Just Finished Reading: The Painted Man by Peter V Brett
Three thousand years ago the demons that haunted the world were finally defeated and cast back into the Core. In the intervening years the truth of their existence was lost and finally became Myth. So when they returned nothing and no one stood in their way and mankind was helpless as they ravaged everything through the nights that followed. Only the rising of the Sun banished them back to their fiery home. Within weeks advanced human civilisation had fallen into chaos with only handfuls of survivors huddled behind hastily drawn magical wards. Three hundred years After the Return the remnants of civilisation are slowly crumbling under the nightly demon onslaught as wards fail and houses or whole villages are consumed. The legendary fighting wards used to destroy the original demon invasion have been lost and without them humanity will eventually fail. When Arlen’s world is shattered in a demon attack which takes his mother he sets himself on the path to find the fighting wards and finally take the battle to the demons. But first he needs to conquer his own fear of the night and survive long enough into manhood to see if the legends are true and that demon-kind can indeed be defeated.
Regular readers will no doubt have noticed that my fantasy reading is few and far between. Fantasy in general doesn’t really appeal to my sensibilities. I like my SF hard and fantasy is just, well too fantastic for my liking. Not so in this case. The author has managed to create a complete and complex world that makes frighteningly perfect sense. I particularly liked the fact that this fantasy world was our world – transformed by demons of (apparent) legend into a place full of horrors. Horrors however that are perfectly logical in context. The characterisation – and there are many main and secondary characters to consider – is complex and diverse with both strong (and weak) men and women all believable and multilayered. The surviving knowledge and technology from the old world is woven into the fabric of the new reality to offer up intriguing ideas and possibilities for future volumes. The graphic use of magical wards is explained – though not fully – in an almost mathematical way adding to the overall realism of the story. There are passages that will shock and others that will make you feel queasy as demons break through wards and feast on the living and the dead. But there passages that lift the spirits as humanity fights back against odds that seem overwhelming but only appear so because of a learnt fear of the night. It is this fear that must first be overcome before humanity can turn the tide and Arlen has the will to do just that. Driven by his hate of demons he is determined to see their reign end or die trying.
This was frankly one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in years and was even more impressive when I read that this was the author’s first novel. Very well written, gripping and a true page turner this has convinced me that maybe I was too harsh on fantasy and that I should give it another go. I will definitely do so – with the sequel. Watch this space. Highly recommended for a thrilling read.