First of all, I feel I should clarify. I live in the UK, and here the book is published as The Painted Man
, but I know in the US at least (and probably elsewhere) it's published as The Warded Man
. I will refer to it as the Painted Man (TPM) but just for clarification purposes I explained why :)
TPM was a gripping and exciting read. I've heard loads of good things about this book and the series so it's been on my to-read list for ages, and I'm glad I've finally gotten around to reading it!
TPM is set in a world where demons and monsters, known as Corelings, rise from the ground as the sun sets, killing anyone is not within the safety of their homes. Their homes are protected by magical wards that repel the corelings. Bigger towns have huge warded walls that protect them at night, but smaller rural communities have to make do with warded houses and are totally cut off from the outside world, save for Messengers who travel across the world delivering messages and conducting trade, taking portable warded circles to protect them from the Corelings. In this world, we follow 3 protagonists across the space of about 15 years of their lives as they struggle in this world and have to face such hardships, and change.
First there's Arlen
, who was born in the small rural community of Tibbet's Brook, hiding behind wards. Until one day tragedy strikes and Corelings ravage the community and kill his mother, and Arlen refuses to give in to fear and leaves to become a Messenger, and hopes to find a way to stop the Corelings for good. Then there's Leesha
, a young woman born in the rural village of Cutter's Hollow. A somewhat quiet girl whose life is controlled by her vindictive and cruel mother, and is promised to marry the town bully. Until one day, in the wake of a Coreling attack, she helps the elderly town Herb Gatherer (healer) Bruna and discovers that there may be another fate in store for her, and grows in to a brave and determined young woman. Finally there's Rojer
, who starts off as any other 3 year old child until a Coreling attack takes his family away and he is raised by an alcoholic Jongleur (Entertainer/clown) and trained to become one himself. He might not be the bravest, but he soon discovers another way to stop the Corelings...
I loved this book. Brett is a great storyteller and world builder. He's obviously thought out the world thoroughly and it shows in his storytelling. He also lets the world grow naturally and feeds up information naturally, he doesn't do any info dumps which is good. It took a couple chapters to get into the world and the story but this wasn't too bad.
The characters were all really good and interesting and developed, and I liked how we followed them over several years of their lives and saw them grow up and change, which you don't usually do with many fantasy heroes. While obviously some characters are less likeable as well, there were no characters I truly hated. Every character was well developed and well rounded and realistic.
The story was good and interesting and I was gripped throughout. Arlen's story in particular was interesting throughout and he always changes a lot. I did find it hard to believe though that the revelations the characters discover, that no one has thought of them or discovered them before... Like, Arlen painting himself with wards to turn himself into a proper brawler with the Corelings. Has no one really thought of this before? Obviously some wards were unknown and discovered and I dunno if these would have helped and stuff, but still... and has no one really tried playing music before? I can't imagine that a Jongleur or something hasn't tried playing music to take their mind of Corelings and discovered the effect. And has no one, not even the courageous Krasians, tried dissecting them either? But at the same time, it was a minor niggle and I could let it go for the sake of the story.
Overall, it was a really exciting and gripping story, and this was only the first book! I can't wait to see where the series goes from here.