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Pathfinder Tales: Death's Heretic

****½ (based on 41 ratings)
Pathfinder Tales: Death's Heretic
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by James L. Sutter

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.

400-page mass market paperback

ISBN–13: 978-1-60125-369-9
ePub ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-370-5

Download a free sample chapter by clicking here! (45 KB zip/PDF)

Death's Heretic is sanctioned for use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. Its Chronicle Sheet and additional are a free download (229 KB zip/PDF).

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Tales Subscription.

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Are there errors or omissions in this product information? Got corrections? Let us know at webmaster@paizo.com.

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Product Reviews (41)
1 to 5 of 41 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | next > last >>

Average product rating:

****½ (based on 41 ratings)

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****( )


Great insight into Golarion, less into characters

***( )( )

As a whole this was fairly passable, if nothing to really get excited about. There's a whirlwind of locales from Golarion that are visited and then left immediately, but like those locales, it's neither here nor there.

What really drags the story down is the difficulty Sutter has with making his characters... actually like each other, I guess. On paper, they seem like they could be very interesting, but in practice they're dry, inconsistent, and I really do struggle to understand why they like each other as *people*.

The main character, Salim, is an atheist that is, ironically, as sanctimonious and insufferably preachy as any paladin - to the point that he even acknowledges the size of the chip on his shoulder - and usually presents as an unwashed, surly, and disagreeable character that is constantly lecturing and/or preaching to others. Sutter's female characters are really into that, I guess, because they all take to him almost instantly. I honestly struggle to see why. Salim genuinely does not have friends, nor is there any explanation as to why the few people he does interact with like or care about him at all.

The women aren't particularly better. The female love interest has "love interest" written across her young, beautiful body from the moment she's introduced as such, and there's a weird part of her character where she is willing, almost eager, to defile the corpses of the slaughtered fey whose homes she stole and burned, but then she balks at Salim harming the humans who were going to execute her. I couldn't tell if she was just really racist on purpose or if Sutter just forgot he'd written that earlier. Her romance with Salim consists of her being young and pretty and doing all the things women stereotypically do in fantasy, and him needing to save her low-level and incompetent self from the dangers she hurls herself into. For me, it just wasn't particularly compelling.

As a whole, the story was good enough to keep reading, but I still struggle with trying to decide if the characters were meant to be the flawed and broken people portrayed in the book, or if it was just an inability to convey the depth of their relationships on the part of the author. If you're someone who enjoys characters interacting with each other, I'd give this one a pass. It's a great primer on planar travel in Golarion, not so great for the character development.

-edit- I want to clarify that Sutter is extremely talented and there is a LOT of potential with this book. The fact that he was able to coherently thread together visiting a half-dozen Golarion planes as part of the main story speaks volume of his ability as a writer. The real problem is that while his world-building is honed to its finest point, his character building is lackluster at best (and Salim's relationship with the female love interest is more than half the plot of this book). If his characters were simpler, it might work, but Sutter has a number of diametrically opposed bullet points for Salim and his love interest. Salim is a century-old, planeswalking bounty-hunter for a powerful goddess that grants him some spectacular abilities, yet none in her church - or even the churches of any other god - know of him. He's a "grizzled and hard-bitten" old man, but is physically and emotionally a wounded young man. There are times that his boyishness and youth actually do show through and he seems to come alive, but they are rare and usually completely glossed over.

Despite his surly attitude, preachiness, and sour disposition towards everything, he's apparently diplomatically skilled and suited to interpersonal conversation. There's just too many opposites shoved into one character! The love interest is no different, being a belligerent and sheltered young woman who moved to the city 3 years ago, but also has learned the language, built an enormous mansion, and settled down as if she'd lived there 10 years. She ends up not having much character at all, unfortunately, and Sutter does little to reconcile their internal differences. It's totally possible for the two of them to have had a rich relationship where the emotionally-wounded Salim is taught that he is not nearly as mature as he thinks by his young-but-potentially-wiser-than-him lover; Sutter has it in him to do that, he just needs to exercise the character-building side of his writing a little more.


Good Read

****( )

I enjoyed Death's Heretic, at least in part because of the epic scope of the adventure. I'm still not entirely sure Salim's philosophy holds up to rigorous inspection, but I get the sense neither is he.


Mystery and Mayhem on the Prime and Planes

****( )

A captivating story of one man's personal struggles with his beliefs, his occupation, old sins and new mysteries, set against the backdrop of lavish scenery, exotic locales both mundane and alien, and the universal struggle of order against chaos. Very entertaining. Lots of very good funny moments - Sutter knows his humor.


Planar Companion

**( )( )( )

This book gives great descriptions of the outer planes and how they are linked together. It's very vivid and detailed. The problem is the descriptions of what your seeing can tend to drag on and leave the characters and plot behind. Especially in the early chapters.
The later chapters do get back to the characters, and has an interesting plot twist.

If this was a Pathfinder chronicle for the planes, like City of Strangers, my favorite Pathfinder chronicle that is also written by James L. Sutton, it would be an awesome companion to reference for what exists on each plane, and interesting characters you meet there.
For a novel, the character plot seemed to be secondary.

Though I did love his religious differentiation of native Rahadoum, and people that move there. Explaining, it's not that they are angry or vengeful against the gods, like people who move there. They just don't want to give the gods any power or authority over their lives. After playing multiple clerics, that gave me a new perspecitive of Rahadoum. Of course, the author worded this much better than I just did, so read the book for this and a couple other good thought provoking ideas.


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