Peter V. Brett

The Demon Trilogy, Book 1

HarperVoyager (2008)

ISBN: 978 0 00 727615 8

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely, July 2010

Arlen survives a demon-attack and runs away from all he’s ever known. Leesha struggles against the future her mother wants for her and ends up taking a direction she could never have foreseen. Orphaned and crippled by demons, Rojer takes solace in music, and finds it has unexpected power. Individually, each child learns a skill that helps them fight the demons that plague their world; together, they may be able to change it completely.

This was an unusual book to read – the first three quarters of the novel followed the three separate stories of the main characters, tracing their individual journeys from early childhood to adolescence. The stories have some similarities, but each character is clearly defined and drawn, and the world they live in is richly described. Then suddenly, the three stories converge and the characters come together. This in itself is not unusual, but the events that follow, and the changes to one character in particular, disconcerted me. Up until that point, I had been completely involved in the story; after it, I constantly found myself consciously thinking about the plot, character and events, instead of just being immersed in them.

To begin, there is a point here that the book could actually have started at, although to have opened the book there would have meant the reader had a lot less compassion for the protagonists – a completely different, but no less interesting, story would have been the result, probably one that read more as an adult fantasy, with more grit and darkness. Secondly, there is one adult scene that I had a big problem with – I won’t go into detail as I don’t want to spoil the plot, but I think I can say that Brett, who had up until that point done a great job of portraying the female characters in the story, really stuffed it up there and it dumped me right out of the reading experience.

Having said that, the first three quarters of the book were very good indeed, and while the last section had some faults and felt a little rushed, there’s a lot to like about the novel. It’s interesting that the publishers chose not to market the book as the first in a series; The Painted Man does stand alone to a point, but it’s clearly set up to be a continuing saga. I have the second book on my shelf ready to read and while there were some disappointing parts in this novel, I’m still keen to continue reading – the premise itself is fascinating, and I want to see where the characters go.