Peter Brett’s two novellas, published by Subterranean Press, fill in some of the time gaps in his first novel The Warded Man. Where Brett’s novels are decidedly epic fantasy, both of his shorts ignore scope and grandiose machinations in favor of the here and now. Sword and sorcery is often described as a self-interested protagonist who does what needs doing while killing monsters. In this case it fits, but I would argue that the difference is much more about narrative pace and structure than any particular story element. In both senses, The Great Bazaar and Brayan’s Gold are decidedly sword and sorcery.
Great Bazaar, the first of the two novellas, fills in a gap of time that was left unexplained in Warded Man. It provides the method by which Arlen gains the financial backing for his later trips into the desert. The tale is essentially a quest to find a deserted city destroyed by demons decades previous and return with the beautiful pottery it was once famed for. It’s not particularly revelatory for Arlen, but it’s a fantastic look at Abban’s character, the shamed and wealthy Krasnian merchant who becomes so significant in The Desert Spear.
In contrast, Brayan’s Gold offers a lot more of the substance that makes up Arlen. It tells the story of his first run as a guild messenger. Apprenticed to a coward who runs at the first sign of trouble, Arlen is left to deliver the package himself up the side of a snowed in mountain. There he encounters both demon and human who are equally anathema to his world view. It’s an insightful look into the man Arlen becomes in the later half of Warded Man, notable for his complete unwillingness to compromise.
Above I mentioned that structure and pace are as indicative of sword and sorcery as the elements of the story. Both of Brett’s novellas demonstrate just that. Centered on Arlen, a clear goal, and a hurdle he must overcome, the narrative’s focus isn’t on texture and setting, but on character and challenge. In simplicity Brett finds a clarity of purpose often absent in complex and longer forms, making the reads compelling and satisfying despite their brevity.
Are Brayan’s Gold and The Great Bazaar slightly over priced? Well, perhaps. They certainly don’t come cheap at $4.99 (eBook). Given that The Warded Man or The Desert Spear run at $7.99 these days for four times the content, they’re a hard justification for someone looking to see what Peter V. Brett is all about. But that’s not the target audience. Instead, Subterranean Press offers to Brett’s die hard fans new insights into Arlen and fresh demons for him to fight. They aren’t meant to bring new fans to the Demon Cycle as much as they are an intermezzo. I feel confident in saying they are merely the prelude to an opus in the offing.
For fans with that frame of mind, the paired novellas are a dynamite investment that will only further whet the appetite for The Daylight War due out early next year.