Peter V. Brett’s The Painted Man is another of those books from the past couple years that I hadn’t read yet, something I wanted to change. This book, originally published in 2008, is outstanding. I can already tell you this is going to be a praising review, with reason - The Painted Man is an exhilarating debut. When compared with any recent work of fantasy this arresting novel stands its ground. Really, it's a wonder that I didn’t pick up this book earlier, I am now innerly chastising myself for that very reason. The start of an extremely promising series, with a sequel already published, The Painted Man is well worth any investment you make in it.
Arlen lives with his parents on their small farmstead, half a day’s ride from the isolated hamlet of Tibbet’s Brook. As dusk falls each evening, a mist rises from the ground promising death to any foolish enough to brave the coming darkness. For hungry demons materialize from the vapors to feed, and as the shadows lengthen, humanity is forced to take shelter behind magical wards and pray that their protection holds until the dawn.
But when Arlen’s world is shattered by the demon plague, he realizes that it is fear rather than the monsters, which truly cripples humanity, Only by conquering their own terror can they ever hope to defeat the demons. Now Arlen must risk leaving the safety of his wards to discover a different path, and offer humanity a last fleeting chance of survival.
The Painted Man owes most of its strength to a powerful and thrilling storyline. Though this is a pretty stereotypical farm-boy-rises-up-to-save-the-world kind of story, it has such lovable characters and intriguing concepts that it is close to impossible not to enjoy. All the mythology and workings of demons and wards that Brett has invented is stunning; it's a concept that is sufficiently mysterious, dangerous and logical without being unnecessarily complex or ridiculous in nature. It is the fear brought on by the demons that drive most of the story since, obviously, without it there wouldn’t have been much of a story at all.
Despite it being a relatively straight forward plot, Brett manages to weave in a few reflective themes into the story. Overcoming one's fear is, you’ll understand by now, a big one but present also are some of religion, origins and what exactly it means to be human. Not the deepest of stuff, granted, but it helps widen an otherwise linear book.Then there is quite a few awesome demon fighting scenes mixed in during the length of the book, and lets admit it, who doesn’t like those? Often, though, the book veers into the slightly gruesome, nothing to throw a reader off, but still worth the mention.
The three main characters, Arlen, Leesha and Rojer, are, in their sublimity, the second aspect of The Painted Man that truly make it a great read. As said above, they are lovable, especially because of the horrendous events they’ve survived and how you cannot help but feel for them afterwards. There is a reason why the ordinary boy growing up to save the world is such a used concept, it works. Arlen is that boy but instead of seeing him grow into over multiple books, as some series would have it, we see him achieve a major part of his goal in this single book. The other two characters aren’t seen much, Leesha slightly more than Rojer, and for the majority of the novel their storylines help vary the text from Arlen often more intense, demon-fighting passages. Both are characters I absolutely want to follow, and discover, further in the sequels to The Painted Man.
Written by what looks to be a master in the making, The Painted Man is an exceedingly thrilling read - in other words, highly recommended. If, like me, you have missed this novel then be sure to rectify such a mistake - I have difficulty believing you will find disappointment. Excitement and anticipation are words that fail to describe my feelings towards the thought of reading on in this fantastic series with the sequel to The Painted Man, The Desert Spear. Look for that review soon.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reading Age: 16 and up
Peter V. Brett's website: http://www.petervbrett.com
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