Book Review: The Desert Prince 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: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Book 1 of Nightfall Saga
Publisher: Del Rey (August 3, 2021)
Length: 656 pages
It’s great to be back in the Hollow! Mind you, fifteen years have passed since the end of The Demon Cycle which saw the humans beat back the creatures of the darkness, but to be honest, much here still feels comfy and familiar. Now in The Desert Prince, which kicks off a new series called the Nightfall Saga, the next generation will have their chance to prove themselves.
The story is told mainly from two perspective characters. Olive is the daughter of Leesha Paper, now the Duchess of Hollow, and Darin Bales is the son of the hero known as the Deliverer. Both of them have grown up in this peaceful world, the feats of their parents having become the stuff of legends. However, Olive wants more. As a princess and the heir of the Hollow, she has her whole life planned out by her mother, who wants to keep her only child sheltered and safe. But Leesha has also kept a big secret from her daughter. Olive has always known she is different, being intersex, but the fact has never bothered her, until her mother reveals how she had been assigned the gender of female at birth because the alagai hora—prophetic dice made of demon bone—willed it so. Olive can’t help but wonder what her life would have been like, had the fates decided differently.
Her friend Darin on the other hand faces a different kind of problem. As the son of the legendary Arlen Bales, the world expects greatness from him, but it’s a different world now without any corelings to fight. All Darin really wants is to be left alone to find his own path, and that way, maybe he won’t be a disappointment to everyone around him. But then one night, Olive and Darin cross the protective wards around the village to find out that the demons are not all gone. The threat is serious enough that the Hollow elders decide to investigate, hoping it is not a sign of a new corbeling resurgence. But soon afterwards, Olive’s heritage catches up with her as the Krasian enemies of her father come calling, capturing her for their own designs. But somewhere in this strange turn of events may be an opportunity for Olive to discover more about herself, and for Darin, who will stop at nothing to rescue his friend, this could be his chance to save the world from the demons.
As many others have noted, while The Desert Prince is a start of a new series, the novel really feels more like a continuation of The Demon Cycle. Sure, it can be read on its own without any knowledge of the prior books since the author does a pretty good job at catching you up, but the truth is, there’s really no substitute for the massive body of lore and character development you’ll be missing out on. As such, the Nightfall Saga feels very much like it was written for existing fans, though that’s not to say newcomers won’t find plenty to enjoy as well. In fact, if you love the epic fantasy genre, this will make you feel right at home, featuring heroic characters, stunning magic, and world-building on a massive scale.
Speaking as someone with the benefit of having the original series under my best, I actually thought The Desert Prince was quite good, the quality of the storytelling and writing even surpassing the previous books in a few cases. Peter V. Brett has certainly learned from his successes and mistakes, and as a result, here we have a tightly told plot which also highlights the importance of having well-developed characters. Of course, in this case having a memorable cast is important—they are the children of some larger-than-life heroes, after all. There’s a good balance between the POVs, with Olive’s probably being slightly more prominent (which makes sense, since her arc feels more consequential to the overall story, at least at this early point in the series) though both threads take on major coming-of-age themes like self-discovery or living up to parental expectations, etc., making these characters and their struggles feel more genuine and relatable.
Arguably though, the real stars are the corelings. A renewed war against the demons was undoubtedly what I’d hoped for when I picked up The Desert Prince, and one of the main reasons I signed up for the ride. And I know I can’t be the only one. The harrowing night fights against the demons in this book are some of the best Brett has ever written, which is enough to make me overlook some of the more annoying aspects which have been carried over from the original series, like the excessive melodrama and relationship shenanigans or the prejudice and merciless attitudes of Krasia. Those new to the magic system based around demon bones and warding are sure to be in for a nice surprise, while returning readers will also be treated to additions and an overall expansion to the lore. In other words, the experience was fresh yet comfortable, and coming from The Demon Cycle, I was impressed with the seamless shift from old to new.
All in all, I was happy to be back in the world of The Demon Cycle, upgraded and looking sleek in a new fresh coat of paint. Peter V. Brett slips right back into the rhythm of things without compromising the characteristic elements of the original series while putting a new generation in the spotlight and allowing them a chance to endear themselves into the hearts of readers new and old. On the whole, long-time fans will probably gain the most appreciation out of The Desert Prince but I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys epic fantasy.