In the Village Where Brightwine Flows

You probably remember that I gave Bradley P. Beaulieu's The Lays of Anuskaya series glowing reviews, going as far as to claim that it was one of the most interesting fantasy series I had read in the last decade or so. It was dark, ambitious, complex, and populated with a great cast of characters that leap off the pages. Even for jaded readers looking for a quality read, that book sequence was different from everything else on the market and definitely worth checking out.

I was looking forward to whatever the author would publish next, but you likely also recall that I never could get into Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. I felt that it featured none of the depth, the great worldbuilding, or the superior characterization. Everything was too black or white for my taste, and the protagonists featured none of the complexity and moral ambiguity that made characters like Nikandr Khalakovo, Atiana Vostroma, Nasim, Soroush, Rehada, and Styophan Andrashayev such unforgettable people. This was especially true of Çeda, who was too badass for her own good, and I found it impossible to care for or root for her.

And yet, although it wasn't perfect, I enjoyed Beaulieu's Middle Eastern setting. I wasn't in any hurry to give subsequent novel-length installments in The Song of the Shattered Sands series a shot any time soon, I was intrigued by this new novella.

Here's the blurb:

Street urchins have been turning up missing in the great desert city of Sharakhai. Few care until the son of one of the city’s richest patrons goes missing as well.

The apothecary named Dardzada wants nothing to do with it, but his shrewd mind and skills as an apothecary make him indispensable to his cruel half-brother Layth, the captain of the guard tasked with solving the mystery.

When Layth insists he look deeper into the kidnappings, Dardzada is drawn into a struggle much larger than he ever anticipated, and he soon realizes it will take all his wits to save the victims and himself.

In the Village Where Bright Wine Flows is a stand-alone work that one can read without having read Twelve Kings in Sharakhai and its sequels. I mean, you'll miss a few nuances regarding the characters. But nothing that would prevent you from enjoying the tale in its entirety. Mind you, I haven't read With Blood Upon the Sand and Of Sand and Malice Made, so perhaps I did miss some myself. To all ends and purposes, this novella appears to be a side story that is self-contained and can be enjoyed on its own. That's how it worked out for me, in any case.

Dardzada, the mysterious apothecary who deals with the Moonless Host introduced in Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, takes center stage. And since he proved to be one of the most interesting characters from that book, this was what made me want to give this novella a try. More than just an apothecary, this brilliant and crafty man will unveil a dangerous secret when he investigates the kidnapping and the murder of an adolescent boy who fell in with the wrong crowd. As Dardzada gets closer to the truth, he'll soon realize that his own life could be in danger.

The pace of In the Village Where Bright Wine Flows is quite fluid, which came as a surprise. Bradley P. Beaulieu's works have always been slow-moving affairs, mostly because he's laying a lot of groundwork for what is to come, or he's weaving various threads to bring everything together later on. The novella-length format precludes that sort of approach and the rhythm keeps the tale progressing at a good clip.

Street gangs, drugs, corruption, murder; In the Village Where Bright Wine Flows has all that and more. The story comes together nicely the closer you get to the endgame and this short fiction piece packs a powerful punch at the end.

In the Village Where Bright Wine Flows is a nice addition to The Song of the Shattered Sands series that further fleshes out Dardzada. But as a novella-length stand-alone, it's the perfect opportunity for potential readers who have yet to give Bradley P. Beaulieu a shot to do so.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

You can download this new novella for about 2.99$: Canada, USA, Europe

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