The Painted Man

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The Painted Man
Painted man cover small.png
UK edition of The Painted Man
AuthorPeter V. Brett
Cover artistLarry Rostant
CountryUnited Kingdom, United States
SeriesThe Demon Cycle
GenreFantasy, Horror
PublisherHarperCollins Publishers (UK)
Del Rey Books (US)
Media typePrint (hardback)
Followed byThe Desert Spear 

The Painted Man (titled The Warded Man in the US) is a fantasy novel written by American writer Peter V. Brett. It is the first part of the Demon Cycle. It was first published by HarperCollins's Voyager imprint in the United Kingdom on 1 September 2008, and was published in the United States under the title of The Warded Man in March 2009. It has been translated into German, Japanese, Polish, Czech, French, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Serbian, Estonian and Turkish.[1] There is also a Graphic Audio production of the book.


The novel follows three POV characters in their passage from childhood to maturity. They are inhabitants of a world plagued by the attacks of demons known as Corelings, which rise from the planet's core each night to feast upon humans. There are many different kinds of corelings, each associated with a particular element and each with different capabilities and strengths.

The ongoing attrition of these attacks have reduced humanity from an advanced state of technology to a dark age. The only defense against the corelings are wards (magical runes) that can be drawn, painted, or inscribed to form protective barriers around human settlements. These are, however, fragile and prone to failure unless properly maintained.

As the novel progresses, the protagonists each embark upon his or her own hero's journey in an effort to save humanity.

In writing the tale, Brett was keen to move beyond a simple adventure story, to present a fantasy novel about fear and its impact. He was particularly interested in the effect of fear "causing some to freeze up and others to leap into action."[2]

Major characters[edit]


Arlen Bales, son of Silvy and Jeph Bales of Tibbet's Brook, born 308 AR, is a POV (Point of View) and main character in The Warded Man, The Desert Spear, The Daylight War, The Skull Throne (only partially), and The Core.

Early life Arlen grew up in Tibbet's Brook, unknowing of anything outside the hamlet and the farm owned by his father, Jeph Bales. He never had many friends and was bullied by the other children (especially by Cobie Fisher). His mother, Silvy Bales, frequently shouted at him for fighting. One day he was tired of being bullied and brought a stick, determined to fight back. It didn't get him any new friends, but stopped them from bullying him any more.

One day Ragen Messenger arrived in Tibbet's Brook with Keerin the Jongleur, giving Arlen the idea that he wanted to be a Messenger. As night fell, his mother failed to reach the safety of the wards around their house in time and was attacked, Arlen's father only standing and watching without the courage to leave the wards. Arlen left the safety of the wards and went to help his mother, spending the night with her under a trough in one of the warded animal pens. With a new view of his father they left in the morning to reach the town Herb Gatherer, Coline Trigg, because of Silvy's deep demon-inflicted wounds. Coline didn't know how to save her and they instead left to get the help of the Herb Gatherer in Sunny Pasture. Passing the farm of Harlon Tanner they decide to push on in hopes of reaching the Herb Gatherer that day but as the night gets closer Jeph Bales begins to worry they won't make it in time so he turns back to beg succour at the Tanner Farm. Harlon Tanner tells them they were only an hour or two from the Herb Gatherer and would have made it. That night Arlen's father promised him to be married to the youngest of the Tanner children, Renna Tanner. Early the next morning, they continued their journey to the healer but they couldn't reach her soon enough and Arlen's mother passes away on the road. In his grief Arlen and his father argue about how they could have saved Silvy if Jeph had not been afraid and turned back. The fight ends with Arlen jumping off the cart and running away into the forest.

On the road Once out on his own Arlen realizes that he has placed himself in grave danger so he draws ward in the dirt to pass the night. A large rock demon approaches the wards and in his fear Arlen accidentally steps on a ward marring it. The rock demon and Arlen realize the error at the same time and reaches an arm in to kill Arlen, who dives for the ward and repairs it as the rock demon gouges his back. With the wards repaired they flare to life cutting off the demon's arm. From that point forward the rock demon now called One Arm reappears every night following Arlen wherever he goes. Arlen continues his journey with the hope of running in to Ragan the Messenger who he does finally meet up with as he collapses from the wounds inflicted by One Arm. Ragan cleans his wounds and heals him and then after some debate with Arlen agrees to take him to Fort Miln to live with Ragan and his wife and to train Arlen to be a Messenger like Ragen.

A new life Reaching Fort Miln he accepted an apprenticeship with Cob Warder living at Ragen's mansion with Ragen, Elissa and their daughter, Marya. He also got involved with Mery, the daughter of the librarian, Tender Ronnel. Mery didn't want Arlen to be a Messenger but Arlen was stubborn and didn't give up his wish. He also got his first friend in the city, Jaik Miller, who wanted to be a Jongleur. Unfortunately, he didn't spend enough time practicing and didn't become a Jongleur, deciding to be an miller like his father instead. Arlen trained every day to be an Messenger and suddenly left for Fort Lakton one day, only saying goodbye to his friend Jaik.

Fort Krasia After spending years as a Messenger, and after being to all forts, towns and almost every hamlet, plus a lot of ruins, he decided to ask the Krasian leader if he could fight with them in the maze. Ahmann Jardir, the leader, let him do it and they did, after some time, become good friends. Arlen came back often to fight with the Krasians and sell goods from the north to Abban.

One day he traded with Abban in the Bazaar in Fort Krasia, and got a map to the Ruins of Anoch Sun. He left for the ruin and found a spear with fighting wards. He went back to Fort Krasia to share the fighting wards with them. But sharing was not enough for Jardir and he stole the spear, leaving Arlen in the desert to die. Miraculously, he made it to the Oasis of Dawn. There, he decided to paint wards at his flesh and became The Warded Man.

Cutter's Hollow After a few years of having been the Warded Man, he finally meets up with Leesha Paper and Rojer Inn who are running from the night and failing to create a ward circle. Later saving them and revealing his identity he agrees to escort them to Cutter's Hollow. While they travel Arlen and Leesha develop feelings for each other. Leesha, just recently raped finds protection in Arlen, while Arlen starts to question if all he wants is the corelings death or if he could find a home with Leesha. Soon Alren and Leesha get taken by their feelings and engage in sexual activity only to be interrupted by a coreling resulting in Arlen almost getting sucked into the core with it. Arlen not knowing what he is anymore and doubting his humanity reclaims being the warded man putting a wall between him and Leesha once again. Arlen being interrupted never delivers his seed inside Leesha which he is thankful for not knowing what would spawn from him. Upon arriving to Cutter's Hollow they gaze at the destruction that has taken Cutter's Hollow and The Warded Man swearing not to give anything to the corelings ever again decides to make a stand rising others to his cause and begin preparing warded weapons and fortifying the Holy House while awaiting nightfall. After the battle was done and gone The Warded Man stayed to teach more to the people of Cutter's Hollow how to further defend themselves against corelings. Later on, the hamlet Cutter's Hollow changes its name to the Deliverer's Hollow.


Leesha is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her abusive mother and downtrodden father. After a slanderous rumor spread by her fiancé seems to destroy her chances of a respectable marriage and shows the true nature of many of her friends and the hypocrisy of the villagers, she devotes herself to learning the ways of herb gathering to care for the sick.


Rojer enters the narrative as a toddler, the only member of his family to survive a coreling attack. He is rescued and adopted by an alcoholic jongleur, a type of roaming jester that frequently travels with messengers and performs in villages on the messenger's route. Rojer has a crippled hand, caused by the loss of two fingers in the coreling attack that killed his parents. This limits his ability to juggle but does not hinder him in the least when he plays his favorite instrument, the fiddle. He later remembers that the jongleur that adopted him actually caused the death of his mother, he confronts him on the road about this later, and the jongleur, in a fit of drunken rage, pushes him into the corelings. He then sees his mistake, and dies in order to save Rojer's life. With his fiddle Rojer can entrance the corelings with his music causing the corelings to follow him, anger them to rage, make them oblivious to others, or drive them away with jarring music. Rojer tries without success to teach others his skills with the fiddle. Rojer harbors strong unrequited feelings for Leesha.


The novel was selected by as one of the Top 10 Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2008.[3] and has been nominated for the first David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy.[4]


The second volume of the Demon Cycle, The Desert Spear, was released in April 2010, published by Del Rey Books in the US and Canada, and Voyager in the UK.[5] The third volume, entitled The Daylight War, was released 12 February 2013 by Del Rey in the United States.[6] The fourth volume, entitled The Skull Throne, was released 31 March 2015 by Del Rey in the United States. The fifth and final volume, The Core, was released on 3 October 2017 in the United States. There are also three novellas related to the story. "The Great Bazaar", "Brayan's Gold" and "Messenger's Legacy", each released in limited edition by Subterranean Press. Peter V. Brett has stated that he has one more book left in his publishing contract, which will be set in the same world as the Demon Cycle and may grow into a new series.[7]

Film adaptation[edit]

It has been confirmed that the Demon Cycle has been optioned for film production by director Paul W. S. Anderson and longtime producing partner Jeremy Bolt, the duo behind the Resident Evil film franchise.[8] A 2016 update at Peter V. Brett's webpage stated that Anderson and Bolt are no longer involved in the film production.[9]


  1. ^ "Peter V Brett :: News". Retrieved 6 February 2016.
  2. ^ "The Painted Man by Peter V Brett". 30 September 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
  3. ^ "The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2008". 2009. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
  4. ^ "Nominees". The David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy. 2009. Archived from the original on 3 March 2009. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
  5. ^ "Peter V Brett :: News".
  6. ^ "Daylight war release date". 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  7. ^ "I believe I've read …". 19 September 2017.
  8. ^ Kit, Borys (28 July 2009). "'Resident Evil' duo picks up 'Warded'". Retrieved 11 April 2011.
  9. ^ "Warded Man Movie (First Info)". 2016. Retrieved 29 July 2019.

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