The Painter: A fantasy psych thriller and epic

The Painter: A fantasy psych thriller and epic

by Banner Caygeon

Warning This fiction contains:
  • Gore
  • Profanity

- Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed, I'm happy to say The Painter is in the top 200 best-rated fictions. 
- Readers of The Painter have suggested reading through Chapter 6 before making a decision on this book.
- The story takes place in the Lootverse, but you don't need a canonical understanding to appreciate the story

For a time, the Painter's life was simple. He lived in the small town of Kinon (called Kinney by locals) with his wife, Kahriah and his son, Thesdon. The story begins with him alone and unable to travel more than a few hundred miles from his home. For 5 years he tried to chart his prison until one day a letter appears with a mysterious commission that will see him test his condition and his boundary. 

Set roughly 50 years before the impending end of days (from Loot canon), The Painter is a story about loss, grit, and exploration of a seemingly normal man in a world of magic and monsters. The Painter will follow the man on his adventure to restore his family, uncover his commissioners and discover the nature of his condition. 

Loot is the decentralized, global, community built fantasy world based on Dom Hoffman's art/tech experiment: Loot. 

Fun fact: The cover of our book is painted by the artist, who the MC is loosely based on and the same person painting the Banners (digitally) IRL for an art/worldbuilding project. 

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Banner Caygeon

Banner Caygeon

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bokhi
Overall
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Story
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Off the beaten path and into the thorns of loss

Reviewed at: 10. The Illuminator

Note: This is not a review swap.

The Painter is definitely not standard RR fare. It is set in a fantasy world but does not have typical fantasy focus; there are no farm boys-turned hero or lost princesses or dastardly dragons. What it does have is a nameless man living with an unutterable loss in a slow-burn psychodrama set in the aftermath of a personal tragedy. 

Style: 4.0/5.0 

The prose is simple, smooth, and very readable. I like the simplicity, and the author does not torture syntax or belabor description to good effect. It tells the story in the right tone, and delivers content rather than window-dressing, which is precisely what prose ought to do (in my opinion, of course). 

There are, however, some issues with shifting viewpoints. We are in the third-person limited but occasionally the view dips into the omniscient then dips back. This is very distracting.

Another issue is that speech tags and action beats are conjoined together incorrectly in a way that impacts both flow and standard style rules. This sort of thing tends to distract me a lot and undercuts the professional presentation and mature tone of the tale, so I lopped off 1 whole star here. 

Story: 5.0/5.0

I appreciate a good, psychological slow-burn. I think there is a good story here, though I imagine it moves more slowly than most RR readers are used to or expect. Personally, I like it; I liked it a whole lot, and I would have liked it even more if the author had gone even *slower* and really let the emotional elements breathe. With that said, I do half-suspect that the author's pacing is actually perfectly good for the intended effect, and I just love angst in my stories, ha! 

I don't want to go into spoiler territory, but Part 1 sets the emotional tone, problem, and mystery needed for the rest of the tale very nicely. We're still a bit early (Part 1), so it's hard to say whether everything will fall into place or not, but I currently have high expectations for how this story moves forward. 

Grammar: 4.5/5.0

There are a few grammar errors throughout, with the most prominent being comma splices. Most readers probably won't notice. 

I will say I'm still bothered by the weirdness of speech tags being rolled in with action beats (without commas), ha, but I didn't double-deduct for that! 

Character: 4.0/5.0 

Overall, I like that the painter is a mystery for a good bulk of the first arc. It suits the theme.

However, one issue is that he seems like the sum of his problems rather than a person with problems, and it's hard to say who he is behind his problems. A lot of his behaviour does seem to stem from his issues, but take away the issues, and who is he? How has his character previous to his issues made him who he is *with* his issues? He felt a bit generic in his pre-tragedy flashback, and he feels a bit generic still. One other issue that stems from this is that his emotional trajectory from tragedy to present day feels a bit...hm. Forced? Inorganic? It's a bit hard to put my finger on it, but it did feel a bit off. 

Even so, I do think that the author did a good job around how a man might act in the aftermath of a great loss, and I expect there will be more to him soon. I liked that he *is* an ordinary man and he acts like it; he doesn't smart off at stronger people, and he is always aware of his limitations in his interactions. Really, he is a believable character, it's just that at present, he doesn't seem to have much character aside from his emotional turtling. I imagine this will improve as the scope of his interactions with the rest of the world widens!

Overall, I found The Painter an enjoyable read. I meant to read only one chapter, but I went ahead and binged up to the latest update. I highly recommend this for people who want an exploration of another world grounded in something very familiar to ours, and lovers of slow, sad literature. 

Early rating: 4.5/5.0 (May change depending on story developments!)

beast_regards
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Like the painting, beautiful and pointless

Reviewed at: 9. The Parting

The Painter story is like the painting, it's beautiful, it's masterfully capturing a single point, forever frozen in time, it inspires emotions...  and has no point. At least, no real point beyond that single moment the painting is depicting and all those different feelings it invokes in viewers.

Style - Story is well-written. Justl like other stories around there, it doesn't bother with description, but in this case, it's simplicity is the boon as it doesn't really need to focus on unimportant things. Mostly because nothing really feels important in this story, beyond the very simple life lesson that doesn't need much words to convey, but more of that in the story category - 5 out of 5. 

Grammar - All stories shall receive 5-stars by default. 

Story - There is no story. Well, technically, there is a story. It's not even bad story, it is just hopelessly uninteresting and mundane one despite the supposedly fantasy background to it.  <following is not a spoiler, author insisted to read past it>The painter paints the picture he calls a masterpiece. His son ruins the picture. The Painter yells at the son. The son runs away, and is never seen again. The Painter's wife leaves him because their relationship falls apart because of the grief. Eventually, The Painter finds out he is imprisoned in some kind of bubble preventing him to leave the town, but for the most part he is just depressed (understandably, by the way) because his son is supposedly dead and his wife left him. One day he receives an option to leave the bubble and by that time, my interest in the story and couldn't care less ... eventually The Painter will come in terms with his loss, but I don't care. Fantasy elements, I don't care either after too much focus wasted on mundane stuff ... he could just be depressed and everything will be same ... why should I care? Magic is lost. Perhaps here is no magic. Author didn't focused on that either, it's just a tragedy that can happen to my neightbour without any supernatural forces and it will be the same. Just alegory for depression. Story 3.5 out of 5 due to that. 

Character - The character of The Painter, actually does have a very decent characterization within the story despite the minimal amount of words dedicated to it, he feels realistic and lifelike, due to mostly focus on mudane family drama we can all supposedly relate to - 5 out of 5 for character.

Overall, I will give the 4.5 out of 5 score to the overall, but mostly because I recognize the writer for what he had done, despite not really liking it myself.

Personally, I see the story as the waste of time, as I don't enjoy the symbolism for the same of symbolism in the story which is essentially a very mundane personal tragedy that can happen anytime, sad but nothing special to it. 

Only piece for overthinkers that love to look for symbolism in everything. 

a.c.rockatansky
Overall

A poignant and beautiful work

Reviewed at: 12. The Heavy Head

The Painter is a stunning work. It is a distinctive and unique portrait of a man's journey to find his son-- or at least come to some kind of closure and peace.

A raucous adventure, this is not (at least, not so far). But I found myself entranced and compelled to keep clicking onward. I could understand why a read might feel it slow, but for me it just feels deep and thoughtful and satisfying. In fact, one of my only critiques is that I wish the author had taken more time with developing the relationship between the Painter and his wife and child to futher underscore the nature of his loss. Perhaps as flashbacks woven into the rest of the story?

From the very outset the author establishes a clear and consistent tone that is incredibly evocative and unique to anything else I've read on RR. It definitely does feel like a painting itself, and enough progression occurs to keep me intrigued and curious for what comes next.

I would recommend this work to just about anyone, even if their usual fare is action/adventure, because it's poignant and lovely and impressive-- the kind of story that will linger in your mind for a long time after you've put it down.

VyStarlit
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Painting into discovery

Reviewed at: 13. The Three Fires

When I read the first chapter, I wasn't so sure about the story. It didn't quite pull me in but by the second I grew curious and then bit-by-bit I was pulled in and now I'm looking forward to reading more. Honestly, the story is beautiful and I'm looking forward to the next part. 

Style: The prose is lovely. It's smooth and easy but has so many layers like watching an artist paint. I felt like I was slowly uncovering parts of the world and each part led you further into a mystery and uncovers the pieces of a man on a bittersweet journey. I will say the first chapter is a bit too slow and doesn't really help draw you in but I would suggest to keep reading anyway. 

Story: The story is like little clues that give you a taste of something larger. There is one scene early one that is heart-wrenching and immediately gets you invest. The world itself is presented in a way where fantastic things are happening but are also so natural as well. It really gives you the sense that the story is from a man who lives in a fantasy world. 

Grammar: I didn't see any obvious issues. It read smoothly. 

Character: You get hints of the character but there is definitely a feeling of distance. I'm not sure if this is because we don't even learn the character's name until later orif it's because we are introduced to the character's grief before we get to know him. Despite this I felt the character was very solid and I'm looking to seeing his character developed. 

One thing I will say that I'm very excited about is that the story is very clearly leading us on a journey of discovery. I love stories about exploration and this one is definitely that. 

JEPayne
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

And so does this story! The story of Paint is a bit of a slow burn, but for people who enjoy their stories dense and full of character, this is a fantastic choice for you.

Style - The style is pragmatic through most of the text, conveying information unobtrusively so the reader can focus on the story, but at select points of the author's choosing it ramps up the detail in wonderful fashion. Physical descriptions of paintings and materials, rich descriptions of characters and, most importantly, an incredibly deep conveyance of the MC's emotions reach out from the story to grab you at just the right times.

Grammar - Nil observed issues, and with that, lets get to the two strongest areas of the story.

Story - This is where the layers really come through. On one level its a thriller mystery about a man who lost his son. On another, its a study of heartbreak, loss, and being stuck in grief, unable to move on. On another again it's back to a mystery about shady and powerful benefactors, a mysterious magical malady, and conspiracies against the MC years in the making and execution. All of them seemlessly blend and complement each other with a finesse that is rare to see anywhere, let alone rr.

Character - The character work is excellent. The supporting cast feels well constructed, but the man at the front and centre of this story is where the author really shows just what he can do. The clarity and intensity of the MC's heartbreak and depression is sublime for the first few chapters, giving way to a cautious, yet sometimes almost manic optimism when he's finally given the chance to break free from the invisible walls of his prison. Even then though, the reader is acutely aware that the MC remains trapped by his guilt and his obsession, even as we worry for him, knowing that this obsession has him playing to the tune of someone else's fiddle.

All in all this is a poignant, brilliantly constructed psychological thriller that might not be everyone's cup of tea, but for people who appreciate a deliberate, dense narrative full of emotional impact and intrigue, this is the story for you.

DukeFluffingtons
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Not the Usual Fare, but Worth the Ticket

Reviewed at: 10. The Illuminator

Grief is an interesting concept. Some people deal with it by bottling it up, others by feeling through the emotions, and others by spreading their misery to others.

The Painter is definitely a story about Grief, but it's also steeped in mystery. Little bits of plot are dolled out in careful morsels, all seeking to paint the picture of a world of fantasy... but through the eyes of a mundane man, trying to cope with his loss.

Style - Easily the standout feature of the novel, the style makes you sink into the emotions on display in the story. Just as the standard LitRPG makes you wish you were Overpowered, The Painter... well, it makes you feel sad. Sad for the characters as they struggle through their motions, but also sad for the way loss strikes us all.

Story - As warned by the author, The Painter is a slow burn. Thankfully, the little windows into the world being shown are enough to tandalize the reader into turning the page, and I for one am fully invested in the setting and the lore.

Grammar - Strong solid spelling and punctuation, nothing stands out as a flaw. An easy 5 stars.

Character - The Painter sits center stage in this novel, and while the glimpses into his mind are fascinating, the side characters are left behind a little. Partly due to the lower amount of dialogue presented in the story, but mostly this stems from having such a deliberate focus on the Painter himself.

Overall, I'd recommend this story to anyone who loves a slow burn, an intriguing mystery, and sadly, anyone who can appreciate the pain of loss and the appreciation of life that comes with it.

Shomin
Overall
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Story
Grammar
Character

Anticipated to read what's coming next

Reviewed at: 10. The Illuminator

Style: 4.5

Starting a bit slow with beautifully described world and scenery. The writing itself, like a piece of painting. The style is great to read. Although the author kept the name of the protagonist hidden until chapter 10. I assume that the name have something to do with "pain", since he lost his _ _ _. The reading of is is smooth, and easy. If it could be a little bit fast, it'll be perfect.

Although a little slow, the author build up the tension and the plot really well. I am eager to read what happened next. That number though, hinted about this story going to be huge epic lenght. I might back down a little for that reason. 

The characters, only Grelda, the protagonist and the book binders fleshed out perfectly so far. We have a previously married man as a protagonist. Pretty standard protagonist material. 

The story is still in the begining stage. I might modify this review when I read further. The idea and concept of the story is something really interesting. It reminds me of some ancient fairy tale about a man got isekai-ed into paintings... but no! The Painter is something totally different!

* I do not rate grammar.

Pickle Hurlant
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

The Painter takes an interesting road, ignoring the easy tropes of any fantastic world. Here, we follow a simple man in a slow-paced tragedy. 5 pages in, I was already sad and melancholic.

The style is refined and easy to read. By going straight to the point, the author allows us to capture the raw emotions surrounding the main character. The content is highly focused on this aspect and never loses its way.

I did enjoy a more psychological story, with less action and more atmosphere. We are still early in the publication process, but the beginning seems promising enough.

Mistakes were found but nothing pace-breaking.

Speaking of the character, the Painter, steals most of the focus. The side characters are mostly ignored and fade with the background. Despite the MC being fascinating, I’d love to see the others have more impact on the story. Otherwise, I enjoyed the fact that the MC was just a regular man, with no powers… nor… anything special at all.

Overall… The Painter is a very interesting experience for Royal Road. I’m thrilled to see more and more stories which aren’t focu on the LITRPG genre and anthors trying something new. Something artistic. Good times ahead.

BladeGrip
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

This story basically revolves around an ordinary painter who was aware that he was imprisoned in some kind of huge magical bubble which prevented him from wandering too far away from his hometown and the surrounding settlements. By chapter 6 something begins to happen and that would be an opportunity for him to break out. Perhaps.

Style: Written in Third-Person-Omniscient style, and it suffers from a little too much 'tell' than 'show'.  However, the author seems to get better by the third chapter onwards. I can't exactly describe it, but it felt better. Author might want to consider giving the earlier chapters more polishing, especially some paragraphs which were borderline wall of text.

Grammar: Nothing jarring. Full score by default.

Story & Character: It's... mundane. The main character is a painter and that's it. No magic skills, no combat power shown. Despite the work having a "High Fantasy" tag the experience felt like a low fantasy for me. Perhaps this will change over time, but that's what I feel according to everything I've read so far. Despite that, the story flow and characterizations are fine and look sufficiently realistic.

All in all, this kind of story is unfortunately not my cup of tea, but those who like it should find it pretty worthwhile.

NonbinaryFinery
Overall
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Story
Grammar
Character

Disclaimer: This is a review swap.

A painter who is mysteriously locked in place by unseen barriers, unable to leave the town where he lives. 

I will admit I got very pleasantly surprised. I did not know what I was expecting going in, but the Painter so far is a very charming read. The writer has a solid grip on the narrative and character-building and you get to slowly see the MC's life be explored with some unexpected twists and turns early on. 

It has a lot of personality in the portrayal of its main character, who is referred to as Paint or the Painter for the most part. I am pretty thrilled to read a story that centers not on some young farmboy turned legendary hero or similar. Instead, this fantasy story is centered around a painter who has a family and a life. So far, the main crux of the story as been exploring the MC's life and his struggle with the unseen force that keeps in place. 

The worldbuilding is subtle but strong. With few mentions of more fantastic things while the book is firmly rooted in more everyday thinking and tribulations.  But the fantasy is always there in the weave of the story with people reffering to dragons and demons. 

It has strong characterization of the MC, a longer spanning story than you first would imagine and I can't wait to read more.