Review of The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett

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If you like your Fantasy tales inhabited by strong, complex characters who are confronted with some crisis within a well constructed world, then it doesn’t get much better than this. Brett’s impressive debut novel makes him a writer worth watching as this cracking story gripped me by the throat and wouldn’t let go until I got to the end. Which doesn’t happen all that often, these days…

paintedmanEleven-year-old Arlen lives with his parents on their small farmstead, half a day’s ride from the isolated hamlet of Tibbet’s Brook. As dusk falls upon Arlen’s world, a strange mist rises from the ground: a mist that promises death to anyone foolish to brave the coming darkness. For hungry demons materialise from the vapours to feed upon the living. As the sun sets, people have no choice but to take shelter behind magical wards and pray that their protection holds until the creatures dissolve with the first signs of dawn. When Arlen’s life is shattered by the demon plague, he realises that it is fear, rather than the demons, which truly cripples humanity. However if he is to fight back, he must leave everyone he has ever known and the home where he grew up, to discover a different path.

Brett’s well drawn characters have more than ravenous demons to contend with – betrayals, scandal and murderous attacks also occur and the action keeps coming, despite the fact that there is no night life to speak on this world – for obvious reasons.

My one niggle is that when one of the female characters is raped, she recovers far too quickly. I tend to get irritated when an attack of this nature is treated (often by male writers) like any other physical encounter. It isn’t. And victims take more than a couple of hours to bounce back to ‘normal’. However, this incident struck the only jarring note – and the rest of the book was a joy to read.

The various demonic confrontations are beautifully written. Brett effectively creates plenty of tension as people cower in their homes, hoping that the magical wards that act as the only barrier between them and the monsters roaming outside in the dark will hold. During these sections, I was reminded of Sheri S. Tepper’s A Plague of Angels, which is one of my favourite all-time reads. If you haven’t get done so, check Brett out – you won’t be disappointed…
9/10

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