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A fan of the first book, not so much of the second
on 2 October 2012
Everyone here reading this review must have read and enjoyed the first book, otherwise they wouldn't bother to move on to the second. It's really a shame for me to write about how it disappointed me, as the Painted Man was one of the best fantasy releases I've seen in a while.
While I, to a certain extent, enjoyed reading the first half of the book, which is a recount of Jardirs life, I can imagine a lot of people will find it grating that the first half of the second book, in terms of time line, only brings us to the end of the first book again. I can see why it was done, we need the introduction to Abban, Jardirs Jiwah Ka and to a certain amount the culture they live by (It's a shame we don't get much more out of Jardir that we hadn't gleamed from book one). However, for a section of the book that was, in all essence, a character introduction. So while important it stole a lot more of the book than seemed entirely necessary.
We then move on to the second half of the book, dedicated to Arlen. From here on out until they leave Angiers, the books pace takes on a snail like quality. There are a lot of words dedicated to nothing in particular, we're introduced to how the Hollow has changed, charged glass, Rojers apprentices and a few other bits and pieces. But seeing as the whole first half of the book made no attempt to continue down the plot line, I would hope that some attempt to do so would start appearing at this point.
During the meeting with the duke in Angiers there at last seems to be a feeling of movement, yes we have to sit through the meeting twice, which holds a certain amount of comedic value, but little else, and by this point in the book I was hungry for development, as I was starting to become aware I'd read a lot more than I hadn't.
From there we go down two forks, one for Arlen, and one to unite Leesha and Rojer with Jardir and Abban.
Arlens journey takes him back to Miln, and eventually his old home. It's interesting to see the old faces from Miln again. While, again, a bit long for the amount of relevance it held it was nice to return and see some of the old favourites from book one, and develop the cliff hanger Arlen left when he left.
Until this point in the book the only complaint I have is substance. I've made a huge point of it so far as I think anyone picking up this book should be prepared to switch from the fast full of information pace of book one to the exact opposite in book two.
However it is at this point I started to find problems, mostly concerning Reena. Who's soul purpose in the book seems to be as a medium for the Mind Demons, and to punch holes in Arlens character. I'm being careful here not to delve too deep for fear of dolling out too many spoilers, but fears that Arlen has been grappling with the entire book, and fears that he's made previous decisions on, seem to evaporate where Reena is concerned.
The road Leesha and Rojer take also has some issues. While being (in my opinion) more interesting and seemingly more immediately relevant than the road Arlen takes, it too brings up some problems. Again, I won't say too much for fear of spoilers. But what I will say is the path they take is based upon Leeshs desire to protect her 'children' of the Hollow. However, at the end of the book, her selfless desires seem to evaporate entirely for want of a monogamous relationship.
Unfortunately for me the negatives of lack of development for such a long book, empty chapters, and a few (either badly explained, or contradicting) character decisions, really outweighed a book which in its essence had a strong mix of epic battle and scheming politics with a lot of rich cultural contrasts and detailed explanation.
In short I could read the Painted Man twice, but not the Desert Spear, I sincerely hope book three holds more to the standards of book one then two.