Monday, 6 May 2013

Review: The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett

It has been a while since I read this one, so the review will not go to great depths. My regrets.
The Painted Man
Demon Cycle #1
by Peter V. Brett
Published by Harper Voyager, 2008
Paperback copy, 544 pages


On the front cover is written: “Enter a world where darkness belongs to demons.”

This is not an ideal world. When the sun sets the demons rise from the ground to wreak havoc upon the human world. This is a world where power lies in symbols and wards are all that stand between humanity and demonkind. A world where the human race is ever dwindling, ever more crippled by fear as the years go by.

This is the broken world from which the Painted Man rises.

The book is beautifully written. Peter V. Brett has an extraordinary sense for creating an atmosphere that draws in the poor unsuspecting reader, scaring you to the bone.

He lays a big emphasis on how crippling fear can be to mankind. The humans we are met with from the first pages of this book have all become burdened by their fear. When the demons attack they can do nothing but prey that their wards will hold, because if they don’t ... they won’t know how to fight or even how to flee. Should they by some miracle survive the encounter they lose their will to live, eventually destroying themselves.

Arlen is one boy who begins to realise the problem with this. He starts to grow defiant in the face of the weakness he sees in his elders. He grows restless to the point where he ends up leaving his home to face the oncoming night alone in the wild.

This is not a cheerful kind of novel. It is a story ripe with darkness and despair. Each night carries a new nightmare and each day a new trial for the village people who struggle to rebuild what was ruined during the night. There does not seem to be much hope of things ever getting better for these disheartened folks.

The demons in this book have various shapes and sizes and are all tied to certain parts of nature (wind, sand, wood, water, earth). The one thing they have in common is that they are all savage beasts that will attack anything they see with a devastating hunger.

The humans cannot fight back properly because they do not have the fighting wards. They know of them from the last time the earth was infested by the demons, but they are as sunken in the desert sand.

It is a very well developed world that Peter V. Brett has created. It is not as mindblowingly big as many other fantasy universes, which makes it a little easier to keep track of who are where and why.

There are a couple of different POV-characters, which provides a variety in the style and manner of the chapters. The most prominent of them is Arlen, who is a strikingly sympathetic character. I fell in love with him from the very beginning and only grew to love him more as the pages flew by.

Leesha and Rojer, the two other main characters are great too, but they never quite managed to reach the same level of enthusiasm from me as Arlen did. I often found myself waiting for Arlen’s chapters to come around again. Still, this is only the first instalment of the series and I dare say all three characters may develop much yet.

The aspect that I loved the most about this book was the general atmosphere. I loved all of its inherent darkness, all its underlying tragedy: the world which was once so grand has become divided and broken, the knowledge which was once held sacred is lost and buried.

I also love the message that I got out of it: Humanity’s greatest weakness is its fear. Once it learns to overcome that and stands up to defy that which threatens it, it will be capable of mustering a greater force than it might have thought possible.

I have to say that I am impressed. I expected much from this book and still ended up pleasantly surprised. The only thing I think it could have had more of is emotional depth. The story did not move me entirely as much as it had the potential to – not to say that it did not move me, it really did! But I did not shed a lot of tears over it.

1 comment: