The Painted Man – Peter V Brett
This is another book that has been on my radar for some time. It has received many positive reviews and going in I literally knew nothing about the story. I am not really a fan of the generic hooded man that haunts front covers on every other book these days but something about this one caught my eye.
Sometimes there is very good reason to be afraid of the dark...
Eleven-year-old Arlen lives with his parents on their small farmstead, half a day's ride away from the isolated hamlet of Tibbet's Brook.
As dusk falls upon Arlan's world, a strange mist rises from the ground, a mist carrying nightmares to the surface. A mist that promises a violent death to any foolish enough to brave the coming darkness, for hungry corelings - demons that cannot be harmed by mortal weapons - materialize from the vapours to feed on the living. As the sun sets, people have no choice but to take shelter behind magical wards and pray that their protection holds until the creatures dissolve with the first signs of dawn.
When Arlen's life is shattered by the demon plague, he is forced to see that it is fear, rather than the demons, which truly cripples humanity. Believing that there is more to his world than to live in constant fear, he must risk leaving the safety of his wards to discover a different path.
In the small town of Cutter's Hollow, Leesha's perfect future is destroyed by betrayal and a simple lie. Publicly shamed, she is reduced to gathering herbs and tending an old woman more fearsome than the corelings. Yet in her disgrace, she becomes the guardian of dangerous ancient knowledge.
Orphaned and crippled in a demon attack, young Rojer takes solace in mastering the musical arts of a Jongleur, only to learn that his unique talent gives him unexpected power over the night.
Together, these three young people will offer humanity a last, fleeting chance of survival.
This book took me completely by surprise. I loved the concept of demons rising of a night and leaving the local folk in fear of their lives. Being dependant on wards that could easily be eroded by the weather was fascinating.
The story focuses on the lives of three individuals. Arlen, Leesha and Rojer. Arlen and Leesha are youngsters who want more from their lives then the mundane existence of living in a hamlet and fending for themselves. Whilst Rojer’s path is chosen for him at an early age.
Each character is interesting. Arlen’s quiet determination is based on logical grounding. Events that happen early on in the novel shape his existence and mind set. His journey through the book is epic as he travels all over and encounters many different obstacles and characters. The most intriguing are the warriors at Desert Spear. His dynamic with his family is well handled and Peter V Brett allows you to care for Arlen in a very short period of time.
Leesha is in a similar position to Arlen but does not possess his determination. She grows in confidence as the novel progresses, taking steps to control her own destiny when presented with the choice. Her interaction with Bruna, the herb gatherer who serves as her mentor is excellent and definitely one of the highlights of the novel.
It is Rojer though that really experiences a true coming of age. Forced into a partnership with the very man he should despise, Peter V Brett handles the relationship perfectly and does well not to proceed down the inevitable path. This adds to the character building of Rojer and his growth from a boy to a teenager.
The are other characters of note. I have mentioned Bruna, but Ragan and his wife are also worthy of mention. Ragan, a messenger for the Prince could easily have his own standalone novel.
The plot is tight and well articulated. Inevitably the path of the three protagonist intertwine but this feels natural rather than forced. The pace never wanes despite a number of years passing which again is a credit to Peter V Brett. The world he creates is vivid from the hamlets to the cities. Each is given a unique feel and it would have been easy for him to get bogged down in the various locations with the characters.
There are some minor niggles. Every character seems to cry a lot. I don’t mean out and out sob all the time, but whenever something bad happens they always seem on the verge of tears or choking back sobs.
It is a little unrealistic in places too. I found it hard to believe that no one other than the Desert Spear people took the fight to the demons. Everyone seemed to have accepted their lot in life and that’s that.
As I say, only minor niggles though. The ending wraps things up nicely returning to the roots of the start of the novel. It also sets things up for a second book.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the Painted Man. It may not have been an original concept but it still comes across that way. Well written, dark and tightly plotted, it is an accomplished debut novel.
My rating 8.8