Hi! Now that The Core, the last book in the Demon Cycle, is in production, I’m hearing from new readers who have been waiting patiently for years so they could binge-read the whole series, as well as long-time fans planning a refresher read before the big finale. Some are noticing for the first time that there are Demon Cycle novellas in addition to the novels, and wondering how they fit into the larger story.
I’m here to help! What follows is a spoiler-free guide to binge-reading The Demon Cycle as one big story, as the Creator intended.
There are five novels and four novellas in The Demon Cycle. The main series novels are: The Warded Man, The Desert Spear, The Daylight War, The Skull Throne, and The Core. The companion novellas are: The Great Bazaar, Brayan’s Gold, Messenger’s Legacy, and Barren. For maximum effect, they should be read in the following order:
1) The Warded Man (known in the UK and Australia as The Painted Man) is the first novel. Warded Man introduces the world and works well as either a standalone book or part of a series. It is the shortest and tightest of my novels, following just three POV story arcs from beginning to a satisfying end. If you want a sense of what Peter V. Brett books are like without the commitment of reading a full series, Warded Man is your go-to. Makes a great gift!
If you choose to keep reading, two (optional) novellas tie into the story at this point—Brayan’s Gold and The Great Bazaar. In some markets and formats these two novellas are combined in one volume, in others they are sold separately. Like The Warded Man, these novellas are designed to introduce the world and act as standalone reads, but I think they are more impactful as part of the greater whole.
2) Brayan’s Gold is the most independent of the two novellas, both of which occur during Arlen’s pre-warded Messenger days. Brayan’s Gold chronicles Arlen’s first run as an apprentice in the Messenger’s Guild. Sent to escort a cart of explosives to Count Brayan’s remote goldmine, high on a frozen mountaintop, Arlen loses his partner, is hunted by bandits, and finds himself caught between desperate lovers.
Brayan’s Gold introduces Derek Gold and Stasy Talor, two supporting characters who nevertheless play important parts elsewhere in the series.
3) The Great Bazaar was my first novella, a book designed to bridge the gap between The Warded Man and its sequel, The Desert Spear. It details a story I wanted to include in Warded Man, but was forced to leave out due to pacing and space. While not an essential read, I think it sheds light on some important facts about the Arlen/Jardir conflict.
Great Bazaar tells the tale of another of Arlen’s Messenger runs, this one to a forgotten Krasian hamlet, where he unwittingly sets himself on the path to rediscover lost magics that will change the course of history. It is essentially chapter 16.5 of The Warded Man.
4) The Desert Spear is the second novel in the Demon Cycle, and (I am told) can be read without having read the first book (though I don’t advise it). Desert Spear opens with a new POV character, Ahmann Jardir, showing his rise to power before encountering Arlen in The Warded Man. From there the story syncs back up to the “present” where The Warded Man left off. Desert Spear is darker in tone than the first book, and sets the stage for the larger story. Like the first book, it has a firm ending that might allow a satisfied reader to take an exit ramp.
5) The Daylight War is the third novel in the series. Like Desert Spear, Daylight War begins with a new POV character, which might allow a new reader entry to the series, but when it rejoins the main story, new readers may have a more difficult time keeping up with some of the nuance and interpersonal drama of the story. Nevertheless, it is one of my absolute favorites, and I think you will love it, too. But be warned: Here be cliffhangers. You might want to have the next book handy, and count your blessings that you were not one of the heroic fans who had to wait 2 years to find out what happened next.
Legacy opens with another new character, Briar Damaj, serving as a palate cleanser after the startling finale of Daylight War. Briar’s story quickly interweaves with that of Ragen and Elissa from The Warded Man, as well as Derek Gold from Brayan’s Gold, all of whom will play important roles in things to come.
7) The Skull Throne is the fourth and penultimate novel in the series, which picks up immediately where Daylight War left off—characters still gasping in shock as their new reality slowly dawns on them. With power vacuums in both Thesa and Krasia, factions vie for power even as the demons gather. Political intrigue and betrayal abound, and the shocking end, while not a cliffhanger per se, will leave nevertheless leave you breathless.
Skull Throne introduces POV character Ashia, who plays a pivotal role moving forward.
The Core will resolve all the major storylines in the series, including those of Arlen, Jardir, Leesha, Inevera, and Renna. Most every named character from the series will make a cameo at least. No matter who your favorite is, they will be offered an opportunity for heroism, though not everyone will prove up to the task.
The story resolves at long last in the way I imagined more than a decade ago, and have been holding close to the vest. I am so excited to share it with you.
9) Barren (forthcoming, cover & pub date TDB) will be the final novella in the series. It takes place concurrently with the events of The Core, resolving the remaining open storylines in Arlen’s home town of Tibbet’s Brook, targeted by demons in our hero’s absence. Can the fractured folk of the Brook survive when a mind demon comes to call?