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Pathfinder Tales: Queen of Thorns

****½ (based on 20 ratings)
Pathfinder Tales: Queen of Thorns
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by Dave Gross

In the deep forests of Kyonin, elves live among their own kind, far from the prying eyes of other races. Few of impure blood are allowed beyond the nation’s borders, and thus it’s a great honor for the half-elven Count Varian Jeggare and his hellspawn bodyguard Radovan to be allowed inside. Yet all is not well in the elven kingdom: demons stir in its depths, and an intricate web of politics seems destined to catch the two travelers in its snares. In the course of tracking down a missing druid, Varian and a team of eccentric elven adventurers will be forced to delve into dark secrets lost for generations—including the mystery of Varian’s own past.

From fan favorite Dave Gross, author of Prince of Wolves and Master of Devils, comes a fantastical new adventure set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Download a free sample chapter by clicking here! (74 KB zip/PDF)

432-page mass market paperback

ISBN–13: 978-1-60125-463-4
ePub ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-464-1

Queen of Thorns is sanctioned for use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. Its Chronicle Sheet and additional are a free download (193 KB zip/PDF).

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

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Non-Mint: Unavailable This product is non-mint. Refunds are not available for non-mint products. The standard version of this product can be found here.

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Product Reviews (20)
1 to 5 of 20 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | next > last >>

Average product rating:

****½ (based on 20 ratings)

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classic fantasy - plot, themes, characters, surprises!

*****

A self-admitted huge fan of his works (dont forget to check out his short stories and fiction on paizo.com if you want to supplement the novels!), I decided to go into this read with an eye towards the issue of whether people new to the Radovan and Count Jeggare world would get their "moneys worth".

I was very surprised to see just how much effort, when i paid attention, Mr Gross had put into just that. The book is fantastic even as a first introduction to their wonderful world.

The plot is top notch - this is one of those books a reviewer has to be careful what he says - and the usual advancement of the friendship between Radovan and Varian gets its share of attention and nourishment. But indeed, a new reader will get plenty of chance to come to love these characters without having read any previous works.

And as happens in all of his longer works (when page count permits! I am still a sucker for some of the short mystery-focused short stories however!), we get not just a great plot, a new character, and an advancement of the relationship we have come to adore, but a bevvy of themes as well that end up both tying the characters together in interesting ways, but also acting as classic fantasy or science fiction by (non preachily... is that a word?) shedding light on perhaps our own lives as well. Race versus nationality, heritage and tradition versus change, situations where no matter what you do, youre guaranteed to upset one of your friends/allies. The quest for knowledge versus the responsibility to let dangerous secrets lie. And figuring out who you are and what you believe, without the chaos of others trying to define it for you.

I was thrilled with Queen of Thorns, even with a special eye to acting as if i were brand new to the Jeggare family of lore.


Explore Kyonin - Land of the elves with Varian and Radovan!

*****

THE GOOD:
We learn more about Kyonin and the father of Count Jeggare.
The two of them become part of a party of elves searching for an ancient secret.
You could easyly turn this book into an adventure.
Also a gnome with the bleaching is characterized - really wonderful - if you asked yourselve how they behave read this.

THE BAD:
The supperting characters are a little stereotypical.

THE UGLY:
Over too soon!

This is a must buy for fans of elves and great fantasy novels!
Until a KYONIN Campaign Setting book comes out this is the best source material for the elven nation vibe.


Another box of delights

*****

Okay I admit it, I'm a fan. This one ticks all the boxes for me. The characters develop, we explore more of the secrets of Golarion, and the plotting and pace are spot on. I really enjoyed this read, thanks Dave Gross.


Gross continues to impress

****( )

If I had one complaint about this book, it would be that it is not Master of Devils. Radovan and Jeggare continue to be Golarion's dynamic duo, I'm just not sure they are ever going to match their crazy martial arts hijinks. Still, one of the best Pathfinder Tales books, without question.


An Excellent Story... if only the Characters would stop getting in the way.

****( )

After Master of Devils, which I thought was amazing and thoroughly entertaining and had me psyched for the next book in the series, it was all I could do to restrain myself from diving straight into Queen of Thorns right that second. That eagerness was fairly quickly tempered when I discovered this next book was set in Kyonin, home of the Elves. Not enough to blunt my interest in the story to be told, but it certainly put a hesitance on my rush to read.

I'm not a huge fan of Elves, you see. The vast majority of published settings, Golarion included, have never portrayed them in a way that gets me interested in them as a race or a culture. I'm fond of the concept of Forlorn Elves - one that comes up quite a few times in this book - but pretty much everything else about the race I tend to find lacking. "Oh well, at least we'll still have Varian, Radovan, and Arnisant, which should provide plenty of entertainment on their own, right?" Which it did.

The story here is amazing. Varian has come to Kyonin, after earning a special pass that allows a rare non-elf to visit the inner cities, to track down his never-met father and see to the repairs of his beloved Red Carriage, destroyed all the way back in Prince of Wolves. As expected, tracking down the wandering elf is no simple matter, and eventually a ragtag group of escorts, protectors, spies, and guides is gathered up to lead the count and his bodyguard/partner/friend through the forested wilderness. Along the way they encounter ancient magic, bizarre creations, demons galore, forgotten ruins, and - I'd call it a spoiler but it's right there on the cover - an ancient green dragon.

The plot itself is great. When it was rolling and things were happening, I was thrilled. The adventure, the action, the intrigue, the mystery, the magic - good grief, the magic! More magic gets flung around in the last couple of chapters of this book that the entirety of Prince of Wolves! It's all here, and it's all amazing.

If only the cast wouldn't keep derailing things.

(I'll try to avoid spoilers from here on but I might mistakenly share a couple, so be warned.)

Joining the errant count and his retinue in this book are three elves and a gnome, provided by the Queen of Kyonin and her court as escorts, guides, and minders/babysitters for the visiting outsiders on their quest.

The first of these escorts introduced is Kameili, an Inquisitor of Calistra and the winner of "least favorite character" for this book. Kameili has only two modes: flirtatious and violent. Every time she shows up, she's either flirting with Radovan (and on a few occasions with Varian) or trying to encourage Radovan to do something violent, usually to the paladin (who I'll discuss shortly), over some petty sleight. She's 100% in character for a Calistran, and a living example of why Calistra is one of my least favorite deities in the Golarion setting. She also provided a lust-target for Radovan, which I felt was tiresome enough back when it popped up in Prince of Wolves, and this is far more prominent and more heavily leaning on the plot, which makes it all the more irritating for me. Some people like a lot of that sort of thing in their stories; I am not one of them. I much prefer the way his rambling nature was expressed in Master of Devils: where his propositions were either usually shot down or handled quickly and quietly off-screen and the plot forwarded to the next morning or jumped back to Jeggare.

Second is Oparal, a Forlorn Elf Paladin of Iomedae. I really, really wanted to like Oparal. I really did. I love Paladins, they're one of my favorite classes. I like Iomedae, much much more than Calistra; she's not my personal first choice for a Paladin patron - that honor goes to Sarenrae - but she's definitely in the top five. And I love the concept of Forlorn Elves - in the rare occasions I play Elves, they're always Forlorn (even back before I had been introduced to Golarion and had the concept of "elves not raised among elven society" given a name). But Oparal is everything people hate about having a Paladin in the party. To quote a grumbling rant I posted about halfway through the book:

Quote:

And I want to like the paladin character. I really, really do. But she's every cliche complaint that people have about paladins in their party. She's unfriendly. She has no sense of humor. She snaps at everyone. She's harshly judgmental. She gets in a fight with one of the other party members and only reconciles because the Calistran Inquisitor tricks her into it using a spell. She has no subtlety, and is almost as badly lacking in humility. She smites first and asks questions later. And on more than one occasion she risks hurting allies in the process of getting her smite on. At least one of those times it's highly implied it was intentional, too.

I've played a prudish paladin character who wasn't interested in bedding up with other characters and was primarily focused on her duties and her oaths, not too different from this character. She still managed to have a good sense of humor, to jest with her compatriots, to politely deflect flirtation attempts and raunchy comments and innuendo, or in some cases even joke back, so long as she made it clear at some point she wasn't serious about any invitations or acceptances.

I do not feel she greatly improved in her flaws over the course of the book either. However, as she'll be rejoining the cast in King of Chaos, I'm still holding out hope for her showing some severe character development in the readings ahead.

The third guide is Caladrel, a Ranger. He's pretty awesome, and Gross does an excellent job of showing off a master ranger and huntsman working at his best in his home terrain. Of the elf characters in the book, he was my favorite.

But of the new cast members, he was second to my favorite character short of Varian and Radovan themselves - the Gnome Druid, Fimbulthicket. Oh man, this guy was AWESOME. A Gnome Druid who is all about the Golarion druidic religion, the Green Faith, and his connection to his fey nature. He also happens to be suffering from the Bleaching, the strange disease that plagues Golarion's Gnomes, and we get a firsthand experience of what it's like to watch a Gnome suffer from this malady. Every scene he was in was amazing, heartrending, or hilarious. I really, really hope we can get Dave Gross to write more about Gnomes in the future, and that anyone else writing Gnomes in Golarion take a few notes from Fimbulthicket.

So there you have it. If I were to rate this on the value of the plot alone, it'd be five stars easily. But the cast... maybe if Kemeili and Oparal had been slightly less front-focus characters, their antics might have left a less sour taste in my mouth. But as it is, almost any scene where one or both of them was at center stage, it felt distracting and disorienting, and only proceeded to delay the progress of the plot. Honestly I think the book as a whole would have been much better if Kemeili hadn't been included at all - I can't think of much that would be lost to the events that occurred in the story by removing her presence.

If sultry, vengeful elves and their like are your cup of tea, you'll love this book. If they're not, like they aren't mine, brace yourselves because there's a lot of them, but the plot underneath is still excellent despite them.


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