hidden Queen, which gave me the kick to finally pick it off my ‘to be read’ pile.

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Fiona Denton

Fiona Denton

Fiona is a former secondary school teacher and current stay at home parent to two very wild and active children. She lives with them and her husband in the UK and can often be found on a beach paddling in the North Sea or stomping through a forest with the sprogs and hounds. She loves to read and has always enjoyed fantasy novels, particularly the very dark and twisty ones with mythical creatures.

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