The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett

Magic, demons and characters that pop off the page.

I’m still very new to writing up a somewhat readable review, so I’m concerned I’m not going to be able to do this book justice. Which would suck, because every fantasy reader out there, that has yet to read The Painted Man, needs to get out there and get themselves a copy.

It’s hard to find something that feels completely original when you read a lot, sometimes you notice similarities between plots, characters and themes within different books. As far as I’m aware these similarities aren’t intended, it just happens. People write about the same themes in their own way. While reading The Painted Man I didn’t have any of those “this reminds me of that other book” moments. It felt new.

In this world where people go about their lives during the day and hide behind their wards at night, where demons rise from the core to bring death and destruction to all they encounter, we see the best of human nature, the very worst and for the majority, the grey in between. The story follows three very different characters. Arlen who runs from his village and survives, where not many others could have. Leesha, betrayed by those who are meant to care for and sent on a path she never imagined for herself. And Rojer, who had to watch those he loved torn away from him, time and time again. I was going to say at the start that the world building is amazing, but it’s so much more than that. Each character adds another dimension to the world, together their lives bring it to life in your mind. The tension is so real that if your anything like me, you will have bitten your lip until it bled within the first 50 pages. The action is so intense, because of how invested you become. The story is constantly building, winding these lives together. The characters are quite young at the beginning and the way the author showed their life, learning and progressing throughout the next ten or so years was brilliant. We are never bogged down with information overload, but we are given a wonderful sense of who these people are and what they might become.

The world is pretty fucking bleak, the mortality rate is very high, people are considered an adult in there early teens, letters and numbers aren’t essential for most, everybody is just trying to survive. In the small villages life consists of making sure there is enough food and shelter and breeding the next lot of children to replace the many that die each year. In the city its similar except that they are trying to earn enough money to survive and women who have had children are held in higher regard than those who haven’t.

‘What could be more important than motherhood?’ she asked. ‘It’s every woman’s duty to produce children to keep the city strong. That’s why Mothers get the best rations and first pick at the morning market. It’s why all of the Duke’s councillors are Mothers. Men are good for breaking and building, but politics and papers are best left to women who’ve been to the Mothers’ School.’

Another commonality is lack of freedom. They are held prisoner behind their wards and walls, they are held captive by their fear. The demons that come each night keep them shepherded in their homes.

‘Miln is hardly a prison, Arlen,’ Elissa said. ‘It is,’ he insisted. ‘We convince ourselves that it’s the whole world, but it isn’t. We tell ourselves that there’s nothing out there we don’t have here, but there is.’

The demons themselves are quite fascinating. We learn about them and the history of the world as the characters do. There is zero info dumping. We know that in the distant past the demons came, they almost decimated humanity before they were driven back into the Core. And then history became legend and people forgot the truth, so when the demons came again, humanity was woefully unprepared.

I love the way these types of stories make me think. It might seem random but you have no idea how many times I wondered while reading this; am I a coward? Is there only one way to fight the demons? Would I be able to exist in this world? Just a heads up, I would most definitely be a coward, hiding behind my wards, running on minimal sleep until I accidentally fell over and was burnt up by a fire demon.

There are 4 more books in the series, so I’m sure we are going to learn much more about the world, the demons and how it all ended up like this. I’m certain it’s not what the religious doctrine says; that the people have brought it all on themselves. I’m looking forward to immersing myself back in this world next month when I pick up book 2: The Desert Spear.

If you like engaging, character driven epic fantasy, than this is for you. Hell even if you don’t, give it a try, you might love it.

Book info The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett, you can get it here.

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