“A great horn sounded…[a] quiet dread built in his gut as he waited in the morning stillness, hoping that it had been his imagination…”
So begins The Warded Man (known as The Painted Man in the United Kingdom) the first book in the Demon Cycle, a five book series by author Peter V. Brett. We had the opportunity to have an in-depth chat about Brett’s writing, his series, and about what comes next. The final book in The Demon Cycle, The Core, is available now.
The Demon Cycle takes place in a world set in our distant past (or perhaps our future? Who’s to say.) where humankind lives in fear of demons. The demons rise up from the ground every night to hunt and terrorize people everywhere. Most have little protection against these demons if caught at night, but there is one defense: wards. Wards are symbols that people can draw in a circle, or on a house, that protects them from certain kinds of demons.
Wards are not completely foolproof, however, as if even a little paint chips off, or dirt or debris covers them, they lose their efficacy, and the people hidden behind them are left vulnerable.
The story follows Arlen Bales as he makes his way in this world and the trials he faces trying to find his place in it.
Much like that of his titular character, Brett’s origin story is a spellbinding one. He wrote the bulk of his first novel, The Warded Man, on the New York City subway as he commuted to work. It’s hard to imagine, given The Warded Man was published in 2008, and phones weren’t nearly as functional then as they are today. Brett was just typing, having no idea what his story would become, “I didn’t honestly think I would even be published, much less be able to make a career out of writing,” he said. “I suppose I fantasized about being a “famous” author, but even my image of that paled in comparison to having a bestselling series, sold in 25 languages, on six continents.”
From writing on a phone on a subway, to fans asking “when is the next book coming?” is a dream for Brett, who offers much of himself to his fans across the world. Brett is famous for making the effort to visit the farthest corners of the world to meet fans, from Seattle to New York, throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, even as far away as Australia.
He recognizes the good fortune his fans have afforded him and he is as excited to meet them, as they are to meet him. “More people than I can count have gotten fantastic Demon Cycle tattoos, or named children after my characters. I have a whole photo album on [F]acebook of cosplayers bringing my characters to life,” but more than that, “[t]he question [of interaction with fans brings] a tear to my eye, because it’s made me think about how many meaningful interactions there’s been…these readers became like an online family to me, and it has been amazing to meet them one by one as I travel the world.”
Now that his five book series is concluded, it’s not difficult to imagine that Brett has some regrets about how his narrative unfolded; after all, with more than 1.5 million words, there is lots of room for some errors, or corners one didn’t see coming.
But, for Brett, it wasn’t about anything he didn’t do; it was about something he did, “I [have] no regrets about my work, but I certainly didn’t appreciate the strain in weaving 13 distinct POV characters together…but [e]xploring different perspectives is part of what makes storytelling compelling for me, and all those characters play a pivotal role in The Core—even the ones who don’t make it to the end.”
It’s been nine years between the publication of his first book in the series and the final book, The Core, (available worldwide as of today) but from the moment he began this journey, it’s been fifteen; fifteen years since he had that glimmer of an idea on that subway. What started as an awkward typing project, shoulder to shoulder with the personalities of New York City, has become a multi-national fantasy phenomenon with millions of books sold. “It’s a heady feeling,” he said of completing the final book.
“What really amazed me were how small things from the first book bore unexpected fruit in the conclusion.”
The Core, is the fifth and final book of The Demon Cycle. In it, the two heroes Arlen and Jardir, once like brothers, now enemies divided by betrayal, seek to end the rise of demons and win the final war against demon kind. Their path to victory lies through the clever mind of a demon prince and straight to the core…where the mother of demons breeds an inexhaustible army.
But their actions set in motion the most terrifying event yet: a demon swarm. Can Arlen, his wife Renna, and Jardir defeat the mother of demons before the world is overcome by the swarm?
And can their sometimes allies Leesha, Inevera, Ragen, and Elissa, rally the people of the free cities to hold back the swarm until the trio ends the demon threat once and for all?
Well, you’ll need to read The Core to find out!
There was actually a rumour that because Brett had one additional book left on his contract with Del Rey, the Demon Cycle would be extended, however, Brett clearly, and decisively, (and perhaps not as gently as we may have liked), quashed the notion of an extension of the series.
“The Demon Cycle will end with the fifth book,” he said. “All major storylines will close and the overall story will resolve with deaths and births, and maybe, a tear or two.”
Brett wasn’t all cold water though, adding, “I still have some ideas for stories set in that world. There’s another novella, Barren, set to come shortly after The Core, and I do indeed have one book left on my contract. At this point, it may be something new, or it may be a story set about 15 years after The Core ends, starring all new characters, with some familiar faces as a supporting cast.”
So while Brett isn’t interested in playing in the castle he’s built with The Demon Cycle, it doesn’t sound like he’s done with the sandbox, quite yet. The idea of further stories in his world is a boon for fans, as he’s presented it as diverse, and vast, with myriad dark corners and winding paths to explore.
That said, for an author, remaining tied to one world can be a trap (Robert Jordan is a notable example, who once he began rolling with the Wheel of Time series, could not escape, writing it until his death) so it’s understandable why Brett may look to sidestep his creation.
Brett was reluctant to give up any secrets about The Core, not wanting to see spoilers ruin the climax of his story. When asked about specific wards that the heroes might use to control demons, like Rojer could with his music, Brett was political: “Even now, with Arlen, Leesha, Inevera, and Jardir discovering lost wards and creating new ones, there is still more forgotten than known.”
My question was somewhat of a surprise to Brett; as were a few others where I asked about specific narrative decisions and characters because, as it turns out, most people don’t ask about the stories themselves. “It’s interesting, because most questions are about writing, or film, or publishing schedules. Almost no one ever asks questions about the stories themselves, which are always my favourites to answer.”
It led to a natural transition to a conversation about the movie rights for the series; after all, a fantasy series is now the most watched (and most pirated) series on the planet, and with a deep narrative and expansive world, it seems like the Demon Cycle is ripe for a similar approach. The movie rights were recently snagged by New Harlem with Spike Seldin and Hans Futterman producing. Seldin, who also serves as president of Atlas comics, is best known for producing the big screen adaption of The A-Team.
“It’s still early,” Brett said about the production of the series but added that “I’ve been consulting with the script team and they’ve been amazing, showing a real passion for the project and great ideas on how to adapt it to the screen.”
He did add one point of caution, however: “I don’t want anyone to get too excited. [But] if, and when, I have news something is in production, [I] will shout it from the rooftops.”
Suffice it to say, for fans of Brett’s work it’s an exciting time. With the completion of the Demon Cycle, a nine year odyssey comes to an end, with the promise of a new beginning; and more to be thankful for on the horizon.
My thanks to Peter V. Brett for sharing his thoughts and humour. You can follow Peat on twitter (@PVBrett) or on Facebook (PVBrett).
The Core is available now at fine booksellers everywhere
Special thanks to Karen Bourne, whose dogged perseverance helped me realize my dream of interviewing one of my favourite authors
Also thanks to Jane at Waterstones Bookshop on Sauchiehall (Glasgow, Scotland) for saving me the last of their signed UK First Editions of The Core
Featured Image via [The Demon Cycle Wikia]
Unless otherwise indicated, all photos from [petervbrett.com] and Copyright © Peter V. Brett