Book Review: The Great Bazaar & Brayan’s Gold by Peter V. Brett
Genre: Fantasy, Short Stories
Series: Book 1.5-1.6 of The Demon Cycle
Publisher: Tachyon (July 7, 2015)
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Every fan of Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle series should check out this collection. I promise you won’t regret it! Not only does The Great Bazaar & Brayan’s Gold contain two excellent short stories, it also features fun little extras like “outtakes” from earlier versions of The Warded Man and a ward grimoire complete with illustrations of the wards themselves. While longtime readers of the series will likely be the ones to get the most out of this volume, I believe it can also serve as a great introduction and the perfect jumping-on point for newcomers to the Demon Cycle.
Not usually being one to pick up short stories outside of main novels, I was really surprised how much I enjoyed this book. It probably helped that both The Great Bazaar and Brayan’s Gold take place during my favorite period of Arlen Bales’ life; that is, back when he was still a humble messenger traveling the world and going on his adventures, and before he was corrupted by demon’s flesh (and Renna Tanner – hey, I’m only being honest here) to become the Warded Man and the Deliverer.
While this one certainly isn’t required reading, the story Brayan’s Gold alone probably makes this book worth picking up. Read on for a more in-depth analysis of this book’s contents.
Arlen Bales, now 17, is an apprentice Messenger preparing for his first big assignment. But instead of a simple overnight trip, he and his companion are tasked to carry a dangerous cargo of thundersticks to Count Brayan’s gold mine, situated high up in the frozen mountains. The journey through the ice and snow will be treacherous, not to mention the threat of bandits on the road. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the giant rock demon known as One Arm still stalks Arlen every night, hungry for its revenge.
What can I say, but this version of Arlen is the character I first fell in love with: inexperienced, but determined; idealistic, but full of spirit; brave, but just a little touch insane. Best of all, it is Arlen’s story all his own, and it is amazing how much substance Brett was able to pack here in about 70 pages. For a short story, the plot is surprisingly rich with plenty of action and suspense, drama of human relationships, and of course, a heart-stopping showdown with a never-before-seen type of demon.
Its short length notwithstanding, Brayan’s Gold has become one of my favorite pieces of Demon Cycle-related fiction to date, and I can’t believe it took me this long to check it out. Loved it.
In the main series, Arlen finds the ruins of Anoch Sun, the ancient Krasian city in which he unearths the tomb of Kaji and retrieves the legendary warded spear. This great discovery, however, was actually preceded by a complex chain of events. The Great Bazaar tells how Arlen first managed to acquire the map to the ruins, a story that involves Abban, our favorite khaffit.
From the sound of things, Brett first wrote this story around 2009 or 2010, right around the time before The Desert Spear came out (and the story itself takes place somewhere between Chapters 16 and 17 in The Warded Man), so this was still relatively early in his writing career. It showed in the writing, which was laden in places with awkward exposition. This is also around the time when Arlen’s character started to become aggravating, when his obsession for wards began to take over his life, resulting in unnecessary risks.
The story was pretty decent though, with a very satisfying ending. It’s mostly filler, but I can’t deny that it was entertaining.
Deleted Scene: Arlen
Peter V. Brett made the right decision when he cut this following his editor’s advice. It would have felt out of place in the novel, though I appreciated Brett sharing the story about how his entire Demon Cycle series was born from the seed of this introductory scene. I can certainly understand the personal and emotional attachment to a piece like this, so even though it has no place in The Warded Man, it was still a fascinating little bonus.
Deleted Scene: Brianne Beaten
Brett explains that this was one of his favorite scenes, but since it added nothing to the narrative (it was supposed to show how badass Leesha had become, but it was already clear that Leesha was badass enough) he decided to cut it. It’s probably the right decision, though I wonder why he didn’t do the same for the latest installment of the series The Skull Throne, which I thought had its fair share of superfluous village scenes like this one too.
Brianne Beaten could have been a mini-story on its own, and it read like a classic deleted scene. A village woman who feels animosity towards Leesha finally swallows her pride and lets the young herb gatherer help her. Leesha ends up saving the day and shows just how hardcore she has become. Yeah, leaving this scene in probably would have been overkill. But again, this was a fascinating look behind-the-scenes at Brett’s writing process.
Krasian Dictionary and Ward Grimoire
The final sections of this book are mostly for reference. Readers already familiar with the series will know a lot of this information already, but the real treat are the illustrations of some the most common wards mentioned in the novels. The grimoire also kind of doubles up as a bestiary, useful if you need to brush up on your demons.
Final Thoughts: This edition of The Great Bazaar & Brayan’s Gold is a wonderful contribution to the world of the Demon Cycle, packed with bonus content-like material that enhanced my experience with the setting and characters. Filled with goodies for fans of the series and yet still accessible enough for new readers, this volume both thrilled and fascinated me. Highly recommended.