THE WARDED MAN (or THE PAINTED MAN) by Peter V. Brett

Clansman

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Peter V. Brett’s The Warded Man, published in the UK as The Painted Man, is the best fantasy debut I’ve read since Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind. This book had me reading well into the night, and it is, to use a very hackneyed phrase, a real page-turner.

The Warded Man grabbed me right from the start. The plot is loaded with action and balanced by plenty of character development, but it’s relatively straightforward, and I found this a refreshing change from the sweeping, complex epics that I normally read. Also, Brett employs a nice twist or two that you don’t expect. The prose is strong and shows talent, and the dialogue is perfectly suited to the setting.

The Warded Man is set in a world where humans can only go outside in daylight. When the sun goes down, demons rise from a mysterious netherworld called the Core. (We know little about this Core, though there is some interesting foreshadowing toward the end of the book.) Nothing can stop demons but written, painted, or carved wards placed on houses, barns, sheds, fences, set into the walls of a city, or placed on poles in farmers’ fields.

These wards have kept human civilization from total collapse, but the nightly demon attacks prevent civilization from advancing. Their religion teaches that human society was strong and scientifically advanced until they forgot about the First Demon War and committed the sin of pride, believing only in themselves and their technology. When the demons returned, they virtually wiped out humanity before the defensive wards were rediscovered and put into use. The ancient attack wards, however, have not been rediscovered, so the demons can only be held at bay, not defeated.

There are three coming-of-age stories in the first half of the book, and personal responsibility and dealing with the demons in one’s own heart are major themes in each character’s development. Arlen, a young farm-boy, becomes a warrior-Messenger — those brave souls who travel from town to town with nothing but a portable warded circle to protect them at night. Arlen is obsessed with finding a way to defeat the demons, and that obsession costs him friends, love, and opportunities for a decent life. The orphan boy Rojer Half-grip becomes a jongleur (a bard) whose music entrances demons. And Leesha, a powerless girl, gradually gains power from her knowledge as an apprentice Herb Gatherer (healer).

If I were Brett’s editor, I would have advised against having all three central characters be so young — it’s just been done so many times that it’s a fantasy cliché — but Brett pulls it off. I look forward to further development of these beautiful but flawed characters in the coming books (there are supposed to be at least three).

Peter Brett touches on the age-old theme of atheism vs. religion, looking at both sides of that debate, and I think he’s got more for us there. There’s also a parallel to the tension between Christianity and Islam, a courageous subject to tackle. I also look forward to learning more about the Core itself, the effect of Arlen’s use of the attack wards, different kinds of demons we did not see in The Warded Man, and the lands beyond the limited range of the people in this story. And I’m hoping for more explanation of the warding system.

Since there’s no geographical context, and the description is sparing, I really wanted a map in this book. The characters refer to maps, but we’re not given one, and that disappointed me. A little more description would not be remiss, either.

Peter Brett has made an excellent beginning with The Warded Man, and I eagerly await The Desert Spear. —A.B.
 

WhittleMama

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I have just read this book and Loved it!!!

I loved the 'flow' of the book, how he introduced all the characters! brilliant!!!

I can't really say anything more on the book only that it must be read! and I cannot wait for the Desert Spear!!

Brilliant artwork on the cover as well!!! (For me when I am looking at new books to read it helps if the cover is eyecatching)
 

Kissmequick

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I finished this a few weeks ago, and thought I'd pop in and see what you thought.

But if you like it so much, I shall bite my lip. Suffice to say I have serious issues with this book.
 

Rodders

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It does look interesting. I'll definately try to check it out.
 

OldDog

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I pretty much loved this book, literally could not put it down and managed to read it in a day, and yet to my horror i went to buy the sequel and found its not to be released for another few months! i do wish authors would just write all the books at the same time ;D
 

Hypnos164

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Just finished this; It pulled me in and kept me turning the pages way later than I should have been but...

It does feel a bit too "standard" - it even starts with the farm boy’s village being attacked *sigh*.

The POV characters are a bit narrow, effectively being "the healer (or whatever) the the hang-up about sex/demons/freedom".

I kept wondering "Why hasn't someone else done this stuff in the last 300 years?"

None these seemed to matter much as the world and the pace of events kept me reading eagerly.

A pretty good debut, I’ll certainly be getting the next one. As he grows in confidence and experience Mr Brett could certainly produce something much more special in the future.
 

Urien

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(From September reads...)


Whilst searching for a post office that did car tax, I ended up in a WH Smith, figuring karma I bought The Painted Man (by Peter V. Brett) I saw at eye level; I read it. It didn't seem as strong as the hype.

The setting was the usual cod medieval (reminded me of early Wheel of Time). We have not one, but three peasant/orphan leaves village discovers power stories. Consequently it all drags for a while until they turn into adults. Much of it, certainly early on, read to me as though written for the YA market. Thin uncovincing and frankly irritating characterisations at times. Some of the tropes were overfamiliar; one of the cities is basically Dune meets fatwah.

Good points; plenty of action, intriguing idea of the demons besieging a diminishing humanity; the Painted Man himself once he appears is an interesting creation, and the path of the future books and mission is very clear (take note Mr Erikson). I also read it quickly, and wanted to keep reading. So all in all, good enough, especially the last third.

WouldI buy the next book?... Probably.
 

Brian G Turner

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Just finished reading this. The whole set-up with the corelings was fascinating. Peter V Brett excels at developing tension, especially through inter-personal conflict. There's a really good story in The Painted Man.

But IMO it's overwhelmed by the development of Rojer and Leesha. As just Arlen's story this could have worked really well. But by the end he's diminished to a supporting role in his own book.

When he becomes known only as The Painted Man, we're forced to become distant from him. Even the couple of Point of View (POV) scenes he gets in the last fifth of the book slip into Leesha's and even Gared's POV. There are also a couple of repeat sentences that should have been edited out. But by Brett's own account, he argued a lot with his editor at Del Rey about what he should focus on.

There's also the odd point that children call their parents by their first names.

If it was just all that, I would have felt I'd read an interesting story that could have benefited from some revision.

But the biggest problem was Leesha, who IMO is a classic example of a male writer badly writing a woman character. She is always thinking about her breasts, her flower, and mostly talks with her friends about boys and periods.

While women characters show us a world where they are expected only to breed, somehow the male characters don't share that perspective.

For comparison: Arlen never thinks about his budding cock, or compares it to the size of his father's, and doesn't spend most of his time talking with friends about sex and wet dreams, or about his need to have children for the benefit of humanity.

And because of the staggered structure, Leesha is suddenly a 27-year old virgin who has never felt romantically attracted to anyone. She is then brutally gang-raped - but shrugs this off in a day - to immediately fall in love with Arlen and inexplicably try to have his baby.

As I said, Brett is great at developing tension and conflict between characters - a real skill many writers don't have. And the post-apocalytpic world of corelings is truly intriguing. There was a nice glimpse of David Gemmell's heroic themes towards the end.

But I couldn't help but feel that the story got lost in itself. The addition of Rojer and Leesha broke the flow yet added nothing to the plot. Even in the climactic battle, Rojer's one skill of fiddling for corelings plays almost no part in what happens, and Leesha isn't even needed to heal Arlen because he does this naturally - her only real use is to name the different village characters in that battle scene.

I saw a lot of potential in this novel, but I was left feeling that it was still a work in progress. And that Peter V Brett shouldn't write women characters!

Just my personal opinion. :)
 

biodroid

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I quite liked this book, but the Desert Spear was repetitive, had different characters and also a scene of rape which was quite disturbing, I put the book down after that thinking is the author so desperate to damage his characters?
 

The Judge

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I read it about four years ago and had much the same reaction. I also felt it would have benefited considerably from a thorough-going revision to remove all the info-dumps and improve characterisation, and the aftermath of the rape incident -- indeed the whole handling of it and her sexuality -- was appallingly done. That said, as a book it certainly had energy and pace and some interesting ideas.
 
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