Like many people, I’m on a budget. Entertainment is one of the things I cut first when money gets tight, so I was happy to find The Painted Darkness as a free eBook. The plot sounded interesting, and, though I’d not heard of the author, I thought I would give it a shot. Unfortunately, Freeman’s novel fell flat for me.
The main issue I have with The Painted Darkness is that I don’t feel like Henry, the main character, is well-constructed. Freeman doesn’t even give him a last name, as far as I can see. We don’t see him interact with people, for the most part. We find out that he’s an artist, but other than that, there’s nothing that gives us insight into the character until, arguably, the very end. Whether the reader feels that the little he gives us there is satisfactory is up to them; for me, it was not. Henry feels generic in the extreme.
A secondary problem with The Painted Darkness is the split structure. Freeman takes us back and forth between Henry at five years old and Henry today. While some books employ this tactic in an effective way, the present-day plot line, in my opinion, relies too much on what happened while Henry was a child. Spending more time with the childhood story before starting to intersperse the adult Henry would have been a much more satisfactory way to present the novel as a whole.
The Painted Darkness also has a problem with predictability. I was able to guess at a lot of the events before they occurred. While that might mean I’m a genius, I somehow doubt it. I like to be able to feel sometimes clever by being able to predict one or two things ahead of the reveals. I don’t like knowing the ending when I’m a good ways away from it.
The last main drawback to the book is the overall quality of the writing. I feel bad for saying this, but, for someone who has apparently published at least one other novel and several short stories, his word usage is not good. While I was reading, I noticed a lot of things that prevented me from enjoying the book. This is not a good thing.
I’m not saying I could do better — on the contrary, I don’t think I’d fare much better if I were writing a piece of fiction. I just don’t think I have that in me, no matter how much I wish the opposite were true. As the old adage says, however, I don’t need to be a chicken to know what an egg is. I have a feeling that Freeman is, like a lot of us, full of great ideas. His execution, however, leaves a lot to be desired.