Review: The Painted Man (Demon Cycle, #1)

The Painted Man  - Peter V. Brett

As much as I enjoyed the read, the last third of this book faltered a lot and the narration took on a "tell" rather than "show" style. This was unsettling not only because the pacing slowed, but also because it happened at a critical point, when the three main narratives converged to set up events that would lead to the last battle. Narration that tell rather than show are usually disappointing, in my experience. I can only hope Brett improves in later books.


The world of the Demon Cycle is not unlike other worlds that you'd find in new fantasy series—feudal/medieval cities and countrysides, sword and sorcery, gender discrimination, etc. The only significant difference is a land of sand dunes and desert called Krasia that's reminiscent of the Middle East, not only in setting but also in cultures and religion. Unlike the other peoples of the Demon Cycle world, the Krasians actually fight Corelings.


Corelings are demons that spring from the earth and torment humans at night, destroying everything in their paths, and then disappear at dawn. Humans draw, paint, or carve wards on walls and posts to keep the demons out. These wards, however, don't always hold and are often breached, and so warding is a career and checking wards a daily job. How these people have time to do anything else, let alone carry on with their lives, is a wonder. How these people don't devote their whole life to warding is a wonder too.


The villagers' fear of the night is palpable, and their willingness to fear the supernatural and unwillingness to search for better ways to kill the demons are understandable. I thought the scenes of the Coreling attacks were especially well written, albeit with a tad too much blood and gore but that's to be expected since violence has become a staple in new fantasy.


We follow three main characters from youth to adulthood.

Arlen is a country boy with big dreams, the biggest one is putting an end to Corelings. Leesha is beautiful girl from a small village who has a gift for healing (and the burden of attracting unwanted attention). Her physical attributes were mentioned so often with negative connotations that I had an unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach for her. I still don't see the purpose of the rape by the road. It does nothing for the arc of the story and nothing for the character. Also female virginity is repeatedly referred to as "flower"... urgh. Rojer is barely a toddler when tragedy strikes and forces him away from home, which puts him on a hard path as a traveling performer (but not without purpose).


These three characters come together to make a stand against the Corelings. And take back the night (just couldn't help myself).

(show spoiler)


Things I hope will show up in the next book:

-     Geometry and Ward Theory.

Both Cobb and Regan said that strong wards and effective warding depend on one's knowledge of geometry. Arlen spent most of his time studying various wards and their functions, and yet there's nothing to explain why math is important to warding. Furthermore, Ward Theory was not brought up again after Arlen acquired basic warding skills. It's mentioned that he has a great memory and can trace wards exactly, but that doesn't explain why math skills are necessary to warding. I suppose this bothers me because I have a thing for real science in imaginary worlds; it usually implies that a writer has done his/her research and has found a unique way to build a believable magic system. (Believable magic--what an oxymoron.)

(show spoiler)

-     Coreling anatomy.

This is exciting. When Leesha showed Arlen her lab beneath the hut where Coreling corpses lay in varying states of disembowelment, I was on the edge of my seat. Probably the only time I paid so much attention while reading this book. This better be further explained in the next book or it's a no deal for me.

(show spoiler)


[ETA] I'm gonna wait until the series is completed before reading the second book.