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 and killing humanity 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.
But there was a time when the demons were not so bold. A time when wards did more than hold the demons at bay. They allowed man to fight back, and to win. Messenger Arlen Bales will search anywhere, dare anything, to return this magic to the world.
Abban, a merchant in the Great Bazaar of Krasia, purports to sell everything a man’s heart could desire, including, perhaps, the key to Arlen’s quest.
To make things clear, The Great Bazaar is a short novella, but also contained here are two deleted scenes from the novel along with an appendix of Krasian phrases and what they mean plus a section on the various wards in the world of the Demon Cycle. Because of this it’s very difficult to go into too much detail without spoiling anything for those that haven’t read it. However, here’s a short bit about each of them:
The Great Bazaar
The highlight of this short book by far. It follows Arlen during his messenger days before he finds the old combat wards. It revolves around the Krasian city of the Desert Spear where Arlen once again meets up with Abban who provides him with details of a deserted Krasian settlement about a weeks journey from Krasia itself. Abban promises great finds here and specifies just what he could find, but not all is as easy as it seems and Arlen find himself caught off guard when he reaches the place Abban has told him about.
I really, really enjoyed this short story and thought it proved a very good foundation to head into The Desert Spear. Not only that, but seeing some more of a younger, pre-painted man Arlen was good. It also shows a little more of the relationship he has with Abban as well as a little more detail about the Krasian society. Loved it.
One deleted scene from The Painted man is just a little more character development for Leesha, but it works well and, in my opinion at least, could easily have been present in the first book. The second is Brett’s original opening chapter of The Painted Man, following Arlen as a child as he spends the day outside travelling as far as he dares from his home before turning around and returning before the fall of night. I think this scene was right to be cut from the final product as it’s a little too different to fit in well.
The Krasian and Wards appendices are also a nice little touch, but ultimately they don’t have the must-read factor of the main story present here. Worth seeing though and it makes up the pages in what could have been a too-short book.
I’m, as previously stated, a huge fan of The Painted Man, so my opinion of this will be biased. The Great Bazaar is worth reading and is a stand-out story that really hits the mark. It could also be seen as a good introduction the the series, although I would recommend reading The Painted Man first. My only disappointment is that it’s such a short collection. The ‘other stories’ of the title is a little misleading as they are simply a couple of deleted scenes and I would have loved to see another couple of stories focusing on Arlen’s messenger days here. Also, Brett’s introductions and reasons why the scenes are a nice inclusion and add that little extra to the collection.
At the end of the day I came away full satisfied and as a fan of Brett’s work I would recommend this in a heartbeat to other fans. It’s worth the price and, as always with Subterranean Press’ releases, it’s a high quality book. Fans should check it out for sure.
For those interested you should really check out Peter V Brett’s site where you can find the two above excisions along with some others from The Painted Man.