On Tuesday, Tachyon Publications will release a new paperback version of Peter V. Brett’s THE GREAT BAZAAR & BRAYAN’S GOLD, two short stories from the world of the Demon Cycle, each recalling an adventure during Arlen Bales’s time as a Messenger. Because this fundamental and transformative time period was somewhat abbreviated in the books, I was very excited to get a peek. And if that weren’t enough, Brett also included a handful of little lagniappes to sweeten the deal.
BRAYAN’S GOLD is the story of Arlen’s first major run as a Messenger. Although it was largely inspired by a challenge to write about Arlen’s encounter with a snow demon, what I really enjoyed was seeing Arlen Bales in full on Chaotic Good mode. there’s danger and suspense and betrayal, but for me, the best part was seeing Arlen being Arlen: good, stubborn, driven, contrarian.
THE GREAT BAZAAR is as much Abban’s story as it is Arlen’s. Originally slated to be a chapter in THE WARDED MAN (THE PAINTED MAN in the UK), this story is told from Abban’s point of view, revealing the rules and corruption of Krasian society. It’s also about Abban and Arlen’s relationship–two outsiders, a khaffit and the Parchin, whose interests align enough for them to work together, Abban for profit, Arlen for the lost city of Anoch Sun. The story is also another showcase for Arlen’s Chaotic Good alignment as he bristles under many of the rules and structures of Krasia.
In addition to the two stories, a handful of extras are included. Each story has a brief introduction to give readers a bit of context and a glimpse behind the curtain of Brett’s writing process. And two chapters, one a prologue about Arlen and a chapter about Leesha, as well as introductions to the chapters and why they were cut. There is also a Krasian dictionary (which can be found in most of Brett’s later books) and a ward grimoire (which is something I’ve wanted to see for quite some time).
Writing interstitial short stories between novels is becoming increasingly popular among fantasy authors–a trend I couldn’t enjoy more (I love a little snack between courses). While these were originally (I believe) written after Brett’s first novel, I read them just now (in the gap before Brett’s last novel in the Demon Cycle series). But my enjoyment wasn’t lessened having read them so “late.” It’s nice to revisit Arlen as a young Messenger full of passion and eagerness to take the fight to the demons, Leesha when she’s just getting a handle on her new authority, and Abban when he was just a small-time schemer. More importantly, as someone who’s very interested in process, I really liked the introductions and commentary by Brett.
I had to travel recently for work, and I hate being cramped on planes. Having this to read definitely had me smiling throughout my flight. Anyone who has enjoyed the Demon Cycle so far would enjoy these stories. It’s a perfect little treat while waiting for the next novel. But for those who have never read Brett, I’d suggest picking up THE WARDED MAN/THE PAINTED MAN first. Just jump right in. You’re going to love these stories and these characters.