The world is a dangerous place at night. Demons (corelings) from the core roam free. The only things holding them back are wards that must be meticulously cared for or else those hiding behind them become food for the demons.
The Warded Man by Peter Brett follows three different characters (Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer) as they grow up and mature in this world; each learning how to combat the demons in their own way. At times, the story needlessly diverges from these characters and sucks in a few other, not even secondary, characters to provide some other points of view, but these are the three main characters. These other POV characters appear for just a brief enough period of time that they don’t detract greatly from the narrative.
All of the main characters are extremely well written and fleshed out very early on. They only get deeper as the story builds towards the ending.
The magic system of the world (the use of wards) is also sound and believable, which lends to the strength of the narrative. I’ve read some reviews by people knocking the magic system, but it is obvious that either 1) they did not read far enough into the story to fully understand it or 2) ignored pertinent descriptions as they were given.
The corelings themselves are also very logically and consistently portrayed, even if they seem just a little too dimwitted at times.
The story really focuses around Alren who rediscovers the ancient and lost combat wards of old that allow humans to fight back against the corelings instead of just hiding from them. Overall, this is pretty much a classical fantasy adventure. It’s fun to read and doesn’t try to over impress the reader with fancy words and flowery prose. It doesn’t have to.
The only significant downside is that there really is no mystery to how things will unfold come the end of the story. You, as a reader, know where the story is headed by the half-way point (if not sooner). The only thing that is a slight mystery is exactly what steps will get the characters there.
I think, as far as fantasy goes, The Warded Man is a very good read and worthy of a rating of 3.75 out of five stars. It’s not quite elite fantasy, but hey, not everything can be. I say it is very much worth your time if you are into fantasy literature. As of right now, the sequels are definitely on my to read list.