The Painted Man by Peter V Brett
Published by Harper Voyager
First published 1 September 2008
Published in USA by Del Rey as The Warded Man
This is the first book in the Demon Cycle, book two The Desert Spear is available in paperback and book three, The Daylight War is available in hardback. I read a promotional edition exclusive to Waterstones priced £2.99.
This book was recommended to me via Twitter by Lauren, Planet Replica‘s Judge Anderson. I don’t always do everything pretty models tell me to do, but in this case I am glad I did.
There are spoilers below but I am keeping them as light as possible while giving a full review. The biggest spoiler I will leave unsaid, who is the Painted Man?
The novel is written in the third person from the point of view of three characters. This is a long used writing style seen in books such as the classics Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Dracula by Bram Stoker. Some authors use it in a lesser way, such as the way Alex Scarrow lets us see the thoughts of some of his characters in the Ellie Quin series. This book treats the characters in a way more similar to the way George R R Martin presents his characters in the Song of Fire and Ice (or Game of Thrones as more familiar with the tv series).
The story is set in the fictional land of Thesa, once a thriving Kingdom and now a land divided between four nobles. The nobles each have a city as their seat of power. Each has access to much required resources but each has to trade with the others to survive. A fifth city lays beyond the sands south of Thesa.
We are first introduced to Arlen, a young boy aged eleven. Arlen lives in a small town of Tibbet’s Brook, on his father’s farmstead just outside the village proper. The scene starts with Arlen seeing to the livestock. But there is an alarm sounded and his father readies the cart to go to the aid of their neighbours at Cluster by the Woods.
There are nightly terrors in the world, Demons come up from the Core and feast. Homes are warded against them but wards can fail. Ragen, a Messenger, arrives at Tibbet’s Brook with his Jongleur, Keerin. Only Messengers dare to brave the roads between the Free Cities on a regular basis. Jongleurs accompany them to entertain the villages along the way.
Leesha is a thirteen year old girl in the village of Cutter’s Hollow. Her father is a paper-maker and her mother is a domineering wicked tongued woman. Betrothed to the tall, strong and handsome Gared, a Cutter, her future looks set. However she is drawn into a situation that sees her being trained by the village’s Herb Gatherer.
Herb Gatherers are the healers, treating ailments, injuries and delivering babies. Tenders are the religious leaders who guide the people and keep the laws.
Rojer, just three years old, lives in his parent’s inn at Riverbridge. Disaster comes hot on the heels of the trusted Messenger Geral and the Jongleur, Arrick Sweetsong.
The book spans the years 319 to 333 and we see our heroes age and grow in to their chosen tasks, whether chosen by them or for them. We see many parts of Thesa and get a look at their religion and their carefully balanced politics. We get to see the varied nature of Demons and the magic that people use to ward against them. This is a rich world with a well defined character of its own. The Demons are rather one dimensional, until one looses an arm.
While there are points that one can guess what may happen the author gives us enough surprises along the way. But who is The Painted Man?
The characters grow and develop well. The story gives us answers and poses more questions. A very enjoyable read. I have already bought Desert Spear but am reading a couple of other books before returning to Thesa.
Thanks Lauren, good pick!