The Painted Man
Demon War #01
By Peter V Brett
Sometimes there is very good reason to be afraid of the dark...
As dusk falls upon Arlan's world, a strange mist rises from the ground, a mist carrying nightmares to the surface. A mist that promises a violent death to any foolish enough to brave the coming darkness, for hungry corelings - demons that cannot be harmed by mortal weapons - materialize from the vapours to feed on 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.
Late 2008 brought us the debut novel of Peter V Brett, The Painted Man, and brought me a new author to add to my ‘must read’ list. The novel received a great deal of hype but it took me a while before I jumped on the band wagon – but that had the added bonus of not having to wait quite so long for the sequel, Desert Spear, which was released early last year. This is a novel of vibrant characters and a driving story in a world of unique magic and a deadly enemy.
In the world of The Painted Man mankind only has dominion over the earth during the day, as the sun sets he retreats to shelter for fear of the coreling – elemental demons – that rise from the center of the earth and prey on humanity without quarter. Three centuries ago the corelings brought civilization to its knees and now humans live behind walled cities and towns, desperately seeking safety from an enemy they cannot fight or defeat, their only protection are the ancients runes that form ‘wards’. These are painted, drawn (and in some cases carved) on all buildings, fences and walls, creating geometric barriers of energy that are the only thing that will stop the demons and keep mankind safe. There are legends of wards that where once in mankind’s possession that allowed them to wage war on the corelings but these were lost centuries ago and are relegated to the status of myth and the superstitious belief that one day a Deliverer will come to save them.
There are no massive info-dump’s in Brett’s writing; he cleverly reveals the world and its history through his characters that are fleshed out with real emotion and real issues, relatable to many people regardless of how they are dressed up to fit the ‘stage’ of the tale. Grief and rage cause Arlen to run heedlessly from the safety of shelter and get caught outdoors as night falls – the tale of his journey from boy to man is filled with danger and discovery; of himself and the world he lives in. Leesha’s journey to self-discovery is one that takes place within the confines of the town in which she lives. She is forced to wade against the tide of expectation and convention and blaze a trail that leads her to come upon an understanding of wards that has been forgotten centuries ago; while Rojer, orphaned by a coreling attack grows up an outcast in the ‘care’ of a drunken Jongleur, he takes refuge from the world in a prodigious musical talent and inadvertently discovers more about the corelings than anyone had ever guessed.
Brett weaves these three separate stories with a consummate skill that belies his tag as a first-time writer. Slowly he tightens the strands, bringing each thread together to form a strong and exciting whole. This is a brilliant debut of a fresh and compelling new voice in fantasy fiction; and where once I waited with anticipation for the next Jordan book I now do so for the next one by Brett.