Messenger’s Legacy by Peter V. Brett: Review
|Book Name:||The Messenger's Legacy|
|Author:||Peter V. Brett|
|Publisher(s):||Subterranean Press (US & Global LTD Editions) / Harper Voyage (UK)|
|Formatt:||Hardback / Ebook|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Novella|
|Release Date:||30th November 2014|
Novellas are hot this year. Half a decade or so ago, before the eBook, few people would have expected that top-name authors would ever be releasing novellas at a steady rate. This year though we’ve had Kelley Armstrong, Brandon Sanderson, Martha Wells, Peter V. Brett, Patrick Rothfuss and so, so many more besides releasing stand-alone novellas that extend the world of their novels. For fans of novel-length series who want to learn a bit more about the characters or world that an author has created they are fantastic. For me though, what I’ve enjoyed most about the trend is getting to see the world away from the main characters and getting to take a look at how the ‘ordinary’ folk are affected away from the main action. I guess that as a Fantasy reader that ‘geek’ tenancy to need to know more than just the main storyline is strong in me – not only do I want to know the tale of the chosen one, but I want to know how events affected the chosen one’s uncle’s friend’s brother-in-law, because, essentially, he would be me!
It’s no secret that Peter V. Brett is one of Fantasy-Faction’s favourite authors. The extent to which I enjoyed his first book was one of the things that led me to start this blog. So, as you can imagine, when I heard Peter was releasing a third novella in ‘The Demon Cycle’ series and that it would feature – for the first time – a P.O.V. we’ve not encountered before, I had to get my hands on it. Quickly.
The novella focuses – initially at least – on a young boy named Briar Damaj who lives in a village very similar to the one that Arlen grew up in. The majority of people who live in this village are descendants of the people who lived in the village the generation before and they the generation before that. Although Briar’s mother is from the village, Briar’s father is an immigrant Krasian, meaning his skin is dark and his approach to life very different. Although he has tried his best to integrate and keeps his Krasian rituals to a minimum, the vast majority of locals distrust the whole family, who they see as outsiders. As a result Briar, for example, is known as Mudboy (due to his ‘muddy’ skin).
In terms of timeline, readers will easily be able to place the novella. I can’t tell you too much about how because it will spoil huge plot twists in book 2 and 3, but I can say that clues as to what happened (or did not happen) after the events that closed book 3 are in there. The most important thing to know about the timeline is that many of the events occur at a time where Krasian’s ‘can’ enter into Greenlander society. Of course, just because they ‘can’ doesn’t mean that they are welcome or trusted and as tensions rise due to the coming war its getting increasingly uncomfortable for them. We’ve gone over the derogatory references to the characters, but as well as that there are some very tense, very claustrophobic scenes involving every member of Briar’s family. Literature is always richer when it makes you think and Peat does a good job of making you consider how lonely and uncomfortable it must be for immigrants or people who are ‘different’ to integrate into a society that isn’t ready for them.
Something terrible happens during the course of the story and not feeling he can stay in the village anymore, Briar flees into the Bogs to live on his own. You may remember Arlen did something similar in the ‘The Demon Cycle’ novels, but he was a skilled warder, Briar is a child with little more than a few years watching his mother healing people using herbs to keep him alive. Well, that and a couple of pieces of advice his father gave him from his time living within Krasian society.
As we know, Peter likes to play around with P.O.V.s in his novels and he does so in this novella too. We go from a young boy to a retiring man – the retiring messenger who served as mentor to Arlen Bales nonetheless. Those familiar with the series will know that the life of a messenger is one filled with danger, excitement and – usually, but not always – money, drink and women. Well, a life of hard grinding and indulgence has taken its tole on Ragen Messenger, but that doesn’t mean he is all that happy about retirement. Taking up a comfy seat at home after years of going nose-to-nose with demons and charging around exciting news places isn’t sitting well with him. So, when a letter arrives explaining that a young boy – the son of an old friend – has gone missing, but that he perhaps could be found, Ragen sees it as his duty to travel to the far away village and take charge of the rescue attempt (a sole effort seeing as no one else really cares that a ‘mudboy’ may or may not be dead).
One of the things I don’t think Peter gets quite enough credit for is the readability of his prose. Often fantasy novels can take a while to get into, or at least adjust to, due to many writers choosing to use a more grandiose tone/voice. However, I’ve always found Peter’s work to be as easy to dip in and out of as other modern fantasy authors like Brent Weeks and Brandon Sanderson – this novella is no different. The thing that makes this all the more impressive is that Peter has invented a ton of new words unique to his societies (the second book needed a glossary), but because he has done it slowly and carefully we never feel lost or overwhelmed. There was never a point in this novella that the language use felt self indulgent, instead there is just enough foreign words in there to make Peter’s world feel deep, rich and authentic.
Wrongly, in my view, there have been people who’ve pointed fingers at Peter saying his women characters fall into stereotypes. I think perhaps the people who have expressed dislike of these elements would have been hushed by Inevra – who is about as complicated and as desirable to read about as any female character in fantasy – but if not you’re about to meet a number of female characters who will stamp these accusations out once and for all. Bravery comes in many forms, whether that is facing your fears, having the strength to support your family, control your anger for the sake of others – these ladies showcase as many, if not more, heroism than the guys and you can’t help but love and admire them for it.
Finally: no one really likes spending almost full novel price on novella length prose, do they? So, it’s up to the publishers to get creative and give you an extra incentive to buy. Most commonly this is in the form of enhanced presentation, something all of Peter’s novellas to date have really been able to capitalise on. Because Peter’s world is so dark and haunting, full of amazing and terrifying demons too, it is a dream project for a talented artist. Once again Peter has teamed up with Lauren K. Cannon (Vincent Chong also does the cover for the Limited Edition). It is obvious Lauren has a real love and understanding of Peter’s world. What I most enjoy about Peter’s world is the dark atmosphere that constantly surrounds his characters and yet the characters themselves being rays of hope within that world. Lauren captures the terror that the demons bring, their aura, but also the brightness and strength of his characters. The one image I’m particularly fond of is also one that conveys my favourite scene: it is of Elissa who most (in the novel) would expect to shy away from a demon meeting its gaze in defiance. The artwork and the prose work together to give you a sense of the anger that this particular character feels for the demons who force her to live half her life in fear and confined.
If you love Peter V. Brett’s previous work then this novella will be exactly the kind of thing you need to calm your cravings for the forth book, The Skull Throne (due out next year). It’s more than that though. It’s a piece of writing where we get to spend time in Peter’s world away from the heroes with incredible powers and see that – as in real life – even the ‘ordinary folk’ have heroic tales to tell in troubled times. Friendship, love, bravery and survival against the odds are key themes in all of Peter’s work and you will find them weaved artistically within this novella – a wonderful addition to ‘The Demon Cycle’ canon.
To pre-order your copy I suggest you visit Subterranean Press who do the best versions of this book. In the UK, Harper Voyager are also releasing a hardback of which the cover will match the dual collection of The Great Bazaar and Brayan’s Gold that was released last year.