Review: The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett (HarperVoyager)

Title: The Painted Man
Author: Peter V. Brett
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Published: 01 September 2008
Review Copy

In the world of The Painted Man no one goes out in the dark. The dark belongs to the corelings, demons, who come out as the sun sets. The only thing that protects the people are the wards that are painted or carved on posts, doorways and walls.

There has been some discussion whether this is Young Adult book. Will it be accessible and enjoyable to younger readers? Definitely. But something I haven’t seen much mention of is the frequent reference either implied or more openly discussed is sex. There is no actual sex scenes but there is the aftermath of a rape scene – which is probably underplayed a little too much – and discussions of what would considered under age sex. (i.e. under 16s) as well as sex between older adults.

Now in context it fits the story – its set in a world similar to ours in an earlier stage of development and in the UK in the 1860s the age of consent was 12.  All I’m staying is that it gets mentioned quite frequently in the early stage of the book and on some occasions it felt intrusive and a distraction from the story.

With that out of the way I really enjoyed The Painted Man. Brett shows that just because we’re scared of something it shouldn’t mean that we can’t do something about it.  Brett tells his story through the eyes of Arlen an apprentice Warder, Leesha an apprentice Herb Gatherer and Rojer an apprentice Jongleur.

These three grow and grow-up through their often challenging, circumstances. And that journey is one of this book’s strengths. Each is brave in their own way and each has skills that come forward that show that the corelings can be challenged and perhaps defeated.

A nice twist is how the defensive magic can also be converted into an offensive weapon though it’s nature isn’t revealed the readers and characters understanding changes quite dramatically especially with the revelation at the end that leads into the next book.

One oddity is that even though these characters age quite a lot they don’t mature in the same way. Their voice seems pretty consistent as does their core selves. It doesn’t spoil it but it did make me pause for thought when I reflecting on their growth from beginning to end. I guess I was expecting something more distinct.

Taking everything into consideration this is an accomplished, readable, entertaining and original fantasy story that deserves the attention and praise it’s been getting but like his character Brett has room for growth. I’m looking forward to seeing him do just that as he’s got a lot of potential.

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