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Aftermath
Chuck Wendig
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Samuel R. Delany
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Charles L. Grant

The Great Bazaar and Brayan's Gold

The Great Bazaar and Brayan's Gold - Peter V. Brett I know I can't be the only one who's annoyed with the title of this book. It's not that it's misleading (the two stories in the book are titled "The Great Bazaar" and "Brayan's Gold"), but the dang stories are published in the other order! Why not just call the book Brayan's Gold & The Great Bazaar? Was it because the fancy, embossed cover art would be all askew and not fit into the circle?

As mentioned, this book is a collection of two short stories, each of which could have been chapters out of The Warded Man, the first book in Brett's Demon Cycle. Each is a self-contained story featuring new characters, new locations, and new demons (the snow demons and clay demons, respectively), with their own plots, and each story features a little more about Arlen Bales. "Brayan's Gold" presents us with his first trip out as a messenger, long before he tattoos himself with the wards, and before he meets the Krasians, while "The Great Bazaar" presents us with how Arlen got the map to Anoch Sun, which was where he found the fighting wards and the spear. While they both could have fit into the novel, they would have felt a little out of place, so I can see why they weren't included there, but I also wonder if this small collection is really necessary.

The stories feel like deleted scenes from a movie that were added into the director's cut DVD release, in that they're kind of interesting, but not crucial to the overall story. The stories don't expand the character of Arlen at all, and there's not enough time in either story to really develop the new characters who are presented to us. As is typical with Brett's stories, the action sequences are done very well, with the fight scenes being particularly notable, but there's nothing necessary in either of these stories. "Brayan's Gold" shows us how honorable and principled Arlen is, but we've already discovered that if we've read The Warded Man. "The Great Bazaar" shows us how duplicitous and manipulative Abban can be, but again, we already know that if we've read The Desert Spear. Some of the character development is compacted to the point of not being believable (the character who runs the supply store in "Brayan's Gold" changes his mind pretty swiftly to accommodate the story, and the way Abban frames his competition strains credibility), but I think that's more an issue with the length of the stories than anything else. Brett usually takes a good chunk of a single novel to develop these characters, but here he only has about fifty pages, and I think he relies on our familiarity with the main characters to drive the rest of the story. I mean, Arlen and Abban feel fully realized, while the rest of the characters do not.

It's obvious that this collection is geared toward people who are already fans of the series, but even then, they just aren't good enough to hold up against what Brett can do when he has the freedom of an entire novel to develop his stories. It's a short read, and I doubt I'd be able to convince fans of the series not to read it, but if you're waffling over whether or not to read these stories, as I was, rest assured that you won't be missing anything significant if you decide against it.