|Submitted by Mark Chitty |
(Oct 12, 2009)
The Warded Man is one of those books that I heard good things about from its UK release last year but never got around to. Some of the reviews I had read at the time were great, yet as a fantasy book I tended not to pay it too much attention - what a mistake that was! Within the pages of this fantasy is a great story, excellent setting and wonderful characters.
The world that Peter V Brett has created here is wide in scope and full of character. From the vivid descriptions of the small towns on the outskirts of the cities, where night is always a dangerous time, to the cities themselves - huge and strongly warded against the corelings - there is much to admire. These places felt real, the rundown and ruined houses always a constant reminder of what can happen when wards fail. The cities have their big, luxurious houses while the images of despair that are brought to mind when the lowly shared shelters are mentioned add to the clear distinction of class. Despite all of this and how much I enjoyed the world every time I opened the book, the characters steal the show - and quite rightly too.
We follow our three main characters - Arlen, Leesha and Rojer - from a young age. This allows us to grow with them, feel their fear and desires and aspirations. What is good about these characters is their individuality, the way each one feels completely different from the others, yet there is a strong and wilful element that will not just lie down or continue on the road expected of them.
Arlen, our main character, is the most enjoyable to read. His story is simple and entertaining and his motives are clear. There is also a sadness to his character which drives him throughout the narrative and gives him determination to succeed. It's fairly obvious from both the title that Arlen is the Warded Man, but it is the journey to this point that is so enjoyable. Although staggered, the years that we share with him bring him much closer to the heart as a character that you want to succeed and to be the one that fulfills legend and brings hope to humanity.
The sadness that the characters live with is a theme in this novel with both Leesha and Rojer suffering at a young age which changes their lives and outlook forever. Although not at the forefront as much as Arlen, they both have purposeful roles in the story and are equally enjoyable to read. Leesha is the village healer that has the problem of being the focus of some unsavoury gossip that makes her life more difficult and awkward than needed. Meanwhile, Rojer loses both parents while still very young and is raised by a renowned Jongleur, a profession he himself ends up following, but the hard times he faces from day to day because of this mean that many things are stacked against him. As all three characters are introduced while they are still in their early teens or younger we get a look at the years that shape them and can look forward knowing how enjoyable the story will be with them in.
The only issue I have is slight and relates only to the US release: the title. While The Warded Man clearly tells you what is going to happen, The Painted Man is vaguer and more subtle. I personally prefer The Painted Man, but that's neither here nor there. What matters is the story contained within the pages, and regardless of the title it is a readable, page-turning and thoroughly engrossing novel.
The Warded Man is Peter V Brett's debut, a stunning character focused fantasy novel set in a vividly realised world. This is the first volume in The Demon Trilogy and has such great promise to deliver an excellent story arc over the three novels. I am seriously excited about The Desert Spear and can barely wait until it's August publication in the UK - I'm now officially a fan for life!