In this final novella in the Demon Cycle fantasy, the world is overrun by bloodthirsty demons each night. 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.
Acting as a sort of denouement to the Demon Cycle, Barren is a novella with a lot of action packed into its slim volume ... I found this to be a strong novella and enjoyed Selia’s story, especially how she grows to accept that this new chance at life and love is something to be enjoyed, not something to run from. What I find unfortunate is the death of her love interest in the narrative from when she was a young girl. I understand, and I’m sure Brett’s readers understand, that the world of the Demon Cycle is dangerous, but to see—yet again—the death of a queer character used to motivate the protagonist is uncomfortable, and makes for an exhausting read at times ... Overall, Barren is a success, and if you’ve enjoyed Brett’s previous work, you’re going to enjoy this.
Overall, Peter Brett writes very well, adeptly putting you in Selia’s shoes and handling both timelines skillfully, so that the reader doesn’t feel confused as to what’s happening when. However, this book is likely to be more appreciated by established readers of the series than new ones. It would have been nice if there were some more demon battles as well ... More background on wards and how people use them would have been helpful for a Demon Cycle novice, too. If you’re a fan of Peter V. Brett and The Demon Cycle, then you’re definitely going to enjoy this novella set in the same world. If you’re new and considering giving it a try, perhaps it’s best to start with The Warded Man instead of Barren.
Old resentments reemerge in Tibbet’s Brook as a dangerous demon rises in Brett’s rich final novella set in the Demon Cycle fantasy universe ... Selia’s valiant struggle to serve her community and carve out space for her own happiness perfectly showcases Brett’s skill at creating an immersive fantasy world. Readers will be drawn into the hearts and minds of his characters and deeply moved by the themes of acceptance and community.