Monday, 31 December 2012

The Painted Man - Peter V. Brett


The Painted Man (released as The Warded Man in the USA) is the first instalment of the Demon Cycle series of novels and supporting novellas by Peter V. Brett. The book is high fantasy; set in a world where human civilisation collapsed hundreds of years ago and its survivors now spend their nights cowering behind magical wards while they are hunted and terrorised by the malicious demons that rise from the Core each night.

The ruin of our civilisation has meant the loss of all of our technology and science, so we now live quaintly with only the basic necessities to sustain us as we once did. Even worse than this, Brett explains that during the 'Age of Ignorance', when our technological understanding grew, our knowledge of the magical world declined and the wards to harm the otherwise invincible Corelings were lost and forgotten... 

And this, in the long-established aftermath of the war, is where Brett's gripping story picks up, beginning with a young farm boy called Arlen who dreams of fighting demons so that men and women will no longer have to spend their entire lives living in fear of dying in the night. This is easier said than done however, and Arlen knows that he must first find and replicate the attack wards from the First Demon War that have long been lost... 

Deciding that this is worth dedicating his life too, Arlen abandons his young life and sets out to join the guild of Messengers - men who travel between towns and villages to keep them in contact with the Dukes who rule from the Free Cities - so that he can search for lost relics. His quest is harder than he could have known, filled with pain, loss and betrayal, but he knows that the prizes he could obtain are worth it and is adamant that he will not die as a coward trembling in the night like countless others before him. 

Although this story-line makes up the bulk of the book, with Brett focusing mainly around the adventures of Arlen - outlining his growth from a child into a young man, there are two other sub-plots included that tell of the hardships endured by Leesha, a healer and one of few guardians of the old science; and of Rojer Halfhand, a young jongleur who is determined to learn how to defend himself... Their stories are both heartbreaking, even more so than Arlen's, and help to give an interesting and bigger picture of how Brett's recusant society works. 

I found The Painted Man to be a superbly written book that is packed with action from the very beginning, making it a must read for any fan of fantasy. But be warned before you start reading it - The Painted Man is addictive and is extremely difficult to put down, so make sure you have a lot of spare time to hand when you first pick it up!

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