It is with great pleasure that I announce the arrival of Peter V Brett onto the fantasy scene! I have just finished his novel, The Painted Man, Book One in the Demon Trilogy, and have no doubt that Brett’s talent, abounding in this book, will only grow with time.
The story, once you boil it down to its constituent parts, is quite simple: humankind live in fear of demons, collectively called Corelings, that rise from the earth as soon as the sun sets and return to the earth just before the sun rises; these demons come in many shapes and forms, and all are united in one purpose – the utter destruction of mankind. But the humans have weapons, of a sort, that can be brought to bare on the demons; known as wards, these are magical symbols which are painted or carved onto walls, doors, even windows, and they form a barrier through which the demons cannot break – well, sometimes they do, and when this happens, the surviving people of the Free Cities and hamlets are left to pick up the pieces, mourn their dead, and rebuild for the next attack.
But even though the premise of this novel is simple, it is also elegant and unique. Gone is the Evil Overlord who has built up armies to flense the lands of all life not under his iron rule, and gone is the typical use of magic – there are no incantations, songs, or flows wielded here. And it is not only Brett’s re-imagining of these fantasy staples that works so well, it is also his ability to completely subsume you in a world that seems utterly familiar, yet terrifying and exhilarating, too.
Brett takes us along with a pace that does not relent, showing us everything from the day-to-day beauty of family life – or its heartbreaking darker side – to walled cities of thousands that fear the coming of night as every small child does; Brett takes us into a society in which women have the highest and lowest ranks, in which men can be both utterly heartless naively innocent, and shows us a land fragmenting under the constant barrage of fear and mourning.
Hope arrives in the form of three very different but completely engaging characters; a boy who decides to stop reacting and act, a girl who is struggling to find a purpose for her life, and a half-handed orphan who decides once and for all to stop running.
Brett has given us characters with their own hopes and dreams, their own fears and simple joys; these characters leap off the page, and you’ll find yourself slipping into their skin easier than slipping into a bubble bath. As they progress throughout the novel, every action, thought and word seem completely normal and logical, and Brett’s ability to breathe such vivid life into his characters is one of his strongest abilities.
You will find yourself reading late into the evening, hoping beyond hope that the wards will hold, hoping that you will not be cored and that you will survive, and when you finish the novel, you may find yourself thinking that the wait for Book Two may be too long.
I am a fan. You will be too.
The Painted Man is published in South Africa by Jonathan Ball Publishers.