A warrior haunted by his past, Salim is a problem-solver for a church he hates, bound by the death goddess to hunt down those who would rob her of her due. Such is the case in the desert nation of Thuvia, where a merchant on the verge of achieving eternal youth via a magical elixir is mysteriously murdered, his soul stolen
from the afterlife. The only clue is a magical ransom note offering
to trade the merchant’s spirit for his dose of the fabled potion. But
who could steal a soul from the boneyard of Death herself ? Enter
Salim, whose unique skills should make solving this mystery a
cinch. There’s only one problem: The investigation is being financed
by the dead merchant’s stubborn and aristocratic daughter—and
she wants to go with him. Together, the two must embark on a tour
of the Outer Planes, where devils and angels rub shoulders with
fey lords and mechanical men, and nothing is as it seems.
From noted author and game designer James L. Sutter comes
an epic mystery of murder and immortality, set in the award-winning
world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
Death's Heretic was definitely one of the stronger examples of game world fiction that I've read, and it kept me turning pages till the end, but I was often left with a feeling of "I wish."
The strong point of the book was the engaging and well developed protagonist, Salim. A former citizen of the godless nation of Rahadoum, and a former hunter of priests, Salim finds himself in the ironic position of serving Pharasma, the Goddess of Birth, Death and Prophecy. Although the reader is sometimes caught in the position of wishing Salim would just get over himself long enough to enjoy life, he is consistently written and three dimensional. The romance he develops with the story's female lead is also well played out.
Another strong point of the book was the argument it made for atheism in a world where the gods leave no possible doubt about their existence. I want to give examples here, but since it is such a good part of the book I will leave it for the reader to discover there.
I don't read a lot of gaming fiction, but part of the reason I picked this book up was to learn more about the world of Golarion. The novel is set in the middle-eastern inspired nation of Thuvia, and I looked forward to seeing that area of Golarion developed.
Unfortunately, the story didn't go that way, instead spending much of its second act romping through various outer planes, which I thought robbed the book of some of its emotional core. I'm not a personal fan of planes traveling adventures as the outer planes are so strange that they make telling a human story difficult. They also eat up a lot of page space in descriptions of their weirdness, when I would rather have read about Salim dealing with the intriguing but undeveloped flesh and blood adversaries we are teased with early on in the story.
I would give this story four stars for the quality of writing and the very interesting protagonist, but I can't go that high for the overall review because I feel that the story never really found its center. The parts that take place on Golarion are by far the best in the book, but just as soon as we have one to appreciate, off Salim goes on another exploration / exposition of another plane of existence.
Still, I would read more of Salim's adventures. I just hope he stays a little closer to home next time.
I was captured by the book from page one. I had been having tough time with books maintaining my interest but it was this book that brought me back for the dark place of non-readers. Since executing every page of awesomeness I have read and enjoyed 6 more pathfinder books and 4 other books. In the end I still love this book the most. I am actually writing this book after just finishing the book for a 2nd time. Thank you
Salim has a secret. And- he also has a public identity- that of hunting down undead and heretics for the Goddess of Death. Salim doesn’t much care for this relationship, and the how & why of how he got his position and how he got so very good at it is part of his secret. One thing is no secret- altho Salim works for the Goddess, he still doesn’t worship her or any gods and is not happy with his “deal”.
James Sutter is the co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game , and this book is set in that fantasy world. But you don’t need to be a RPG player to enjoy this solid fantasy novel. What sets James’s writing style apart from so many others in the field is the richness of his descriptions- you can close your eyes and see what he has put on the page in bare words. This gets fun & interesting when Salim’s adventures here takes him out of the desert city where his recent “job” is set to some other planes of existence, including the plane where the dead are judged.
Besides the great descriptions, James has created an unforgettable, compelling, realistic and thoroughly three dimensional protagonist/hero. No ‘cardboard cut-out here”. Salim is grim, brave, fast with a sword, and has a dark history and of course- the secret I mentioned about. I want to read more about Salim.
Plenty of action and magic and even a romance, which altho starts out rather predictable- takes a few different and unexpected turns.
Very readable, a real page-turner. Suggested for any fantasy reader above the age of 12.
I've been getting into the Pathfinder novels recently and when this book was lent to me I admit I wasn't too excited about reading it. It didn't look all that interesting. As soon as I started reading it my opinion changed. The book almost instantly drew me in. There were a few parts of the book that could have been cut out or shortened but the plot was interesting and original enough. I thought the relationship between the two main characters was a little too cliche, as was the main female character herself, but she was a strong female lead which is okay in my book.
I liked how the main character's tortured past wasn't revealed until late in the book, and that the ending wasn't exactly what I expected. The author did a good job of building suspense and interest in his characters and not giving the readers all the information in one anticlimactic rush.
I thought the plane-hopping aspect of the book was pretty cool, since that's something Pathfinder players rarely get to experience until after level 20.
One more thing I liked about Death's Heretic was that I got to learn about Rahadoum. Several months ago I played in a few PFS games with a Rahadoumi character and, not knowing much about the culture, thought that the idea of an atheist in an obviously polytheistic universe was silly. Now that I understand the philosophy behind their anti-gods stance it makes more sense and I respect that character and player much more for the choice. I sort of want to roll up a Rahadoumi now myself.
Down These Mean Planes Must Go A Man Who Is Himself Not Mean
I wasn’t sure on how to approach Death’s Heretic. I had heard nothing but good things about it, but I’ve been burned by gaming fiction before and for ten bucks I wasn’t sure I was going to take the plunge. Well after reading it I’m kicking myself for not picking it up earlier, and if the rest of the Pathfinder books are half as good I might as well have my check direct deposited to Paizo.
Death’s Heretic does as fine a job capturing the spirit of Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler as any noir yarn spun. The language is crisp and the story moves right on along. This isn’t a heavy read by any means, yet it still captures something that many gaming fiction novels miss and that is a deep sense of pathos. Even in the first few pages of the book as the hero encounters ghouls there are moments where the character shows a deep seated sense of conscience without it becoming overblown, slogging angst. I was blown away at times that especially for a first book Mr. Sutter certainly showed an insight into the human condition that should be applauded.
Overall a well written, fast paced book that scratches that lazy afternoon reading itch. The book shows Golarion and the planes beyond it as one worth exploring and that Paizo has a winner in its stable of writers in James Sutter. Here’s to hoping that he’s already at work on the sequel.