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Peter V. Brett

Author of The Warded Man

37+ Works 10,301 Members 406 Reviews 30 Favorited

About the Author

Peter V. Brett was born in New Rochelle, New York, on February 8, 1973. He received a B.A. in English, with a minor in Art History, from the University at Buffalo, in 1995. Prior to devoting himself to writing full time, he worked in the medical publishing field for ten years. He sold his 4th show more novel, The Painted Man (UK), aka, The Warded Man (US), which was the first in the Demon Cycle Series. The other books in the series include ,The Desert Spear, The Daylight War, Messenger's Legacy, The Skull Throne, and The Core. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Luigi Novi


Works by Peter V. Brett

The Warded Man (2008) 3,988 copies
The Desert Spear (2010) 2,141 copies
The Daylight War (2013) 1,345 copies
The Skull Throne (2015) 964 copies
The Core (2017) 610 copies
Brayan's Gold (2011) 212 copies
The Desert Prince (2021) 207 copies
Barren (Demon Cycle) (2018) 113 copies
Red Sonja: Unchained (2014) — Author — 14 copies

Associated Works

Unfettered: Tales by Masters of Fantasy (2013) — Contributor — 387 copies
Grimdark Magazine #4 (2015) — Contributor — 5 copies


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Common Knowledge



Jeff's 2019 Reads in The Green Dragon (April 2021)


The Painted Man is set in what seems to be an alternative version of Earth but where demons once ruled and were defeated, and then after an age of science where everyone stopped believing in demons, came back with a vengence after some centuries, destroying the technological society. The current society, 300 years later, is a pseudo medieval one where everyone has to barricade themselves in at nightfall using symbols called wards, that must be carved/painted onto buildings, animal pens, pavement etc and which the demons cannot pass due to a kind of energy surge that happens if a demon attempts to do so.

There are various kinds of demons including fire ones that can spit a kind of napalm, wind demons which are airborne, wood demons that mainly hang out in forests and rock demons which are tall and heftily built. All are armed with huge claws and teeth and like nothing better than to tear human beings to pieces and devour them. The demons come out of the ground at night from 'the Core' (Earth's core presumably) so they are often referred to as corelings, and become insubstantial and sink back into it just as the sun comes up.

The story centres around three main characters, although the chief of these is Arlen, who at the age of eleven witnesses his father's cowardice, cowering behind wards as Arlen runs out to save his mother. Arlen ends up leaving his village, eventually being taken in and helped by a Messenger. Messengers are members of one of the guilds in the Free Cities, and they keep the farstrung communities together by travelling between them, carrying letters and vital supplies. Messengers usually are accompanied by Jongleurs, talented men who are entertainers and can juggle, do acrobatics, sing and play, and most importantly tell stories, one of which is the tale of how the demons came and how it is supposedly a punishment for humanity's sins. One day a Deliverer will return (such a person was supposed to have led the resistance against the corelings which resulted in their departure the first time around and the age of science). Arlen's goal in life is to become a Messenger.

The second character is Leesha, a young woman who becomes a healer after facing gender bias and bullying in her own village. The third is Rojer, a little boy who is injured in a demon attack and loses his family, then is raised by a Jongleur and becomes a master fiddle player who discovers that his music has an affect on the demons: melodic tunes bespell them and discordant notes jar and repel them.

The story follows each character's growth to maturity over some years. This was a problem in structure because it jumped around between particular years. One confusion was Rojer's introduction which is dated before Arlen's though coming after it and which really could have served as a prologue to the story, as it introduces a lot of the concepts which otherwise the reader has already seen spelled out in great detail.

One aspect I found incredible is that large carnivores such as lions, wolves and bears apparently still exist - and yet the corelings kill animals too. So how does anything larger than a rabbit etc which could hide underground at night survive to be the normal prey of such carnivores - they certainly can't survive on rabbits. Deer etc would have been killed off long ago. As far as I recall there are no references to birds either. To get round the difficulty that fire demons would presumably burn the whole countryside as they love fires, the author has to invent wood demons who are too tough for fire demons to want to tackle, and hence the trees survive. But the only wildlife that presumably would still be around (the hare Arlen saves is an anomaly as hares don't live in burrows) apart from rabbits would be mice and rats. All three would be a problem to a farming based economy as there would be no natural predators such as foxes to keep them down. So this aspect is not tackled realistically.

My main problem with the story is that it is very slow paced to the point of being boring. There are a lot of incidents that aren't necessary to character development or plot, such as when Arlen and his dad have to spend the night with a weird hillbilly type family enroute to a healer whom they hope will be able to help Arlen's injured mother. The events in that sequence such as the revelation that the farmer is forcing himself on his eldest daughter, and her approach to Arlen's dad, offering herself in return for being taken away, plus the deal his dad does with the farmer to take one of the younger girls to marry off to Arlen don't lead to anything. Arlen would have still run away in view of his mother's fate and his father's responsibility, so it is all beside the point. Another example is the extended conversation between the village shopkeeper and the Messenger who eventually becomes Arlen's foster father, which is an extended info dump about how trade works; the shopkeeper never appears again.

Other sequences that would have been interesting aren't in the book. A major example is when there's a big jump between Arlen's departure from the city of Miln where he has been a bookworm, working as an apprentice Warder (the wards and their relationship to each other are complicated enough for their production to require a guild of workers) who did some training in horse riding, to where he turns up a few years later as a fully fledged warrior. This is such a major development, especially for a bookish thoughtful character, so how did that happen? Willing suspension of disbelief gives way altogether when we later meet the superman Arlen in the final section who has now acquired a superhorse he has somehow had time to breed from two aggressive horses he just happened to find. Some of the unarmed combat sequences he engages in against the demons in that section are reminiscent of Hong Kong fantasy films. I also have to wonder why in 300 years no one has previously had the idea of tattoing themselves; after all, they have tattooists to put guild tattoos on people.

Gender politics are rather peculiar in this story. Women are supposed to be valued as childbearers given the attrition rate due to demons, and in one city are called Mothers and rewarded with roles in the government - though that is not really shown - yet when a woman falls pregnant outside marriage she is shunned and driven out of the community. Nearly every man is a sexual predator and forces himself on women. The only role open to women apart from wife/mother is that of Healer as only women carry out medical duties, and in a sexist reverse, although at least one has the secret of how to make a flammable liquid that can burn demons, she will not pass it onto men as they couldn't possibly be trusted not to use it against their fellow human beings. To add to these gender stereotypes, the desert sequence includes just about every stereotype about Arabic people that could be thought of and any reader of that ethnicity must surely be insulted by it.

The demon angle is not new although nothing in fiction is new, of course; it is what the writer does with it that counts. When I picked up the book I was reminded to begin with of Barbara Hambley's superb Darwath trilogy (only the first three of her books set in that world deal with a society crumbling under demon assault) and was interested to see how Brett would handle the theme. The trouble is that the constant scenes of very similar demon attack become rather wearing. The final battle also lacks conviction in that I couldn't believe the villagers would fete Arlan afterwards; I expected them to turn on him given the number of them who died or were horribly wounded after following his lead.

Another problem is the style of writing. Nearly every time someone speaks, even if there are just two characters in the scene, practically every line of dialogue is attributed to the character and quite often with adverbs added (Arlen said angrily etc). It's quite irritating. People's names are nearly always spelled out when 'he' or 'she' would be obvious in the context. A quirk is the mix of UK and US English; 'mum' (UK) instead of 'mom' and 'ground floor' (UK) rather than 'first floor', yet the inclusion of American usage such as 'gotten'.

It was obvious after a while that this must be book one of a series because so little, despite all the events, really happens. Perhaps the need to expand it into a trilogy or longer is responsible for the huge amount of padding. I've also discovered since finishing the book that this was Brett's first novel so perhaps some of the infelicities of adverbs and repetitive attribution of speech have been remedied in later works.

Given the problems I had with it I don't intend to persist with further volumes. So a 2 star overall.
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kitsune_reader | 193 other reviews | Nov 23, 2023 |
I loved The Warded Man and his part of this book still kicked ass. I however did not like the other story line. I appreciated that he tried to do something different but it just didn't float my boat. I am hoping the next one bounces back for me.
cdaley | 66 other reviews | Nov 2, 2023 |
One of my favorite fantasy stories in a long time. Brought something new and epic to the genre. Never lost sight of the characters. Couldn't put it down.
cdaley | 193 other reviews | Nov 2, 2023 |
I kind of forgot about this series when I saw the release of The Core, but I remembered to have liked the previous books a lot. This one dissapointed though. The Demon Cycle was like a hollywood film series, a lot of action and flash and not much else, which is perfectly fine and they sometimes are just a lot of fun. But they do need an identifying feature, for this series it was a kind of fresh look on the fantasy genre. Only, when that is the only thing setting the book apart, it needs momentum to surprise the reader with increasingly cool flashy ideas and Brett succeeded in doing this right until the previous book. This last one was a proper ending to the series, there was just no "newness", which was the main thing I enjoyed in the series.

Also, the slang that Arlen and Renna utter "Ent this, Ent that..." REALLY started to bug me to the point that I shouted at my book for them to start talking normally.
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bramboomen | 26 other reviews | Oct 18, 2023 |



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