In the grim nation of Nidal, carefully chosen children are trained to practice dark magic, summoning forth creatures of horror and shadow for the greater glory of the Midnight Lord. Isiem is one such student, a promising young shadowcaller whose budding powers are the envy
of his peers. Upon coming of age, he’s dispatched on a diplomatic mission to the mountains of Devil’s Perch, where he’s meant to assist the armies of devil-worshiping Cheliax in clearing out a tribe of monstrous winged humanoids. Yet as the body count rises and Isiem comes face to face with the people he’s exterminating, lines begin to blur, and the shadowcaller must ask himself who the real monsters are...
From Liane Merciel, critically acclaimed author of The River King's Road and Heaven's Needle, comes a fantastical tale of darkness and redemption set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
This story has been been my favorite Pathfinder Tale to date. I have read four or five others. It is easy to read and the characters are engaging. It flows very naturally and comes across as a very professional job. Well done.
This book got me interested in Nidal. I read it right after playing the Midnight Mirror module in PFS and thought it tied in nicely. I do feel like the book could have been broken into two separate novels but I liked the redemption theme made possible by two parts of Isiem's life existing in one novel.
1) The book was well-written. I got sucked in not long after I started and enjoyed the author's writing style.
2) I liked that the prologue was written from the perspective of someone who isn't the main character.
3) I liked learning about the twisted nation of Nidal and the Stryx, which were previously unknown to me.
Least favorites: (Spoilers)
1) While I liked the introduction I wish that the character it centered on had reappeared later in the story. I was curious about what happened to him and felt like it was just a way to bring up the Pathfinder Society.
2) Parts of the book did feel sort of rushed. The book was long already but since I flew through it I wouldn't have minded it being a bit longer.
3) I want to know more about what happens to Isiem after the end of the book and felt that, while the major conflict was resolved, the ending was a bit weak. Perhaps there will be a sequel.
I picked this up at the FLGS on a whim, based largely on the author. I loved River King's Road, and found Mrs. Merciel to be a very nice lady when I had the chance to meet her at PaizoCon 2011, so I wanted to love this book. Unfortunately, it was just OK.
The book really conveys the feel of living in Nidal -- the horror and desperation of everyday residents, the unconscious self-loathing of the rank-and-file oppressors -- in a very immediate way. The prose is well-constructed, with evocative descriptions and many clever turns of phrase. I commend the author in this respect, and only hope I will someday be capable of this level of craft. Well done!
The work as a whole felt...rushed. Multiple pages were devoted to scenes of little consequence, but other, more important scenes were given little room to breathe. The plot felt disjointed, almost as if there were two books here struggling to get out, but the author couldn't quite decide where she was going. In the end, things didn't really gel into a cohesive whole, leaving the novel less than the sum of its parts.
The first half of the book definitely deserves 4 stars. It's dark, gloomy, and describes nicely the evil everyday living of Nidal. The characters are not caricatures, they're quite deep, with nuanced feelings, and you can hint the change they go through as they spend years in the harsh teachings of the shadowcallers. Thumbs up for the Joyful Things.
The second half would get 3 stars. It's still interresting in its description of the Strix culture and whereabouts, but it lacks the appealing darkness of the first part. The main character gets more substance, however.
Overall, a very pleasant reading.