The Painted man by Peter V. Brett

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HarperCollins, 2009. ISBN 9780007276141.
(Ages 15+) The night has been taken over by demons who rise from the ground, destroying everything in sight. People who have managed to survive hide behind a complex system of wards that keep the monsters at bay. They are too afraid to leave their villages to travel to neighbouring towns in case night overtakes them on the road and the corelings take them. Three children are born in isolation. A Messenger teaches Arlen about the crippling effects of fear. Leesha trains to become a healer after a suitor tells lies about her and Rojer's life is changed by a travelling minstrel. Each must overcome great obstacles to overcome their isolation and fear. Together they may survive to save the world.
Brett has created a believable medieval type world where demons rule the night and where magic wards are the only things that keep them out of the tiny settlements. They are truly terrifying beings and there is much bloodshed during the book. The disadvantages of isolation and the ignorance that it can breed are explored through the beliefs of many of the villagers and their fear of change. Brett also introduces city life and living in the desert and the different types of knowledge that is gained there.
The characterisation is particularly strong. The Painted Man is an enigma and I was fascinated following his growth during the book. Adversity hones Leesha's character and she develops into a strong heroine. Rojer is likable and the minor characters are rounded. I liked the possibility of a developing romance between the Painted Man and Leesha in future books.
This was a compelling and quite complex read with the main characters facing difficult decisions about what they have to do to save humanity from the corelings. Readers who liked The forest of hands and teeth by Carrie Ryan will enjoy this story and will look forward to future books in the series. The last section of the book sets the scene for Book 2, The Desert Spear, with the fascinating Shar'Dama Ka the Deliverer making an appearance.
Pat Pledger