Monday, 9 July 2012

Book Review | Brayan's Gold by Peter V. Brett

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Humanity has been brought to the brink of extinction. Each night, the world is overrun by demons — bloodthirsty creatures of nightmare that have been hunting the surface for over 300 years. A scant few hamlets and half-starved city-states are all that remain of a once proud civilization, and it is only by hiding behind wards, ancient symbols with the power to repel the demons, that they survive. A handful of Messengers brave the night to keep the lines of communication open between the increasingly isolated populace.

Arlen Bales is seventeen, an apprentice Messenger in brand new armor, about to go out for the first time alongside a trained Messenger on a simple overnight trip. Instead Arlen finds himself alone on a frozen mountainside, carrying a dangerous cargo to Count Brayan’s gold mine, one of the furthest points in the duchy. And One Arm, the giant rock demon, hunts him still.

But Brayan’s Gold may offer a way for Arlen to be free of One Arm forever, if he is willing to wager his life on the chance...


There can be no question that Peter V. Brett told a terrific tale in The Painted Man, but it seems to me that the world he built therein stands as a rather more meaningful achievement than anything that could come of the hapless gallivanting of young Arlen Bales. First but not foremost, there is a certain purity to Brett's creation; a pervasive sense of innocence about this undiscovered country of his, in which demons wrought of untold elemental forces stalk the thick shadows, making Messengers such as Arlen the only real means of communication between city and town and temple. The wonderful world of The Painted Man practically demands further exploration, and in that regard, the author is glad to oblige.

Indeed, I count my blessings that this is the case, because I do not know that I want this world to move on as it does in The Desert Spear. I take no pleasure in the prospect of this essentially sweet and decent place being sullied by the sort of divisive developments I'm given to understand occur in the second volume proper of The Demon Cycle. But we need not dwell on the darker turns of The Desert Spear more than momentarily... I speak of them only to establish my affection for the time and tone of Brayan's Gold.

Like The Great Bazaar and Other Stories before it, Brayan's Gold is a sidequel of sorts, the events of which nestle neatly between the oft-expansive chapters of The Painted Man. There is, thus, little in the way of jeopardy in Brayan's Gold, except perhaps as regards those characters original to this striking and strictly limited novella from Subterranean Press — now available, here in the UK at least, as a markedly more affordable e-book. But even if danger is not exactly waiting in the wings, adventure surely is!

As yet only an apprentice Messenger, so the story goes, Arlen accepts a high-value commission to chauffeur a cart-load of thundersticks up to the mountaintop town of Brayan's Gold. He is of course waylaid by bandits on the road, and assaulted by corelings whenever the sun sets, but these obstacles he takes in his stride with all the self-assurance of a young man who will become a living legend. Arlen has not, however, accounted for a creature of the night unlike any other he has ever laid eyes on, for though "they say the higher mines are haunted by snow demons... with scales so cold your spit will crack when it hits them," the warded man in-the-making thinks that these are no more than old wives' tales.

They are not.

Brayan's Gold is a slightly more substantial narrative than that which formed the larger part of The Great Bazaar and Other Stories, and though it lacks that limited edition's various addenda, nine intricate interior illustrations by the talented Lauren K. Cannon more than make up for the absence of a grimoire or any so-called deleted scenes. There are too some lovely touches throughout the text of Brayan's Gold: characters and locales I expect will stay with me as much or more than any place or person from The Painted Man.

The rocky road to the mine is not as long a one as I might like, alas, but all the same, scattered about it are encounters and exchanges fit to set hearts and minds a-hammering; that there is inherently little real threat in evidence in Brayan's Gold does not take away one whit from the wondrous discovery of it all.

And that, right there, is why I mean to keep on reading Peter V. Brett, through the good times and the bad. The comparison may make leave it seeming dreadfully abbreviated, but I think Brayan's Gold speaks as clearly to Brett's talents as The Painted Man did, in its day.

In short, then: more of these, please!


Brayan's Gold
by Peter V. Brett

US Publication: January 2011, Subterranean Press

Buy this book from / IndieBound

Or get the Kindle edition

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