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The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett

The Blurb On The Back:

As darkness falls, the demons rise.


For hundreds of years these creatures have terrorised the night, slowly culling the human population. It was not always this way. Men and women did not always cower behind protective magical wards and hope to see the dawn. Once, they battled the demons on equal terms, but those days and skills, are gone.

Arlen Bales lives with his parents on their isolated farmstead until a demon attack shatters their world. He learns a savage lesson that day: that people, as well as magic, can let you down.

Rejecting the fear that kills as efficiently as the creatures, Arlen risks another path in order to offer humanity a last, fleeting chance of survival.




Arlen, Rojer and Leesha live in a world where demons are real and control the night. They rise at sunset and feast on anyone not protected by wards – magical symbols that can repel a demon’s attack if drawn correctly. Arlen and Rojer have each suffered loss at the hands of the demons and that loss has transformed each of their lives.

Arlen, who is gifted with drawing wards, is determined to become a Messenger – one of the few brave enough to risk the open road, carrying messages and goods between the various city states and villages. Rojer is apprenticed to be a Jongleur – an entertainer who usually accompanies the Messengers to spread what happiness they can. Leesha is training to be a healer and dreaming of a life outside the small village where she lives. The lives of all three will converge as they each stumble on a way to battle the demons and potentially save all of humanity …

Peter V. Brett’s fantasy novel – the first in a trilogy – takes the hoary old cliché of the farmboy saving the world and plunges him into a world filled with demons while teaming him up with a small town boy and a smaller town girl. I enjoyed the depiction of the demons, who fall into different types (each with their own abilities and vulnerabilities) and a lot of thought has been put into the history of this world (which is a vaguely post-apocalyptic Earth). However much of the book falls into stock territory with Arlen, Rojer and Leesha all having predictable storylines within the book while the cod-medieval setting gives plenty of scope to trot out taverns and horse riding. Brett does have a stab at subverting the patriarchal sexism common to this type of book through the establishment of a Council of Mothers that supposedly advises one of the Dukes (although we never really see that) but otherwise women are confined to the crone/virgin/wife/whore stereotypes and we get bonus rape as a means of driving two characters into each other’s arms. There’s also a thinly disguised Arab-style world filled with sexist, racist and double-crossing thugs, which I found distasteful. Ultimately the writing is fine and I kept turning the pages but there wasn’t enough here that was new for me and I found the sexism and racism depressing, so ultimately I won’t rush to check out the remaining books.

The Verdict:

Peter V. Brett’s fantasy novel – the first in a trilogy – takes the hoary old cliché of the farmboy saving the world and plunges him into a world filled with demons while teaming him up with a small town boy and a smaller town girl. I enjoyed the depiction of the demons, who fall into different types (each with their own abilities and vulnerabilities) and a lot of thought has been put into the history of this world (which is a vaguely post-apocalyptic Earth). However much of the book falls into stock territory with Arlen, Rojer and Leesha all having predictable storylines within the book while the cod-medieval setting gives plenty of scope to trot out taverns and horse riding. Brett does have a stab at subverting the patriarchal sexism common to this type of book through the establishment of a Council of Mothers that supposedly advises one of the Dukes (although we never really see that) but otherwise women are confined to the crone/virgin/wife/whore stereotypes and we get bonus rape as a means of driving two characters into each other’s arms. There’s also a thinly disguised Arab-style world filled with sexist, racist and double-crossing thugs, which I found distasteful. Ultimately the writing is fine and I kept turning the pages but there wasn’t enough here that was new for me and I found the sexism and racism depressing, so ultimately I won’t rush to check out the remaining books.

Thanks to Harper Voyager for the review copy of this book.
Tags: fantasy, harper collins freebie, peter v. brett, trilogy
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