‘The Great Bazaar And Brayan’s Gold’ is a collection of short novellas and stories that are part of Peter V. Brett’s ‘Demon Cycle’.
Having finished ‘The Warded Man’ only yesterday, I was eager to read anything set in Peter V. Brett’s world, particularly if it was an Arlen story. ‘Brayan’s Gold’ fit the bill perfectly. Set during Arlen’s apprenticeship to Cob, ‘Brayan’s Gold’ tells the tale of Arlen’s first encounter with a fabled snow demon.
Arlen has undertaken a few trips to the Duke’s mines but, since being rescued on the road at age twelve, he hasn’t travelled overnight, so he’s pretty excited. Fans of ‘The Warded Man’ and ‘The Demon Cycle’ will smile fondly in reminiscence of the younger Arlen. When the scheduled run is postponed so they might take a shipment of thundersticks farther into the mountains to Brayan’s Gold, Arlen is fairly bursting with eagerness. Ten days on the road! The messenger he is to accompany is harder to convince, but enough gold to pay his bar tab and settle him into retirement proves to be the right price.
‘Brayan’s Gold’ being a novella, I don’t want to give any more of the story away. Suffice to say, it’s as a good a read, with plenty of action and adventure as well as another look at Arlen’s keen sense of justice. There might also be another encounter with One Arm, the rock demon he cripples in ‘The Warded Man’. As an introduction to ‘The Demon Cycle’, the novella works well. Arlen is an engaging hero. I enjoyed the chance revisit his character, seeing as he changes so much after his apprenticeship. ‘Brayan’s Gold’ is the perfect episode to remind us just who Arlen is.
Each story in this volume is prefaced by an introduction. In introducing ‘The Great Bazaar’, Brett explains how writing a novel is as much about what you leave out as what you put in. In a story spanning fourteen years, this is particularly important. Arlen, Leesha and Rojer’s journeys to adulthood are an important part of ‘The Warded Man’, but not every day, month or year needs to be accounted for. In skipping much of Arlen’s time as a messenger, Brett was better able to show the contrast of who he became. Still, those years were obviously filled with great stories and authors love nothing more than telling stories.
In ‘The Warded Man’, finding the lost city of Anoch Sun is a turning point for Arlen. ‘The Great Bazaar’ is the story of how he got the map. Maybe. Abban has given Arlen the map to a deserted hamlet and a promise any pottery he finds there will bring a great price. Arlen does find the pottery but also a type of demon he has not encountered before. Upon his return to Krasia, Arlen takes Abban to task for this and he effects surprise that Arlen has never heard of this particular type of demon. In recompense, they agree on a new exchange: a book of wards for the demons plaguing the desert and a map of the location of the fabled city of Anoch Sun. Obtaining this book and map are not a matter of simple barter, however.
What makes this short novella worth the read is the opportunity to spend more time with Abban, the merchant Arlen befriends in Fort Krasia. The scenes from his point of view offer a unique insight to a culture that obviously fascinates the author as much as it does Arlen. There is also plenty of excitement. I flipped through the pages in less than an hour and immediately moved on to the other two stories included in this volume, which are both deleted scenes from ‘The Warded Man’. Brett’s notes detail the reasons they were cut and his excitement at finally being able to share them.
‘The Great Bazaar And Brayan’s Gold’ is rounded out by a Krasnian Dictionary – useful in preparing the reader for the next book in ‘The Demon Cycle’, ‘The Desert Spear’ – and an illustrated guide to many of the Wards.
While this collection of stories may serve as an introduction to ‘The Demon Cycle’, I do think they’ll be more appreciated by fans. For me, they bridge the gap nicely between the first and second books of the series, even if the stories are all set during the time period covered by ‘The Warded Man’. I hope Peter V. Brett is inspired to write more short adventures for Arlen and his companions.
(pub: Tachyon. 186 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $14.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61696-197-8
pub: HarperCollins. 128 page hardback. £10.99 (UK) ISBN: 978-0-00749-253-4)