Book Review: The Core by Peter V. Brett
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: Book 5 of The Demon Cycle
Publisher: Del Rey (October 3, 2017)
Length: 781 pages
To be honest, The Demon Cycle and I have something of a love-hate relationship. While I felt the first book was a truly excellent read, every sequel after that has been problematic in one form or another, be they plagued with redundant (and overly long!) flashbacks, infuriating cliffhangers, or obnoxious characters you just want to punch in the face. Still, Peter V. Brett writes very entertaining stories, so I probably put up with a lot more from him that I would from any other author. As much as I like to jokingly call this series “Days of Our Lives in The Hollow”, there’s definitely something to be said for the guilty pleasure derived from following soap opera bait like Rojer’s troubles with his three-way marriage, or Leesha and her mom’s baby daddy drama.
That said, we’re on the final book now. No more messing around. Like I said at the end of my review for The Skull Throne, I fully expected some tight storytelling and fast-paced action from The Core as we make our last big push towards the grand finale.
In retrospect, those high expectations were probably what led to my eventual disappointment. I wanted swift execution of the story and razor sharp timing befitting of a series conclusion. I wanted answers and a narrower field of focus. I wanted to see multiple plot threads come together and to have the major characters play more central roles again. I wanted too much, in other words. I realize now that I’d hyped this book up in my head, with expectations of what I wanted The Core to be, and it ended up being quite different from Brett’s vision. Of course, I don’t blame him at all for any of that; as the author, it’s his prerogative to take his series in whatever direction he wants. What I do want to do is paint a picture of the situation so that others might better understand why I’m in the minority of feeling merely lukewarm about this novel while most others seemed to have enjoyed it immensely.
Granted, I’m probably sounding a lot more negative than I intend to be. The Core really is a decent book, and had this been any other installment, I might even have given it a higher rating. Still, we’re talking the very last book of a series here. Fair or not, it gets evaluated it on a different set of standards to judge whether or not it serves as a satisfying conclusion, and in that sense, I was not exactly overawed. Even if things ended just about as well as they possibly could, I still experienced a ton of issues along the way, especially in the first half of the story, most of which I spent feeling bored. Tedium in a finale? Something’s definitely not right.
Part of the problem stems from all the soapy plotlines that had valiantly managed to keep the Cutter’s Hollow crew interesting throughout much of the series, but unfortunately, what worked for previous two books merely felt contrived and time-wasting in this final volume. We’re supposed to be bracing ourselves for an epic showdown against demonkind, but there’s hardly a sense of urgency or any kind of tension leading up to the big event. I’ve also watched this series grow increasingly bloated since The Daylight War, and things have gotten really out of hand with the staggering number of characters we have to keep track of. I’ve mentioned before how badly this series needs Arlen to remain a big part of the story in order to keep it focused, so I was once again disappointed at his meager presence in The Core. Considering how only a handful of main character POVs—namely Arlen, Jardir, and Leesha—were significantly pushing this story along, it’s not surprising that we got nowhere fast due the relatively limited page time they were given.
The good news is, things pick up significantly in the second half, the novel’s saving grace being its later chapters. As I’ve alluded to before, I’m actually quite happy with the way The Core ended, just not quite so pleased with the uneven road it took to get there. This has resulted in some very mixed feelings, to say the least, hence my middling 3-star rating. Many others have loved it unequivocally though, and ultimately I think how you feel will largely depend on what you hope to get out of an ending volume. If you’re a reader who appreciates getting the full picture—or if you enjoyed how the previous books continued expanding the story, setting, and characters—then I think you will like The Core very much. On the flip side, if you’re feeling worn out by the widening scope, lack of focus, and increasingly shallow plot threads of the series, then I’m afraid you’ll just find more of the same problems with this one.
Still, at the end of the day I’m pretty happy I got to finish The Demon Cycle. This series and I have had our ups and downs, but it was a fun ride throughout it all. I definitely would not hesitate to read anything Peter V. Brett does next.