The Painted Man / The Warded Man

So okay, once again I was late for this party. I have no excuse, really, as I received ARCs from both the UK and the USA before basically anyone had even heard from Peter V. Brett. And yes, this debut garnered quite a lot of rave reviews and sold quite well. To add insult to injury, Brett's sequel to The Painted Man/The Warded Man ended up on bestseller lists in the UK, Germany, and the USA. That's when it hit me that I was probably missing out on something special and I needed to do something about it. . .

Here's the blurb:

The time has come to stand against the night.

As darkness falls each night, the corelings rise–demons who well up from the ground like hellish steam, taking on fearsome form and substance. Sand demons. Wood demons. Wind demons. Flame demons. And gigantic rock demons, the deadliest of all. They possess supernatural strength and powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards–symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and mystery, and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile.

It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms. Once, under the leadership of the legendary Deliverer, and armed with powerful wards that were not merely shields but weapons, they took the battle to the demons . . . and stopped their advance.

But those days are gone. The fighting wards are lost. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault.

Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past.

Arlen will pay any price, embrace any sacrifice, for freedom. His grim journey will take him beyond the bounds of human power.

Crippled by the demons that killed his parents, Rojer seeks solace in music–only to discover that music can be a weapon as well as a refuge.

Beautiful Leesha, who has suffered at the hands of men as well as demons, becomes an expert healer. But what cures can also harm. . .

Together, they will stand against the night.

The Painted Man/The Warded Man is a character-driven novel, first and foremost. Hence, the worldbuilding remains in the background throughout most of the tale. Brett offers us a few glimpses of his creation through some legends, the religion, and Arlan's discovery of the ruined city of Anoch Sun, yet the worldbuilding elements remain more or less discreet as the tale progresses. As such, readers don't get any answers to the panoply of questions that come to mind as one reads on. This book is an introduction to what should be a much bigger and multilayered story arc. I felt that Brett lay the groundwork for a lot of things to come, but like the characters we are left in the dark regarding most of what goes on. That doesn't take anything away from the reading experience, mind you. It just makes you want to read the next volume even more.

When the book was initially released, on various message boards some readers opined that this was a YA title. Peter V. Brett even weighed in on that issue in a Q&A we did back then. Brett's voice in The Painted Man/The Warded Man is indeed YA in tone, but the book tackles adult-oriented themes such as rape, sex, etc. The YA tone is due to the fact that the POV characters are quite young, and I expect Brett's voice to evolve as his protagonists age in subsequent installments. Unlike Brandon Sanderson, it doesn't feel as though Brett is shying away from sex (when it is needed to further the plot) or swearing.

Speaking of characters, it can be very tricky to capture the imagination of adult readers and suck them into your tale when your main protagonists are all children or teenagers. As I mentioned, though the tone is definitely YA, the themes and issues the characters must deal with are not. And I feel that this may have helped Brett's commercial success, for The Painted Man/The Warded Man can appeal to fantasy readers of all ages. There is a good balance between POV sections, though at times I thought that the Roger storyline left a little to be desired. Yet overall, though Arlen remains the star of the book, both Roger and Leesha's plotlines were interesting. I'm curious to see them mature and see where Brett will take their interwoven tales.

Peter V. Brett paced this one adroitly, which is a rare trait for a debut. Sure it drags a bit at the beginning, and the ending is to some extent predictable. But all in all, the narrative flows extremely well.

The Painted Man/The Warded Man is a solid effort and a quality debut. I'm now eager to see what happens next in The Desert Spear (Canada, USA, Europe).

The final verdict: 7.75/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

11 commentaires:

Adrian Lankford said...

As a fantasy and comic book lover I love how it started with the characters being young. Origin stories can really help to set the tone for what is, like you said, a very big multi-book story.

This is one of my favorite new series. Even though they are young there is character development as they grow that keeps it just adult enough for me.

Brett said...

Although I think it did a decent job of keeping you interested until the end of the book, I really don't think it was much to write home about.

Aside from the YA-ish tone (which made some of the sex scenes seem rather strange), the world-building felt shallow, and none of the characters aside from Arlen and Leesha felt well-threshed out (and Leesha read like a mary stu-ish character). There was also his weird fixation on having people ask Leesha why she wasn't getting laid at the beginning of 90% of her chapters.

Anonymous said...

Interesting how you spelled Arlen wrong when its in the blurb. lol

Anonymous said...

very very boring book with extremely uninteresting characters. 2/10 for demons eating people.

Robin said...

I liked the world with demons a lot. It felt both original and mind-blowing.

Characters though weren't that great. Especially the protagonist became irritating at the end, with his super-badassery fighting skills.

But as a whole, the book was definitely worth reading.

Anonymous said...

Seriously? You gave this a better score than The blade itself and Way of Kings?? Maybe it is time to hang it up...

Jebus said...

I've been meaning to read this but am waiting until the third and final book is out (a new policy that is working for me).

I met PVB at Worldcon (and the BWB party) and he's a seriously nice guy, I felt guilty telling him I'd not read his books yet but planned to.

Anonymous said...

anon#3: hey, way of kings was absolute BULLSHIT too so why are you complaining.

Rachel L. said...

I have to say I wasn't terribly impressed with this book. It seemed like every woman in it was some horrible harridan who spent all of their time hating on men.

Also, Leesha getting hideously gang-raped and then have sex with Arlen that made it all better 10 pages later, seriously? :(

Anonymous said...

Loved it. Its not a Fantasy masterpiece or anything, but its a damn good story and written very well.

Series has me hooked and cant wait for more. Also getting into his short stories as well....... very interesting!

Anonymous said...

Really good book, but like you said, I think you'd have to be a teen or young adult to relate best...

Deomons, of course made it sweet