Wednesday, 27 August 2008

‘The Painted Man’ – Peter V. Brett (Harper Voyager)


It wasn’t all that long ago that I got tagged to take part in this Meme and the book that sprung to hand was Peter V. Brett’s debut ‘The Painted Man’. In the one of those freak ‘you couldn’t make it up’ moments I managed to home straight in on the single most lascivious line in the entire story... then promptly put the book to one side and forgot about it for the next couple of months (you know how it goes, that damn ‘to read pile’ will always grow faster than you can keep up with it...)
The weather last week was supposed to be pretty grim (and the less said about that the better...) so I thought it would be a good chance to catch up on some stuff that I had been meaning to read but never managed to. Guess what happened to be at the top of the pile...? What do you mean you want a clue!?
‘The Painted Man’ spent the week in Cornwall with me and, for the most part, we had a great time together...

‘The Painted Man’ is set in a world where humanity has good reason to fear nightfall. When darkness falls demons rise from the earth and will feed on anyone foolish enough not to be hidden behind protective wards, they cannot be stopped and it is useless to even try. This is an accepted fact but eleven year old Arlen sees things differently, even though he is only a boy Arlen realises that it’s humanity’s fear which is holding them back from a fight that they may just be able to win. This begins an journey where Arlen, and two friends with their own stories to tell, will seek to free both humanity and themselves...

As with ‘Bitten to Death’, which I looked at yesterday, ‘The Painted Man’ is one of those books that seems to tell the same old story until you look a little bit deeper. Then you realise that there’s a little more going on than you first thought.
I’ll admit that I squirmed a bit when I realised that the hero was an eleven year old boy who was about to go on a journey. In certain fantasy novels it sometimes feels like you can’t turn round without falling over an eleven year boy who’s set off to find his fortune and destiny! Someone ought to have a word with the parents. If that wasn’t bad enough you also have a teenage girl who’s discovering that it’s hard to be a woman and a dapper rogue with a silver tongue and a talent for magical music. The estate of Robert Jordan may be calling up soon to ask for these two back...

Things weren’t looking hopeful at this point but then I suddenly realised that I was over halfway through the book and eager to find out what was going to happen next. What happened there? Brett pulls a pretty neat trick by subtly rolling the years forward, telling us everything that we need to know but also ensuring that we don’t have to spend too much time in the company of annoying brats. Before we know it, we’re reading about the trials and exploits of people that we almost feel that we’ve grown up with. A lot happens to them and I found myself really getting involved with the journeys that they were making. It also helps that Brett has the ability to stir things up by writing passages that had me on the edge of my seat (well, my sleeping bag actually as I was reading this in a tent) during a fight or waiting in anticipation as the tension racks up. Brett really got me into what was going on which, in my eyes, more than made up for things that seemed a bit ‘samey’. I guess that if a story is good then it doesn’t matter if you’ve heard it before.

The blurb on the back recommends this book for fans of Raymond Feist and David Gemmell, I haven’t read much of Feist’s stuff at all but can see where the Gemmell comparison comes from. ‘The Painted Man’ is very character based with a strong line in development of these characters and a look at where the ensuing choices can lead. We get to see Brett’s take on what makes a hero and, maybe predictably given the subject matter, the answer isn’t straightforward. There are many different ways of fighting and Brett’s characters each take a different route. Brett also asks tough questions of his characters in terms of what they are prepared to sacrifice in order to gain what they are fighting for. Should a man become like the devil he is trying to fight if he wants to win and is the price too great? We’ll have to wait until the next book to see what the answer is...

Talking of which, the ending of ‘The Painted Man’ is a pretty good mixture of certain elements being closed whilst other questions are left in the air to be answered in future books. Not only did I enjoy what I’d read but I’m left in the position of eagerly waiting to find out what’s to come...

‘The Painted Man’ is a deceptive read that looked like being just one thing but then ended up being something completely different at the same time. It may not prove to be a particularly challenging read for those who swear by the likes of Martin, Erikson, Abercrombie etc but I don’t think anyone will be able to deny that ‘The Painted Man’ is a very entertaining read indeed.

Eight and a Quarter out of Ten

I'm not the only person who's reviewed 'The Painted Man', click
Here for David's review.

Peter V. Brett will be signing copies of 'The Painted Man' at Forbidden Planet (London) between 6-7pm on September 4th. I'll be there :o)

5 comments:

Dave-Brendon de Burgh said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Graeme, it was really was a cool book. :-)And thanks once again for the link, that's really big of you. :-)

Dark Wolf said...

I think I have a copy coming my way and I hope I'll get it soon, because I'm very curious about this title. Very nice review, by the way :)

ThRiNiDiR said...

I'm really glad that you liked the book Graeme. I actually mailed Mr.Brett myself asking him for the book; he was kind enough to send me a review copy and it's been sitting on my shelf for a month or so (what? it's summer! :)). I'll be reviewing it asap as well.

Agricola said...

Thanks for your review - I had looked at the blurb pre publication and read '11 year old' - and a bit like you I guess thought not for me! I shall now be buying a copy!

Anonymous said...

Wow this is a great resource.. I’m enjoying it.. good article