Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Painted Man

by Peter V. Brett


Peter V. Brett gives us reason to be afraid of the dark with this story of ravenous demons. Every night demons rise from the Core of the world to rule the darkness and terrorise humanity. They are creatures of fire, wood, air, rock, and other types. Each variety has different strengths and weaknesses, but they all share the same hatred of people and the same abarcy for human flesh. The only thing that will hold them back are wards, and they will tear apart anyone who steps beyond these markings.

Arlen is a young man living in an isolated rural community. It's a village in fear, because they have few defences and help is always a long way away. Despair has gripped the population, leaving most people too paralysed to fight. When an attack comes Arlen is appalled by the way people react, so he leaves his home, determined to find a way to defeat the demons.

Elsewhere a young woman called Leesha realises she has a vocation, although others in her community have quite different plans for her. She will need all the resources she can muster to assert her will and avoid being bullied into living the kind of life she does not choose. And in another settlement a boy loses his parents to demons and faces an uncertain future.

Although The Painted Man is action-packed and exciting, it rambles towards the middle. The narrative is full of young people with good reasons to be disappointed by the selfishness, cowardice or brutality of those in authority. We're introduced to a lot of characters, and the author seems to be trying to tell more or less the same story a few times too many, with different faces and slight variations.

However things pick up again once Arlen sets foot in the desert. In this section Peter V. Brett depicts a vibrant culture bound by strict morals and a rigid social structure. It may not be flawless, but it's a society that thrives on a lack of compromise, and it still has plenty of fight left in it. The author has taken the concept of a demon-haunted world and turned it into a bold metaphor for fear. The demons represent fear itself, and his characters can only banish them by facing them head-on rather than cowering behind their wards.

There's a lot to enjoy in this book: strong central characters, a striking concept, action, and an atmosphere so thick with fear you can taste it. In spite of some problems with pacing in the middle of the story, it's a début to relish.

Book Details

Year: 2008

Categories: Books


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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

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