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 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.
Anyone with an interest in Nidal must pick up this book. Merciel does such a great job describing the shadow-cursed nation and the protagonist's upbringing there (in a Hogwart's of the damned) that I wish the story had stayed there. As a bildungsroman, it's an unqualified success.
The move to the Chelish frontier and the conflict with the strix, in comparison, wasn't as gripping as the first half (or so) of the book. I'm having a hard time putting a finger on it, but it just seemed ... out of focus. After grappling with so much complexity in the first half, the more traditional moral dilemmas in the latter half lacked oomph. Still, it's a bit like eating a bacon-wrapped filet mignon and then complaining that a ribeye is just ho-hum. (Apologies to the vegans). Not enough to knock off a star.
Looking forward to Merciel's next entry in the line.
OK, so this is a very interesting specimen. A book about Nidal, the land of sado-masochist priests of shadow? crazy, right?
well, not if Mrs. Mericel has a say on it!
THERE ARE NO SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
anyway, "Nightglass" is less a novel than two, loosley related short stories about the same character - two completely separate plots, each of them starting and concluding within 10-14 episodes if I remember correctly. As such, the story is much less the focus in this book. the real focus is the environment, the setting, and the main character. Let's examine them!
we get to see some cool locals that actual inspired me to design some Pathfinder RPG stuff on my own - which is a great compliment for a Golarion novel. We see how a city or village in Nidal would look and feel like, and we also get to explore a neat "frontier" type location with lots of fun, unusual monsters roaming around it. The book is not very descriptive and leaves a lot the imagination, coloring each new location in broad strokes. I rather like that in the context of the book and that had my imagination working overtime. Overall great.
This book couldn't happen anywhere but Golarion, and that makes it very cool. More than that - it is set in two of the trickiest locations to write abot. I am talking Nidal and Cheliax, two "evil" nations. A lesser author might have just shrugged it off by making the people living in the nation evil, or having them be "good" but suppressed by the government or something. This is not the case here, as we get what appears to be a faithful representation of people suppressing themselves. The result is somewhat similar to what I would imagine living in a totalitarian regime would feel like. You can see the characters sucking themselves in to the cycle of suffering their nations create, and sympathize with them while they are doing that.
The main character sets the tone of the book, and this is where I feel things fall short a little bit. Isiem, the one and only POV in the story, is presented to us as a child - 11 years old. However, even in that age, he continuously contemplates complicated questions of morality, mortality, right and wrong, loyalty, pain, friendship, love, freedom, and meaning. If that sounds like a lot, know that it is. Non of the "children" in the book are convincing - they talk to each other in long, overbearing speeches and discuss complex ideas with such absurd maturity that any attempt to think of them as not-even-teenagers-yet is impossible. I have a little brother who is at that age, and I interact with him and his friends by running them through a Pathfinder adventure. They are a bunch of intelligent kids, but none of them are even close to behaving like those in this book. Hack, most of my friends are dumber than that.
Later on, as he ages, Isien becomes a really brooding, thoughtful kind of guy. He refrains from combat even when the situation screams for him to use his force to the greatest effect possible, and he spends much of his time thinking sad things and trying to find his true self. While that makes him intresting to read about, it's not really what I am looking for in Pathfinder fiction, and so based on this I knocked a star off from my review. That simply reflects my personal preferences in this kind of book. If you want a read that might make you think, then consider this a 5 stars review.