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Pathfinder Tales: Death's Heretic

****½ (based on 38 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.

PZO8506


See Also:



Product Discussion (85)
51 to 85 of 85 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
Vic Wertz wrote:

That's actually precisely why we chose the 5-star system: the more rankings there are to choose from, the more people's own impressions of the system vary.

For example, if given a 1-to-100 scale, some people assume 50 is average because it's right in the middle, and others assume 70 is average because it's a "C" in well-known educational grading systems. And people used to scoring wine on a 100-point scale would probably consider anything lower than about 85 a failure hardly worthy of mention.

With the 5-star system, I think most people peg "3" as "average."

Yeah, I see what you mean. All the more reason for me to only rate things if I'm going to give them 4 or 5 stars, I guess :)

Paizo Employee Managing Editor

Vic's right that there are several schools of thought when it comes to rating books. But that's one of the nice things about having the chance to actually write a review, rather than just clicking a star rating--you can clarify your opinion in as much detail as you want. It doesn't affect how the numbers average out, but at least someone can tell whether you meant your 3-star rating to mean "pretty darn enjoyable!" or "strictly competent," etc.

And regardless--thanks to everyone who's reviewed Pathfinder Tales novels! Your feedback really helps not just potential purchasers, but us as the publisher as well. We put a lot of stock in audience opinion, and it's already helped us shape the direction of the line numerous times in just the 16 months we've been publishing novels.

Andoran

A great book! I was hooked from the start, and can't wait to read more from you Sutter. Will post a review soon. Congrats...


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I was definitely hooked on this story. My copy is already rather battered, as I forced a couple of my players to read it! Review posted here and at Amazon (my first product reviews anywhere, if it gives you an idea of how much I loved the story!)

Paizo Employee Managing Editor

Wow, thanks dudes! I'm really glad you enjoyed it! And double thanks for posting reviews--they really do help a lot when it comes to convincing folks who might be on the fence about buying a given book.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

I'm reading it.

I like it.

Very much.

It's gonna get a 5-star when I finish it.

But it's not going to stop me fighting to excise fiction from PF APs! Never! Muaaarghbblllle!

Paizo Employee Managing Editor

Gorbacz wrote:

I'm reading it.

I like it.

Very much.

It's gonna get a 5-star when I finish it.

But it's not going to stop me fighting to excise fiction from PF APs! Never! Muaaarghbblllle!

That is fair. :)

Thanks, Gorbacz!

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

My review is up :)

Paizo Employee Managing Editor

Gorbacz, you just made my day. :D


It says its sanctioned for organized play, whatever that means. Does that mean that the details of Golarian revealed in the novel are to be considered "canon."

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Gururamalamaswami wrote:
It says its sanctioned for organized play, whatever that means. Does that mean that the details of Golarian revealed in the novel are to be considered "canon."

All of the novels are canon.

Sanctioning, in this case, means that there's a little perk available for PFS players who have the book.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

So James... be honest, are you working on a follow up featuring Salim? You can tell us... ;)

Paizo Employee Managing Editor

LoreKeeper wrote:

So James... be honest, are you working on a follow up featuring Salim? You can tell us... ;)

Yup. :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
James Sutter wrote:
LoreKeeper wrote:

So James... be honest, are you working on a follow up featuring Salim? You can tell us... ;)

Yup. :)

Well at least some body around here will leak that they are working on something... Hear that Jacobs!!! [J/K] ;)

Cheliax

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Justin Franklin wrote:
James Sutter wrote:
LoreKeeper wrote:

So James... be honest, are you working on a follow up featuring Salim? You can tell us... ;)

Yup. :)
Well at least some body around here will leak that they are working on something... Hear that Jacobs!!! [J/K] ;)

Sitter only said he's working on it, nothing about Paizo picking it up; I wouldn't put it past him to just be writing reams about Salim on his own...

Paizo Employee Managing Editor

In the meantime, if folks want more Salim, there's always the free prequel story, "Faithful Servants"!


OK... I will read the final chapter tonight.

1st time in my life I read a book that fast (no... "read" is not the right word... "devour" - yep that's more like it). It is impossible to stop - what a great novel!!!

This is 5-star material.

Can't wait to read the free prequel story also once I am done!

Incredible work James!!!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Here's a nice blog about it from Quest for Fun!

Qadira

So I just wrote a review, and it's a 5 star one, and in case I wasn't clear enough on the review itself, let me clerify that I thoroughly enjoyed Death's Heretic and will insta-buy anything further written by Mr. Sutter.

Speaking of whom, Mr. Sutter, in case you are still reading these boards:

first of all, congrats! you did something special with this one, and you are worthy of all the high praise you got on these boards.
I do feel obligated to ask you about the representation of women in your book though. As you can read in my review I do not make a big deal about such matters in fiction, but since I see how active you are in this thread I came to think maybe you can clarify the matter for me.
Do you feel that my claim that women are seriously misrepresented and under represented in the book? We only get two (statistically improbable, given that they do compose 50% of every species). Of the two, one is a romantic interest of the main character, making it legitimate to present her in a sexual context. The second is standing in the middle of a gigantic palace full of other naked whores, and she herself is yet another whore. After that, we also get almost nude dryads, and completely nude, obviously sexualized nymphs.

In a world like Golarion, where through (good) decisions of the Paizo stuff women are not treated as bad as they are in our world, I find this kind of treatment to be unworthy and unkind, and completely uncalled for. Where are the women worriors and women priests and women nobles who made their own fortunes (not inherited from a wealthy father or achieved by sex)?

again, not a giant issue, but I do feel it calls for a justification.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Lord Snow wrote:

[...]Do you feel that my claim that women are seriously misrepresented and under represented in the book? We only get two (statistically improbable, given that they do compose 50% of every species). Of the two, one is a romantic interest of the main character, making it legitimate to present her in a sexual context. The second is standing in the middle of a gigantic palace full of other naked whores, and she herself is yet another whore. After that, we also get almost nude dryads, and completely nude, obviously sexualized nymphs.

In a world like Golarion, where through (good) decisions of the Paizo stuff women are not treated as bad as they are in our world, I find this kind of treatment to be unworthy and unkind, and completely uncalled for. Where are the women worriors and women priests and women nobles who made their own fortunes (not inherited from a wealthy father or achieved by sex)?

again, not a giant issue, but I do feel it calls for a justification.

Funny. A protagonist encounters a forest fey, and the reader complains about lack of clothes... dude, I guess that in your opinion it was a given the satyr was wearing pants? FYI, Greek depictions were quite pant-less.

As for the palace part... just have a look at any Egyptian art pertaining to ancient period.

Regards,
Ruemere

Qadira

@Ruemere - I don't think there's any problem at all with Nymphs in the story, or with the palace of whores, or with the main female role being the romantic interest of the main male role, but:
these are the only women in the entire story. There is not a single other female character. Not even one. Sure, If I recall correctly:

slight spoilers:

Spoiler:

-of the three leaders of the temple of Pharasma, we have one woman. Guess who's the only one of them who never speaks in the book?

- There is mention of female cooks and stuff like that, but always in descriptions like: "Thw women were shouting", or "the cook gave him a scornful look", making them more background than actual characters

-There is one extra whore who gets to speak in the palace of The Harlot

But that's about it, I think.

So the end result is that every female in the book is presented with a sexual context, and there are WAY less females than males. Agian, the sexual ontext is fine individualy but it stacks up. Sure the Satyr is half naked as well, but 90% of the male characters in the story are not, which is far from true for the women.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The Name of the Rose.
Practically anything by sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Lovecraft (to lesser extent than the creator of Holmes, but still).

The point here is that the presence or representation of a type of characters bears little importance as to the quality of the story. Secondly, character nudity is not necessarily sexual in nature - it is quite likely an element of Osirion (see Egypt reference above) culture or, for Fey creatures, something natural. Bringing sex into this situation is inappropriate - Salim is conducting investigation, he does not seem to perceive a successful businesswoman in any other than business way. As for him wanting to have sex with a plant - well, he has no intention of doing anything like that. If anything, he seems to be quite socially awkward (one of the reasons I could not accept his age easily)... somewhere around the level of a stereotypical basement geek (with a bit more developed vocabulary).

That's why I find your opinion needlessly objectifying - you're apparently disregarding (a) a bereft daughter who actually manages to get a grip on her life after a loss of overprotective father, (b) VERY successful busineswoman (anyone capable of shelling cash for the elixir is VERY successful), (c) inhuman creatures living in a different world.

Dude. If you want to be so politically correct, why not add to your gripe list missing representation of non-Caucasian males from Tian Xan, Mwangi, children, handicapped etc? And on this cheerful note, peace and out.

Regards,
Ruemere

Qadira

@Ruemere, if "peace and out" means you will not look at this board again then writing this post is pointless, but just in case I misunderstood you there:

If it's ok by you I'd like to burden you with reading my original post again or, rather, this part of it:

" As you can read in my review I do not make a big deal about such matters in fiction..."

I am acutely aware of the race/gender fails in other works of litreture. Hack, I am a Jew, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the works of H. P Lovecraft, even though I have to clench my jaw and read past few enraging parts. Death's Heretic is a great read and I have stressed that point several times before. I even gave it the 5 star rating meaning that I declared it to be as good as Pathfinder Fiction could reasonably be expected to get.

All of the above has nothing to do with the fact that the book is NOT fair to women. For example, I share many of my favorite books with my girlfriend, but I simply know that this will not be a pleasant read for her because of the treatment her gender is getting.

And about Velina (If I recall correctly that's the name of the merchant's daughter). She is an actual character, and I have no problem with her at all. She is presented in a sexual context - sexual tension is built between her and Salim from the first moment, Salim initiates touch with her at every opportunity, and no other character is described so many times as her, allowing the reader to imagine just how pretty she looks evrey time (seriuosly, check the book out - she is described once evrey couple of pages or so).

And that's ok. sexual tension happens between people, usualy even between males and females, and I have no problem with that. Still means that there is no women in the book that has nothing to do with sex, while most men have nothing to do with sex. that's not fair.

Qadira

Let me put my thoughts into a simple, short statement:

"It seems that every character in this book is a male, unless there's a specific reason for it to be a female, and that reason is always related to sex."

That about sums up the way I feel the book is unfair to women.

Cheliax

I can see that point.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

"Peace and out" as in "This is not meant as an attack, this is the end of my opinion".
I am, I'm ashamed to say, quite confrontational, so I try to end my posts in more positive way.

Lord Snow wrote:
[...]I am acutely aware of the race/gender fails in other works of litreture. Hack, I am a Jew, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the works of H. P Lovecraft, even though I have to clench my jaw and read past few enraging parts. Death's Heretic is a great read and I have stressed that point several times before. I even gave it the 5 star rating meaning that I declared it to be as good as Pathfinder Fiction could reasonably be expected to get.

Never disputed that.

Quote:
All of the above has nothing to do with the fact that the book is NOT fair to women. For example, I share many of my favorite books with my girlfriend, but I simply know that this will not be a pleasant read for her because of the treatment her gender is getting.

This is what I would dispute. Mind you, I am not saying she would like it...only that she may prefer to form her opinion herself.

Quote:
And about Velina (If I recall correctly that's the name of the merchant's daughter). She is an actual character, and I have no problem with her at all. She is presented in a sexual context - sexual tension is built between her and Salim from the first moment, Salim initiates touch with her at every opportunity, and no other character is described so many times as her, allowing the reader to imagine just how pretty she looks evrey time (seriuosly, check the book out - she is described once evrey couple of pages or so).

I was wondering why you hadn't mentioned her.

Quote:
And that's ok. sexual tension happens between people, usualy even between males and females, and I have no problem with that. Still means that there is no women in the book that has nothing to do with sex, while most men have nothing to do with sex. that's not fair.

In that case steer away from Malazan series by Steve Ericsson. That book offends even my, very liberal, sense of social discrimination.

Regards,
Ruemere

Paizo Employee Managing Editor

2 people marked this as a favorite.

This is a worthwhile discussion, and one I've had with friends who've read the book, so I'd like to take the chance to talk about it. (WARNING: The following contains spoilers, but I'm not going to hide it behind a spoiler tag, as I feel it's an important part of the conversation.)

To begin with, I'll fess up and say that, when writing Death's Heretic, I didn't pay as much attention to gender balance as I would nowadays. I simply wrote the characters as they appeared in my imagination. Though there are a few more named women than you mention (for instance, Shyka is half female), you're right that the majority of the rather small cast is male or neuter (Calabast, Ceyanan, the protean, etc).

Which is not to say that I ignored gender issues, however. In fact, it's a pretty central theme to the novel. In my mind, the most important character arc for Salim over the course of the book isn't that he falls for Neila--it's that he starts out totally discounting her as some spoiled, inexperienced girl, and over the course of the book is forced (somewhat against the will) to acknowledge her as the smart and capable woman she is. There's a lot of focus on her because I'm trying to show how Salim's view of her is changing, and the fact that they hook up is intended to be a *result* of his new understanding. By the end, such as in his musings on page 356, he's forced to admit to himself that his protective, paternalistic feelings toward her are a problem with *him*, not her--that she's truly his equal, and thus ought to be treated like one:

Yet that wasn't fair, and even the anxious pre-battle stillness, Salim couldn't quite make himself believe it. The girl had proven herself as well as any legionnaire--more, if he wanted to be fair. She'd saved his life in the markets of Axis, and held herself together in the face of some of the strangest things a mortal could bear witness to. She was smart, she was fast, and she was stubborn--all things which he knew could be said about him, in his better moments. And if it made him uneasy to take her into combat, to see that delicate skin go before the sword, then that was his problem, his weakness.

It was a challenge to try and write that character arc when the novel's point of view is in Salim's head--I was afraid that folks might think *I* was discounting Neila as a character in the early chapters, rather than Salim--but my hope was that by the end, people would see that she was a badass all along, and more importantly that Salim had grown enough as a person to appreciate that. Whether I succeeded or not is, of course, up to the reader.

Similarly, while some of the other women--such as Lady Jbade the madam, or Salim's former wife--are indeed sexualized, I tried to show them all as strong, confident, and independent. I'm not interested in writing subservient women or damsels in distress, and in my mind sexuality doesn't necessarily lessen a character. But I could definitely stand to have added some more women whose sexuality wasn't a part of their character.

All of that said, it wasn't until after the book was published that one of my friends pointed out that women don't have a lot of on-stage time in the book, particularly as supporting/background characters. This is totally true, and a rookie mistake on my part. Were I writing the book today, I would go back and shift some supporting characters (such as the major domo, or the Jackal's bodyguard) to female.

I apologize if the gender imbalance disrupted your enjoyment of the novel. I realize that author intentions don't matter--a book is what it is, and needs to speak for itself--but for what it's worth, please know that such problems were the result of ignorance rather than malice!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

@James Thank you for that insightful post.

"This is totally true, and a rookie mistake." Just curious, why? While you're a writer and I'm a failed hack, I write men better than women, so most of my fiction is male dominated. If the story is good which this is, the characters don't matter to me. *shrug*

Then again, I don't worry about how many lefties are in a novel either.

Paizo Employee Managing Editor

Lord Snow wrote:
Where are the women worriors and women priests and women nobles who made their own fortunes (not inherited from a wealthy father or achieved by sex)?

Just wanted to point out that these are some of these in the book--for instance, Lamasara is ruled by a strong woman who's mentioned in the book but never shows up in person. And as you pointed out, one of the three head priests of Pharasma in Lamasara is female...

Spoiler:

...and shows up in person in the novel as the only one of the Pharasmins present who can meet Salim's gaze and take charge of the church when Khoyar's treachery is revealed.

So while it's totally legit to say there's not enough screen time, it's worth noting that I didn't leave them out entirely.

Paizo Employee Managing Editor

Matthew Morris wrote:


"This is totally true, and a rookie mistake." Just curious, why? While you're a writer and I'm a failed hack, I write men better than women, so most of my fiction is male dominated. If the story is good which this is, the characters don't matter to me. *shrug*

Hey Matthew! Thanks for the comment. The reason I call it a rookie mistake to not look carefully and critically at gender (or race, or sexuality) in your piece is that, regardless of what you believe personally, some of your audience are going to be looking at your work in that context. Which doesn't mean that you can't write an all-male story, or an all-white story, or an all-hetero story, or one in which stereotypes are rampant, etc. and still have it be a good story. But if so, you should be prepared for some fallout. From experience, I've learned that some readers are going to be immediately knocked out of the story and possibly pissed off by such things. And whenever I've run into that with my own work, it's never been because I had intended that reaction, simply because I had no idea the book would be interpreted in that way. So the two biggest reasons to keep an eye out for ways that your work might have unfortunate social issues are:

1) Because it may be that you're accidentally perpetuating a stereotype or phenomenon in which you don't believe. (For instance, I'm by all accounts a fairly feminist guy in my beliefs and politics, yet I've had problems with accidentally leaving women out of my work simply by not paying attention to gender balance.)

2) Because every person who would otherwise have loved your work but was turned off by unnecessary gender/race/sexuality/etc. issues is a potential fan lost. And being labeled as part of the problem *really* sucks (especially if it's one you're actively working against).

So whether you're going the idealist or mercenary routes, it's always a good idea to think about issues like gender, race, and sexuality in your work!

Andoran

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

My copy of Death's Heretic is starting to look quite worn. It has been circulating around my gaming group for the last few months. All agree that it is fantastic.

Paizo Employee Managing Editor

Laschoni wrote:
My copy of Death's Heretic is starting to look quite worn. It has been circulating around my gaming group for the last few months. All agree that it is fantastic.

Thanks, Laschoni! It's always nice to hear when folks who like a book pass it on. :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Side note: The novel, the latter part, felt very Planescapish to me. If possible, I would love this part of the story expanded upon. This would, along with a series of Radovan and Jeggare's adventures form a basis for a nice tour of Pathfinder-verse.

Regards,
Ruemere

PS. My gripe list with the novel is considerably shorter and contains only two points.

Spoiler:
1. Salim does not act his level. Of course, Jeggare and Radovan also suffer from this problem... but when reading the book, I find it to be more Savage Worlds than Pathfinder, and as absurd as it may sound to some, it breaks the feeling of immersion to me. I am not saying that Salim should flaunt his hitpoint score (like he didn't with that failed backstab case) but still... his powers of observation, and results of other skill checks should be more pronounced.

2. Salim, being an investigator, does not seem to be investigating much. Well, he goes questing eventually, but in the beginning he does not seem to exhibit a lot of initiative. I know that it may sound a bit convoluted, but I would prefer the type of the approach exhibited by Dashiell Hammet heroes. For example, the nameless operative in Red Harvest builds strong relationships with numerous NPCs... while Salim feels unable to make other people talk to him. Something does not click here - an investigator who is at a loss while interacting with others? Jarring.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Thank you for the reply James. I guess that is the difference between writing for the audience and for my entertainment.

Personally I've never kept a count on who is what in my writing. I've had strong men, strong women, weak men, weak women etc. It's like how I don't worry about how many characters are left handed. But like I said, I'm writing for (therapy) an audience of one, unless you want to count all the voices in my head.

Though I do shy away from romances, since I've no experience in successful relationships :-)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules Subscriber
James Sutter wrote:
LoreKeeper wrote:

So James... be honest, are you working on a follow up featuring Salim? You can tell us... ;)

Yup. :)

I was going to poke with a sharp stick. Then I remembered my cardinal rule of when-to-use-a-longspear: after after checking it's pointed in the right direction.

"Preorder expected early April 2014" is what it says here so I guess I'll just put this polearm back where I found it.

And wait.

Patiently.

For April.

Is it April yet?

What about now?

Now?

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