*The UK release of The Warded Man was called The Painted Man and was released 1 September 2008 by HaperVoyager and my original review was posted here.
In the world of The Warded 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 (see comment below). 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 are 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 Warded 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 own often challenging circumstances. And those journeys are one of this book’s strengths. Each is brave in their own way and each has skills that comes forward to 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 its 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.
The original post has a comment from Peat regarding how The Warded Man isn’t YA:
Saw your comment on my blog, and thought I’d repost my reply here as well for your readers:
It’s completely understandable how someone might think at a glance that The Warded Man was YA. As I’ve said on my blog before, I favor a very clipped and active writing style without a lot of flowery prose. That says YA to some people, as does starting the story with children as protagonists (even though they are adults by book’s end).
You’re right that sex is generally not considered YA appropriate (though violence and gore is, for some inexplicable reason), and I could have left it out to cater to a wider market, but I think sexuality is a large part of what defines who people are, and making their sexuality clear to the reader is crucial to helping the reader understand their point of view.
I tend to include the defining milestones in the lives of all my characters. Some of those milestones are violent, some are sexual, and some are both, but that’s life, you know? So I was always intentionally writing to an adult market.
However, that said, I think it’s debatable whether sexual realities should be hidden/withheld from “young adults”. When my daughter is thirteen, I mean for her to be well aware that there are people in the world she needs to watch out for, and why. I think anyone mentally capable of tacking a 542 page novel probably already knows what goes where, and is ready to understand how it can affect people’s lives.
Thanks for the great review!