Published: 02 April 2009 by HarperVoyager
Format: Paperback, 560 pages
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Mankind has ceded the night to the corelings, demons that rise up out of the ground each day at dusk, killing and destroying at will until dawn, when the sun banishes them back to the Core. As darkness falls, the world’s few surviving humans hide behind magical wards, praying the magic can see them through another night. As years pass, the distances between each tiny village seem longer and longer. It seems nothing can harm the corelings, or bring humanity back together.
Born into these isolated hamlets are three children. A Messenger teaches young Arlen that fear, more than the demons, has crippled humanity. Leesha finds her perfect life destroyed by a simple lie, and is reduced to gathering herbs for an old woman more fearsome than the demons at night. And Rojer’s life is changed forever when a traveling minstrel comes to his town and plays his fiddle.
But these three children all have something in common. They are all stubborn, and know that there is more to the world than what they’ve been told, if only they can risk leaving their safe wards to find it.
I loved this book, the premise had me hooked the moment I read it. The world that Brett has created is incredible to read about, richly detailed and full of wonderful landscapes, and its an absolute pleasure to read about it. The humans in The Painted Man are forced to live out their lives in the daylight hours and fear the coming of night. Magical wards protect the people within their houses at night. The return of the demons, after an absence of seven thousand years during which Science reigned, has brought Magic back into the forefront of the world, but much of it has been lost, in particular, the legendary fighting wards.
The story is told from the points of view of three characters: Arlen, Leesha and Rojer, whose stories are told in alternating four-chapter blocks. Instead of following them continuously the book is split up into sections that span a certain number of years, so we see the characters at various stages of life. Each character beings something unique to the story: Arlen his strength, Leesha her compassion, and Rojer his naivety. The different points of view precipitate the development of the story, and the three view points only merge at the end of the book. The transitions between them are easily followed and progress well.
There is a lot to love about Peter V. Brett’s debut novel, and he has definitely hooked me for the next two books in his trilogy. The Painted Man has all the makings of a great fantasy and will be enjoyed by masters of the genre and new comers alike. I have the second book, The Desert Spear, in hand and plan to read it soon.