The Core (Demon Cycle #5)

The Core Book Cover The Core
Demon Cycle #5
Peter V. Brett
Del Rey
September 28, 2017

For time out of mind, bloodthirsty demons have stalked the night, culling the human race to scattered remnants dependent on half-forgotten magics to protect them. Then two heroes arose—men as close as brothers, yet divided by bitter betrayal. Arlen Bales became known as the Warded Man, tattooed head to toe with powerful magic symbols that enable him to fight demons in hand-to-hand combat—and emerge victorious. Jardir, armed with magically warded weapons, called himself the Deliverer, a figure prophesied to unite humanity and lead them to triumph in Sharak Ka—the final war against demonkind.

But in their efforts to bring the war to the demons, Arlen and Jardir have set something in motion that may prove the end of everything they hold dear—a Swarm. Now the war is at hand and humanity cannot hope to win it unless Arlen and Jardir, with the help of Arlen’s wife, Renna, can bend a captured demon prince to their will and force the devious creature to lead them to the Core, where the Mother of Demons breeds an inexhaustible army.

Trusting their closest confidantes, Leesha, Inevera, Ragen and Elissa, to rally the fractious people of the Free Cities and lead them against the Swarm, Arlen, Renna, and Jardir set out on a desperate quest into the darkest depths of evil—from which none of them expects to return alive.


The Core marks the end of the journey for Arlen, Jardir, and all their allies in this demon war. This is the finale; do or die. Arlen, Jardir, and Reena have a chance to end this once and for all. Their efforts may be humanity’s last chance. Meanwhile, their allies on the surface prepare to face a seemingly unending demon horde. Faced with numbers and tactics never before seen against the seemingly mindless demons, the Free Cities will be forced to fight to the last man. Humanity has yet to truly unite in their efforts, but time is up. Sharak Ka is upon them all now.

With all that in mind, The Core is by far the most hardcore book of the Demon Cycle. It is as dark as it is violent, with the demon’s evil now fully mixed with the horrors of war. For a long time now, the rediscovery of magic has given humans hope. It has made them brave. And unafraid. That courage is more than tested here. While the previous book mostly set things up for finale, there is a little bit of final prep work in The Core. But once the action starts, it does not stop. Fighting takes place across the country simultaneously with the chapters jumping between different locations mid-battle.

The last book in any series is always hard. Authors must decide how this story ends and the ultimate fate of their characters. Since The Warded Man, about 30 years have passed in this story. Readers have been with some of these characters from their early childhood to the present day. We have seen them go from scared peasants to leaders and warriors. But by the end, every character from great to small has had an impact on this story. If even one person was not there, things would have turned out differently.

With the war kicking off, other conflicts cease to matter. The human characters realize real quick that their politics and schemes mean nothing in the face of total annihilation. But by the time the dust has settled, so has everything else. There can never be a final battle where the good guys just win. Defeating the bad guy must always come with a cost. A cost of life, a change in the status quo, or some other equally momentous sacrifice. This is not an easy thing for any author to accomplish, but Peter V. Brett has delivered.

October 20, 2019

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