I continue to be way behind on my Peter V. Brett reading, with no excuse to offer to explain this. And now that the sequence is complete, I figure I will have to do something about this sooner rather than later. Still, having enjoyed all of the author's previous novellas, I was happy to give Barren a shot when I was offered an early read.

If, like me, you are not up to date with Brett's Demon Cycle, keep in mind that this novella contains minor spoilers as to what has been taking place in the main series. In any event, I'm not sure why anyone uninitiated would want to read Barren before the Demon Cycle installments, as it's meant to sort of fill in the blanks regarding some characters and storylines. Hence, I reckon this one to be for existing Brett fans and not for newbies.

Here's the blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Peter V. Brett returns to his groundbreaking Demon Cycle series with this enthralling novella—the latest story set in his much-loved fantasy world.

Each night, the world is overrun by bloodthirsty demons. For centuries, humanity survived only by hiding behind defensive wards—magical symbols with the power to repel the demons. Now, the rediscovery of long-forgotten combat wards has given them the magic they need to fight back.

In Tibbet’s Brook, the fighting wards have brought change, but the factions and grudges of a troubled past remain. Selia Square, the woman they call Barren, has long been the force that holds the Brook together. As a terrifying new threat emerges, she rallies her people once again.

But Selia has a past of her own. And in a small community the personal and the political can never be divided. If Tibbet’s Brook is to survive, Selia must uncover memories she has buried deep—the woman she once was, the woman she once loved—and retell their story.

As was the case with Brett's The Great Bazaar and Other Stories and Brayan's Gold, understandably this latest novella is part of a vaster story arc. And unlike Messenger's Legacy, Barren worked well as a stand-alone. In all likelihood due to the fact that this latest work doesn't contain important spoilers like its predecessor. Indeed, Barren is meant more to further flesh out the main protagonist, Selia Square.

There is only one point of view and it's that of Selia. The woman is Tibbet's Brook's Speaker. Her mandate demands that she balance what is often small town bickering and politicking while coordinating the community's struggles against the nightly demon attacks. As a lesbian in such a small rural environment, Selia's sexuality and how it affects how she is perceived are at the heart of the tale that is Barren.

The structure of the novella follows two different timelines. The first features an older Selia, the Speaker in her seventies, having a secret love affair with a much younger woman. The second occurs fifty years earlier and essentially recounts Selia's backstory and that of the Square Girls' Club. And though protecting the town against demons come every nightfall is part of the plot in both timelines, ultimately Barren is more about the exploration of social politics and sexual persecution in a small, rural community.

These novellas give Peter V. Brett a chance to explore a different locale from his universe, while telling a tale that helps flesh out one of his main protagonists even more. And as was the case with Messenger's Legacy, Barren once again captures the author's knack for creating a dark atmosphere, one in which certain characters act as beacons of light offering a brighter future to come.

In the end, Barren should appeal to Brett's numerous fans as they eagerly await his new series set in the same universe.

The final verdict: 7/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

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