Author Peter V. Brett has recently told Fantastique magazine that a well-known Hollywood moviemaker has expressed interest in adapting his novel, The Painted Man, to the big screen . . .

This should come as no surprise to anyone who has read Brett’s debut novel, which came out in paperback earlier this year. It will be the first of a planned series of novels titled The Demon Trilogy. (For some reason The Painted Man is titled The Warded Man in the U.S. – not quite as catchy a title that.)

Brett’s novel has “Fantasy blockbuster” written all over it because (a) it boasts the sort of high concept plot you can fit on a matchbox and (b) deals in the sort of Black & White morality that Hollywood just loves to bits.

First, the story behind The Painted Man. The novel is set in a world in which demons are not only real, but practically rule the planet. Each night supernatural demons materialize and prey upon the frightened remnants of humanity who cower behind “wards” – magic spells in the form of symbols that (sometimes) keep the demons at bay. Like Terry Brooks’ Shannara books, which are also being made into a movie, and unlike most other works in the genre, The Painted Man appears to take place in our distant future even though it is never exactly made clear just when this might be. There are several references to an “age of technology” before the demons came back in force to exterminate human civilization. Stuff such as concrete and reading glasses from that era are also mentioned occasionally.

However, like Brooks’ novels, The Painted Man is set in your typical medieval feudal system that is so typical of Fantasy, a convention which Tolkien began when he single-handedly invented the genre with Lord of the Rings. Society is divided into city states and fiefdoms that are ruled over by unelected monarchs. (To be honest the clichéd setting is a bit of a disappointment. Perhaps a Road Warrior-style post-apocalyptic scenario in which more technology has survived would have made it more interesting, who knows? But that’s just the sci-fi nut in me talking . . .)

"The Painted Man is set in a world in which demons are not only real, but practically rule the planet . . ."

The evenings belong to the demons. Each sunset hordes of demons would magically materialise from nowhere and in the mornings they’ll disappear before the sun rises. The demons can’t live in sunlight, but except for this they are practically invulnerable. Mankind has no way of killing them, even though ancient legends speak of magic wards – now long-forgotten - that are powerful enough to do just that.

The novel follows three principal characters from their childhoods onwards: There is Arlen whose father’s cowardice in the face of the demons results in his mother’s death. Inspired by the tales of a messenger – a hardy lot who actually dare to travel between towns and cities to deliver mail and produce – about an earlier war against the demons which mankind actually won, Arlen leaves home in disgust, promising himself to bring the battle to the demons and never back down against them. Wanna bet that our hero will rediscover those long-lost spells that actually kill demons?

Then there is Rojer, a small boy whose parents are killed off by the demons and is adopted by a drunkard “jongleur” – basically a travelling minstrel – and has to make a living in one of the tough, big cities in the city. The third – and final – major character is Leesha, a buxom girl who lives in a small village along with her harridan mother who is also the town slut and her doting, but henpecked and wimpish father. Their three stories are told separately and obviously interweave towards the end when their paths finally cross in time for a climactic battle against the demons. If this was a Gary Larson cartoon then the final paragraph of the book would have been captioned: “trouble brewing.” Yup, it might as well have a “To Be Continued” flashing across the screen as the scene is set for The Desert Spear, the next instalment in the trilogy.


Next: "We still liked it better than the last Terry Brooks book we read!"




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