There isn’t anything quite as lovely as a fresh idea. Whether we’re talking about a new way to cook pork or a book, it’s the same; a new idea is everything. But you don’t always come across new ideas, especially when we’re talking about fantasy novels. One need only look at the ruckus caused by authors like Terry Brooks or Christopher Paolini to see what I’m talking about.
So when the publishers of Peter V. Brett’s debut novel sent me The Painted Man a month ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself reading a fresh idea.
Set in a world where the night is plagued by demons from the Core – beastly animals representing fire, stone, wood, water, sand and wind – we are introduced slowly to our three main characters. Brett manages a wonderfully unique distribution of perspectives and time that allows the story to flow nicely while still jumping around enough to move three varying storylines along. With each chapter dated, and the book split into four sections, this book already has a head start over many in its presentation.
Editors OCD-ish side note – let’s not forget the beautiful 8.1” x 5.6” paperback book that my copy is, that is just a joy to hold in the hand.
The story focuses on three characters – Arlen, Leesha and Rojer – all of which will see themselves grow into their respective talents; talents that will see them become indispensable to the humans fight against the Core demons.
A little convenient at times, Brett still manages to keep you interested throughout with a fast pace and characters you love and hurt for. Leesha’s quest for the right guy is heartbreaking at times and all too real at some points. Rojer’s anguished past haunts the reader, not to mention the character. While Arlen, the character we spend the most time with, undergoes the most radical of character developments, and you long for his healing by the end of the book.
As I read through the book – my reviewers mind sadly too hard to turn off – I only found a few instances where I grimaced at the unwieldy nature of the book. Brett relies a little too heavily upon stereotypes in penning his antagonists and peoples.
At some points I feel ready to see Osama Bin Laden walk across the page, so heavily does Brett draw upon Islamic culture to describe the people of Krasia.
In other places the antagonists who plague our heroes are a little too helpful in their hatred. It all seemed a little bit too easy by the time our three characters finally met up, a meeting destined from the beginning, no doubt, but one that could have been constructed a little less reliant upon happenstance.
Nevertheless, by the end of the book I was nothing but pleased with what I had read. Rarely do I find myself so enjoying an author's first attempt out of the gate, and I don’t think that Terry Brooks’ quote on the back fully does Peter V Brett’s The Painted Man justice. It is more than just a novel that makes you care about the characters and what happens next, it is a novel that has a chance to be the beginning of a classic series.
Review by Joshua S Hill
11 positive reader review(s) for The Painted Man
The Painted Man
The Demon Cycle #1
As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demo [...]
The Desert Spear
The Demon Cycle #2
The sun is setting on humanity. The night now belongs to voracious demons that prey upon a dwindling population forced to cower behind half-forgotten symbols of power.  [...]
The Skull Throne
The Demon Cycle #4
The Skull Throne of Krasia stands empty. Built from the skulls of fallen generals and demon princes, it is a seat of honour and ancient, powerful magic, keeping the demon c [...]
Kuroneko from UK
One of my favorite book of all time.
Orlak from Germany
I really love this book and I have to admit that I started shedding tears when (SPOILER) Arlen left Ragen and his wife. It is really heart going and wonderfully written! Yes, of course you can transfer the world order of this book onto our conflicts of religion and so on, but who told you that you have to? For me the story is important and I do not like those people which read books and then completely analyse it. Just enjoy these 3 books! At last I want to THANK YOU, Peter V. Brett
Kislay from India
Complete take at http://www.solomonsays.in/reviews/105/books-review-for-the-warded-man: My take on the book- it was an enjoyable read, I just wish the writing was more inspired, and as you mentioned, cliches used in a less cliched way. There are way too many similarities between this and other, more well known, fantasy staples. It is an interesting, engaging read, but not a multi-layered, sprawling masterpiece. It doesn’t introduce an exotic new world to the reader, but neither is it a feeble attempt at magic and mystery as many books in the Long Tail are. Although close to the classical high fantasy works in theme, in execution and especially the style of writing, The Warded Man leans closer to Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series. The writing is mostly and deliberately on the cruder side, with more than enough obsession with sex and making babies. The interesting thing for me was the way real world medieval cultures are lifted as-is to form the krasian and free city worlds. It made strong analogies between peter brett’s world and the real world.
I from Home
Worldbuilding is ok and the story arc could be quite interesting - even though I cannot understand it, why give the book a title that will have the readers guessing what's going to happen from the start? Anyway, that's the good news. The bad news are, unfortunately, really bad. Stereotypical characters, some quite annoying to be honest, as has already been mentioned; but what I cannot stress enough is how flat, repetitive, lifeless the writing is. I dare you to count how many times the characters nod or shake their heads. Let me not get started on the use of the present participle. Or how many times the demons get described as revealing their rows of razor-sharp teeth. And last but not least: Bad Muslim guys? Really? Seriously, there are some good ideas in this one, but the execution really ruins everything. Why this book has received so many good reviews and was such a success is really beyond me.
Tyler from United States
The "Warded Man" as it is known in the U.S. takes most of the book to unite the 3 main characters. The demon fighting should take place a lot sooner and spend half the time building the characters! By the time they start fighting the demons, the book is over! Seems like I spent the whole time waiting for the description on the back to materialize and then it's over! Thank god I already had the 2nd book! Unfortunately, the beginning of the 2nd book (which I just started) sounds like the "jihad" of modern day...if you don't "believe" we must kill and rape fellow humans? Krasians are modern day terrorists? Hiding women under veils, holy wars, 'chin' (unbelievers), must ALL die? What's REALLY being said here?
Lance from New Zealand
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The setting, characters and disconsolate world served to draw me in and immerse me very well (save perhaps for a few jarring and implausible events). As I flipped through the pages it was as if I wasn't reading at all, but observing a story unfolding in a real, living world. I will admit to skipping over entire chapters, eventually returning to them, just so I could continue to read about the adventures of Arlen! I wasn't nearly as drawn in by the others, and found myself frankly annoyed at the distraction.
Al from Ireland
I loved this book; it got me back to reading after 6 years of finding nothing I liked. But this book is great, one I just had to finish once I picked up the book. I spent a whole day and most of the night reading; this a must read.
Tarje from On the streets
One of the best fantasy books i have ever read, it's new thinking and really sucks you inn and keep you there untill the end.
Jenny from London
The Painted man was definitely a very good book. My mum got it for my brother but I read it first as he was in school. This is not usually my type of genre but I certainly enjoyed the book thoroughly! Now awaiting the third book!!
Miles from Liverpool, UK
This book was lent to me by a freind and took me a while to actually pick. When I did eventually pick up The Painted Man I couldn't bring myself to put it down. I became so engrossed in the story and development of the characters that I found it being the first thing I would think of in the morning and actually planning when I could next get a chapter in. This book was well written from start to finish, an engrossing tale of characters you become attached to and everyone can relate to at least one situation the characters get into. Overall I would recommend fans of the genre to read this book and people new to the genre also. Absolute quality!!
Ricky from London
I don't usually read fantasy novels as I can feel some of them take too long building characters and go on way too long. However, this is the first I have read since The Lord of the Rings and Northern Lights and it's safe to say has captured my attention and certainly brought to light my love of the fantasy books market (hence stumbling upon this site). For any readers who don't or haven't read alot of fantasy and wondering whether it is worth the effort the thing I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It's a page turner and I couldn't put it down and am thoroughly looking forward to the third installment of this wonderful trilogy. Based on my review if anyone knows of similar type books I'd love to hear.
Jahant from London
One of the best books I have ever read. I loved how the book is all about fear, and the magic system, which at first I was sceptical about, ended up working brilliantly. It was my first fantasy book of the adult theme that I have read and I loved it!
Matt from UK
Just finished reading this and was fairly impressed and that was off the back of reading "The Magician" by Raymond E Feist. I thought the characters stood up well and less not forget that there is more books in the Demon Cycle series, so characters will build even more. I noticed that people thought that the rape scene wasn't explained and have got bogged down on this very small part of the book. I feel he did attempt to address this by explaining that Leesha regretted not losing her virginity earlier, as she had her virginity taken by a bunch of rapist scumbags. It goes on to say that she felt by having Sex with Arlen (Painted Man) this would be her true first time and erase the memories of her traumatic experience. Also don't forget that Arlen was probably a virgin too and she also felt very safe in his company because of his skills. Needless to say in our world that wouldn't probably be the natural reaction but in this world life is cheap and short lived. The only negartive thing I have to write about Brett is the fact that he appears to have sold the film rights to a Director that produces crap movies (Resident Evil). That is a real big shame. Peter Jackson would have made this book epic. I would have given this 7.5 but you can't half mark so an 8 it is. A real page turner for all the right reasons. The reason being I cared what happened to the characters.
Natalia from Australia
I found this novel hard to stick with overall. Brett writes fairly well and the journey of the characters and their trials was somewhat enough to keep me engaged - but I found the world building very cliched and the characters very one dimensional. The overall synopsis of the novel appealed to me greatly but although suspenseful at times, I found the style of writing quite hard to digest. I struggled with the tone of the work as well and felt it didn't fit with the the world or the characters. That said, I admire Brett for putting forward a good attempt at a first novel.
John C. from London
A disappointing read, overall. I'm afraid this book was too simplistic, both in its story and its writing style, for my own taste. It might suit those looking for a fast paced book which doesn't involve much depth or development and for a lot of gory demons and yokels doing each other in amid scenes of soft-core swelling bosoms and manly thews. The central concept had a lot of wobbles in it, despite being sold as "highly innovative" it really seemed quite boringly predictable. This might hold true as well for the various character arcs of its main protagonists. Characters lean towards caricatures all too often, especially those in supporting roles and the writing is utilitarian at best, dull and mechanical at worst. A few characters shine out of the mud, namely the two flawed jongleurs, but they are not the central focus of the novel. The plot clearly rode the characters, rather than the other way around, leaving sections of the book at the mercy of utterly implausible events which come off as transparently enacted only to make things happen quickly and keep this short book ticking along. As already noted, no woman hours past being gang-raped and left for dead, after being a prim virgin for 27 years in a world where most are becoming mothers at 17, is going to throw herself at some hulking almost inhuman stranger, wet and ready, and beg to get it on. This is one of many such mistakes that further shatter the illusion of the story. Over all, the whole thing felt rushed. I'd say it had promise, but never really delivered. Not the worst book by a long mile, but I found it odd to see so many positive reviews. A page turner perhaps, in the most literal sense of the word, but come the light of the morning, like the demons of the mysterious core, one which seemed to evaporate leaving nothing of substance behind.
Julia from Sussex
This wasn't too bad, up to a point. A bit unweildy, the characters a little flat (and I guessed the ending pretty much by the end of chapter one, but hey, sometimes it's the journey) but the worldbuilding was fairly solid and it wasn't a bad read. Right up to the point that one character, a couple of days after being brutally raped as a virgin (and presumably therefore still pretty banged up) doesn't have it affect her after the first day except when she decides that the best way to get over it is to jump on a guy that, not only is she afraid of, she describes as a monster just before hand. I just sat there and thought 'What the...!'. Completely unbelievable. Now I could, possibly, accept this if a) her motivations had been actually well shown in the book, but beyond one line they aren't and b) if she needed to bed a guy to get over it - she didn't pick a guy she was petrified of and thought a monster. Her best friend's right there , if she wanted comfort... why chose a 'monster'? Why not someone she knows will be gentle? That's not even mentioning the discomfort factor of all the bruising... However, as the character's motivations for this bizarre act were so glossed over as to be invisible, I just completely lost any chance of getting back into the characters. So the lack of any reasonable motivation completely threw me out of the book, and frankly, turned me right off this author. If you're going to have people do odd things (and people do, and I LOVE to see them do odd things as long we get to find out why) then at the very, very least, show me why in the book!
Jo Grifin from UK
Thoroughly enjoyed 'The Painted Man' from start to finish. As an avid reader of not only fantasy fiction, I found it refreshing. Gripped me like 'The Dragonbone Chair' - Tad Williams, and 'The Pillars of the Earth'- Ken Follett and of course Katherine Kerr and Terry Goodkind books. Keep it up - looking forward to more just like it.
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