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Goblin

JoelF847's page

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16. RPG Superstar 2013 Star Voter, 2014 Star Voter. Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber. Pathfinder Society Member. 3,685 posts (3,746 including aliases). 4 reviews. 1 list. 1 wishlist. 4 Pathfinder Society characters. 4 aliases.



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Another great R&V adventure

*****

Dave Gross does it again! Another excellent entry in the adventures of Radovan and Varian, and the Pathfinder Tales series as a whole. This time picks up about a year after the previous book, Queen of Thorns, and has R&V heading to the Worldwound, a land plagued by demons. Along the way, the re-unite with their companion Oparal, the elf paladin, who gets promoted this time around to a main POV character. It was especially amusing reading her views on both R&V. Not as amusing as the third POV character from Master of Devils, but still a good addition. In addition, Gross weaves in an interesting cast of supporting characters, while combining elements from past books and stories in a way still very accessible to a new reader.

While the plot involves seeking a rare tome of twisted magic that might be able to help close the portal to the abyss that the demons are invading through, the core of the story is really about pushing the main characters to their limits and having them discover hidden truths about their innate natures. At the end of the book, there are some major changes to the characters (while still keeping true to their personalities.) I eagerly look forward to the next book, to see how these changes are further developed. I'm predicting either "Emperor" or "Ace" as part of the title.


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*****

The continuing adventures of Varian and Radovan continue, this time as they journey to the elven realm of Kyonin to get Varian's family heirloom carraige repaired. Of course, the duo are unable to travel to exotic lands without getting entangled in mysteries of the past and conspiracies of the current day. Along the way, they have to deal with spiteful and capricious elves, rabid demons, and a hidden power deep in the elven forrest. The alternating point of view chapters between Varian and Radovan provide a deeper insight into their characters, and a varied outlook on the other characters. Both are exceeding entertaining narrators with different views of the world as well as unique senses of humor, as Dave Gross provides another excellent dive into the world of Golarion with great attention to detail for both the lore of the world, and keeping within and building upon the Pathfinder RPG system rules. I'm also happy to say that this time around Varian and Radovan spend the entire book together, rather than having separate but interlinked stories.


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Master of Characters

*****

Dave Gross hit another home run with Master of Devils. This next full length novel adventure of Radovan and Count Jeggare takes things to a whole new level. The book sends them to another continent, where they must not only deal with the challenges before them, but with an entirely different culture, deriving from a very different fantasy tradition than the western fantasy roots that they are used to.

This is true not only for them, but for most readers (myself included.) While I know some of the basics of Asian fantasy and mythology, I'm unfamiliar with most of the details. That being said, Master of Devils did a wonderful job of taking the unfamiliar, and making it both accessible and exciting. By having the main characters be fish out of water as well, it allowed them to voice some of the common reactions that a reader more familiar with western fantasy would. When Radovan realizes that his mentor/companion Burning Cloud Devil's use of the word "heroes" doesn't match the definition he's used to, he says so, just like the reader does. It's like having a guide to the land of Tian Xia who is learning about it and confused by it along with the reader, but has to make sense of it to get along. Master of Devils seems to hit all of the main tropes I'm familiar with, from hopping undead, courtly intrigue, acrobatic martial arts using many exotic weapon (monk's spade for the win!), nature spirits, supernatural martial arts powers with poetic names, and more.

Also, Dave again does an exemplary job of staying true to the game mechanics of the RPG, without them being intrusive to the story, and seeming to simply be a natural part of the world. For game based fiction, this is a huge plus, and really helps add to the verisimilitude of the world and game, both in the novel and when playing the RPG.

This novel also sees the continued use of the alternating POV characters each chapter, like its predecessor, Prince of Wolves. While some are put off by that, for me, it allows a more intimate view of the main characters, and gives the reader twice the insight as to the situation they're in. Also, in this book, a new 3rd POV character is presented, which was a great surprise, and is now my new favorite character. I don't want to spoil the surprise, but Dave nailed the POV perfectly - I kept wanting to speed through the Radovan and Jeggare chapters to hurry to every 5th chapter for more of this character and their adventures. While I do like the different POV chapters, the one thing that is missing is having more time when Radovan and Jeggare are working together. They spend almost the entire book separated. I hope the next book (there will be a next one, right?) has more time with them together, but alternating the POV, since they make such an interesting team, with very different perspectives and approaches to life.

Strongly recommended!


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A great introduction to the Tales line....

*****

Gross has written several shared world books before, for the Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms setting, and in Prince of Wolves, he has refined his craft.

Thrilling fights and magic? Check.
Engrossing mystery? Check
Rich story that draws you into the present and history of the setting? Check
Interesting and well developed characters? Check
Engaging moral dilemmas? Check

In addition to all of these critical elements to a great story, Gross writes for adults. This isn't dumbed down fantasy to appeal to the lowest common denominator, or sanitized to be kid-friendly (not that it's unfriendly to kids, though). His characters are adults, and they have adult interests and problems. They drink too much. They can be crude/uncomfortable talking about sex or with members of the opposite sex. They have a hard time overcoming their own personal demons. And, he manages to do all of this without sacrificing the exciting action and mystery elements that makes the book feel like a wonderful mix of Indiana Jones (the good ones) and Conan the Barbarian.

Another way that Gross presents twice as much detail about the world is by splitting the point of view throughout the book. Each of the two main characters alternates chapters as the primary point of view character, and describes events in the first person, which gives two very distinct views on the world, and their adventures. It's pretty easy to tell the characters apart, as one is a rough and tumble hellspawn street thug, and the other is a half elven aristocrat, witch gives them very different views of the world around them.

Finally, as a novel set in a game world, Gross does a great job of writing within the rules of the world (how magic, monsters, and other 'rules' work). At the same time, he doesn't go out of his way to point out just which rules he's using. There's a character who's described as a cleric, and witch. All of her powers and abilities in the book could be re-created using those rules from the Pathfinder game, not to mention as an oracle (which I happen to think is a better fit, even though it's not mentioned in the book at all.) However, it's never made clear in the book, or to the characters, exactly which one of those is correct. While it's great to the reader that the book conforms to the game rules, at the same time, it's not even apparent to the other characters in the book that there are game rules that define their lives, and that's the best way to write a successful book based on a game.

Strongly recommended.



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