I'm way behind on my Peter V. Brett reading, with no excuse to offer to explain this. And with the fourth volume coming out in a couple of months, I reckon I will have to do something about this soon. Still, having enjoyed both of the author's previous novellas, The Great Bazaar and Other Stories and Brayan's Gold, I decided to give Messenger's Legacy a shot when it showed up in my mailbox.
If, like me, you are not up to date with Brett's Demon Cycle, keep in mind that this novella contains some spoilers as to what has been taking place in the main series. With only the first installment under my belt, I'm not yet sure how much of a major spoiler this will turn out to be. So please be aware that you should have read up to The Desert Spear and maybe even The Daylight War before tackling Messenger's Legacy.
Here's the blurb:
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. Briar Damaj is a boy of six in the small village of Bogton. Half Krasian, the village children call him Mudboy for his dark skin. When tragedy strikes, Briar decides the town is better off without him, fleeing into the bog with nothing but his wits and a bit of herb lore to protect him. After twenty years, Ragen Messenger has agreed to retire and pass on his route to his protégé, Arlen Bales. But for all that he’s earned the rest, he has no idea what to do with the rest of his life. When he learns Briar, the son of an old friend, is missing, Ragen is willing to risk any danger to bring him safely home. Messenger's Legacy will be amply illustrated by Lauren K. Cannon, with different dust jackets for the trade and limited editions, nine full-page interior black-and-white illustrations, and a full-color frontispiece exclusive to the limited edition.
As was the case with Brett's The Great Bazaar and Other Stories and Brayan's Gold, this latest novella is part of a vaster story arc. Unlike its predecessors, however, Messenger's Legacy doesn't quite work as well as a stand-alone. This is probably due to the fact that this novella was born from material originally cut from the manuscript during the writing of The Daylight War. One portion, Mudboy, first appeared in Shawn Speakman's anthology Unfettered and didn't really work on its own. The folks at Subterranean Press then gave Brett the opportunity to elaborate and tell Briar's early tale in full. But for all that, Messenger's Legacy is not as fluid as the previous novellas. But since this protagonist will be featured in the forthcoming The Skull Throne, I figure that the author needed to introduce him to his readers beforehand.
At the beginning, Brett focuses on Briar Damaj's POV. Living in a small hamlet, as a half-Krasian he is known as Mudboy because of the color of his skin. The author does a good job setting the mood as we learn more about the family life and how they are perceived by their fellow villagers. But when tragedy strikes, the young boy will have no choice but to flee and try to survive as best he can. Then the story shifts to another POV, that of Ragen, a retiring Messenger about to pass his route to his ward, Arlen Bales. When Ragen received a letter revealing that the son of an old friend may have survived a tragedy that killed the rest of his family, he sets out to attempt to rescue him. Elissa, his wife, doesn't get her own point of view, but she plays an important role in this tale. Sadly, I found her a bit too clichéd, what with the loving but tough woman act.
The other two novellas gave Brett a chance to explore a different locale from his universe, while telling a tale that helped flesh out one of his main protagonists even more. That's not really the case in this one, or at least not as much. Having said that, the prose does manage to capture the author's knack for creating a dark atmosphere, one in which the characters act as beacons of light offering a brighter future to come.
All in all, though it doesn't stand as well on its on, Messenger's Legacy should nevertheless appeal to Peter V. Brett's numerous fans, especially since it features one of the characters which will appear in The Skull Throne.
The final verdict: 7/10
For more info about this title, visit the Subterranean Press website. Or you can download it for 5.99$ here.