The Painted Man
The Painted Man is set on a world filled with demons that rise every night to hunt and terrorise humans. The only protections humans have against the demons are the sunlight and the defensive wards of old. The offensive wards, the ones that allowed humans to fight back, are long lost, and everyone hides behind warded walls after dark, hoping they will hold through the night.
But there are some that refuse to cower to the monsters of the night and will fight back, and among those are Arlen, Leesha and Rojer.
Fast paced, and full of action, like a lot of the fantasy written nowadays, it feels a bit like a role playing game, and anyone who has been around them will identify Brett's demons as elementals. The concept of painted wards is nice, and although not done very much in fantasy, is not new either. Being a novel filled with action means that the characters are not developed to their full extent, which is a bit sad, because there is potential for a lot more.
Even so, the characters are likeable enough, both the major ones as some of the supporting cast. Much of the focus is given to Arlen, the Painted Man, which makes sense (the book is named after him, after all), but I felt that Leesha and Rojer were only there because they were meant to meet him, and that most of their actions will always be a result of Arlen's actions or expectations. I would love to see these two characters better explored. There is also the potential love triangle forming, one that I'm not sure which side I rooting for (How can I choose between a tattooed man and a red-head one?) or even if I'm interested enough by it.
There were some things that irked me in this book. One was the characters' fixation with breasts. The allusion to “bosoms” and “paps” was made enough times to make me wonder if breasts have any magical property. Other was the rapid recovery of a raped girl, that only four days after the tragic incident, is ready to a roll in the mud with another man (and one that she hasn't known long).
The different nations on The Painted Man are, like in many fantasy works, inspired on our real world, as well as fantasy clichés, which usually leads to stereotyping. This is specially truth with the Krasians, the desert people. Open Diana Wynne Jones' Tough Guide to Fantasyland, on the Desert Nomads entry, and you'll have a very close description of the Krasians (only Krasians aren't nomads).
The Painted Man is hardly ground-breaking fantasy, but it has nice concepts and the action packed plot means it's an easy and fast read, and enjoyable enough. I will read the next one in the series, because I want to know what happens next, not because I loved this first book.