Robert's Reviews > The Painted Man

The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett
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's review
Feb 02, 12

Read from January 29 to February 02, 2012

This is a fantasy novel set in a world where, every night, demons materialise and kill anything they find. The only protection are symbols that can be drawn anywhere and that create protective forcefields. In this world, three young people grow up - and this novel is mostly the tale of their growth from childhood into young adulthood. One, Arlen, wants to defy and fight demons. Another is a girl oppressed by a wicked mother and soon an outcast. The third is a boy who loses his parents and is brought up as a juggler.

It takes about two thirds of the book before any paths intersect, and four fifth of the book before the "Warded Man" / Painted Man of the title is established. The threat of demons in the night is an okay gimmick, but never scary or frightening or atmospheric. I can't quite figure out why, but the book feels quite underwhelming as a result. Heck, Pitch Black managed to turn a similar premise into an atmospheric scifi chiller, and yet this book's demons, as deadly as they might be, lack menace. They are rarely, if ever described (except by type), and so much is left to the imagination, but without enough hints to hang anything scary on.

Meanwhile, our three protagonists sruggle along their paths in life in a suitably Mary Sue fashion - they are all held back and oppressed, but secretly (or not so secretly) amazingly brilliant and terribly brave and smart (though not necessarily wise). In their own ways, they are all very bookish characters, who love learning and excel, and yet they are stunningly attractive, strong, physically adept... you get the drift.

It's the start of a series, but I doubt I'll pick up any other books in this saga. It's shallow stuff, and the parallels with our world are awkward. Frank Herbert may have gotten away with populating his desert planet with noble jihadists in the 1960s, but in this millennium, one might hope authors would find more imagination. (The book features a nation of women-oppressing, multi-wives-marrying, holy-war-waging, brave yet treacherous mock-Muslims...) It also turns out that simply replacing some words while retaining modern speech patterns ("core" for "hell", "Deliverer" for "Messiah", "Night" for "Shit"...) is not enough to build atmosphere.

Readable, but forgettable.

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Reading Progress

6.0% "My sister recommended this author, so giving him a try..."
29.0% "It moves along at a fair pace, but yet again, the perspective changes. I feel like I'm reading a series of novelettes rather than a novel. It's okay in quality, but nothing special or memorable. Doubt I'll read the rest of the series once I'm done with this one."

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