The Painted Man (The Demon Cycle book 1) by Peter V. Brett (book review).

September 27, 2013 | By | Reply More

The demons come at night, rising out of the core to feed upon anyone foolish enough to stray from behind their wards after dark. Arlen is a farm boy who learns that fear is humanity’s greatest weakness against the demons and swears to learn how to fight back. Leesha discovers that facing the demons is sometimes easier than facing the brutality of men and women and guards powerful secrets that, in the right hands, could save many lives. Rojer finds a new life as an entertainer after his parents are killed by demons and discovers his musical talent has strange effects on demons. These three very different children have all come through terrifying ordeals and grown stronger because of them. Together they could change the world.


‘The Painted Man’ (or ‘The Warded Man’ if you’re in the US) is the first in ‘The Demon Cycle’ series of books by Peter V Brett. It is his debut novel, first published in 2008, and is quite a remarkable entrance on to the fantasy book scene. I was hooked within just a few pages.


Right at the very start of the book, we are plunged into a world where the hours of darkness are filled with fear, populated by fearsome demons that enjoy nothing more than attacking defenceless humans wherever they find them. It is made all the more terrifying because our main characters start out as children and they are all witnesses to attacks involving people they love, without being old enough to really comprehend what is going on. Guilt, anger and love all make appearances but fear is the real driver in this story, fear and the choice between fighting and fleeing.

The plot covers ten or fifteen years, following the characters as they grow up and develop their chosen skills. It is a well-paced book with plenty of fighting scenes but also time for reflection in between so it isn’t full-on all the time and it benefits from this balance. There are also lots of details so that if you pay attention you can work some things out for yourselves and have a good guess at what is coming next, although even then you might be in for a surprise or two.

We are introduced to a wide range of people, cultures and places and before too long we get a real feel for the world in which the action is set. Good world-building is one of the things I look for in a fantasy novel and this had enough history, culture and politics to satisfy even my high requirements.

‘The Painted Man’ is a book that sat on my desk and called to me every time I wasn’t reading it, staying in the back of my mind whatever I was doing and just couldn’t get enough of it. I thought it was a brilliant read and it will not be long before I give in to the urge to pick up the next book in the series. I would highly recommend it to fantasy fans and anyone who loves good storytelling.

Vinca Russell

September 2013

(pub: Harper Voyager. 542 page hardback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-00-727613-4)

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The Warded Man (The Demon Cycle book 1) by Peter V. Brett (US title)

(pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books. 431 page hardback. Price: $25.00 (US), $28.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-50380-0)

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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