The Painted Man is a phenomenal book. I listened to it as an audiobook and it was one of those stories that I downloaded and wasn’t really sure what to expect. At nearly 20 hours long, or 560 pages for the paperback version, it’s a commitment and not a quick read. But it’s well worth your time.
The story is set in a world where humans live in fear. At night, when the dark comes demons, known as ‘corelings’ rise from the ground. With supernatural powers and strength humans are no match for them, and each night they hide in their homes behind magical wards and pray that, that night won’t be the night they fail. As the corelings grow, the human race is slowly diminishing.
Legend says that things weren’t always this way, they tell of a man, ‘The Deliverer’ who led men and women onto the battlefield to meet the demons on equal ground. They speak of fighting wards that have since been lost. And prophecy decrees that one day ‘The Deliverer’ will return to lead the human race to victory once more.
There are three lead characters Arlen, Leesha & Royer. But Arlen is by far the most compelling. The story begins when Arlen is eleven years old and follows him as he suffers tragedy and pain. We watch as he slowly grows up, becoming increasingly frustrated with his existence, unable to bear a life of fear and hiding he embarks on a journey of discovery. A journey that leads him to suffering, sacrificing and ultimately rebirth as he becomes obsessed with finding a way to fight the demons.
Leesha is a girl perfectly happy to meet her fate, to marry young and bear her husband children. Until she is betrayed and everything changes. Surprisingly, she finds herself taken under the wing of the ancient, local herb gatherer where she begins to believe that her destiny maybe something very different from that which she originally imagined.
The third main character is Royer, while perhaps the least engaging of the three, his story still plays an important part. Orphaned at three years old after a hideous coreling attack he is raised by an alcoholic jaungler. His love of music leads him to an important discovery.
The story is carefully crafted layer by layer until you’re almost desperate for the three main characters to meet. But you have to wait and be patient as the author builds the characters and story with meticulous care. The book is violent and uncompromising at times. There are incidents that will make you gasp. A couple of times I even found myself shouting at my iPod in frustration, as I willed each of the characters to succeed, or as I tried to prevent them from doing something stupid.
I fell for each of the characters, flaws and all and became absolutely absorbed in the story, until I was trying to think of ways to jump back in my car for another quick drive in order to listen to the audiobook some more.
I have to take the time for a quick comment on the narrator. He is the first male narrator I have listed to, which took a while to get used to, but as soon as I did I found he was excellent, building the story and tension nicely.
If you’re a fan of fantasy, then this book is a must-read. It is epic fantasy at its ultimate finest. Peter V. Brett has drawn a powerful, engaging world that I couldn’t get enough of.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- The Painted Man
- The Desert Spear
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