Luma is a cobblestone druid, a canny fighter and spellcaster who can read the chaos of Magnimar’s city streets like a scholar reads books. Together, she and her siblings in the powerful Derexhi family form one of the most infamous and effective mercenary companies in the city, solving problems for the city’s wealthy elite. Yet despite being the oldest child, Luma gets little respect—perhaps due to her half-elven heritage. When a job gone wrong lands Luma in the fearsome prison called the Hells, it’s only the start of Luma’s problems. For a new web of bloody power politics is growing in Magnimar, and it may be that those Luma trusts most have become her deadliest enemies...
From visionary game designer and author Robin D. Laws comes a new urban fantasy adventure of murder, betrayal, and political intrigue set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
I was a devoted reader of game fiction back in the day, but I haven't read any since ... oh, since about 3.0. This was my first serious foray into Pathfinder fiction, and if it's indicative of the genre, I don't know if I'll bother with more. I should note that I read it primarily because the Rise of the Runelords campaign books recommended it for background on Magnimar, and in that respect it's not terrible.
As a novel, though, it wasn't ... great. Or "good," really. Mediocre might be the best I could say about it. Chekov's gun (well, Chekov's NPC) was a constant reality, and the shocking surprise revelation was obvious, quite literally, the very first time it was even mentioned in passing, which was about 200 pages before the actual reveal. (Actually, at the time, I was hoping it wasn't obvious, because the obvious was just so cliché, but by the time the reveal rolled around it had become pretty clear that the cliche was the best I could expect.)
The narrative structure was hamfisted, to say the least, and if the author has ever so much as heard the adage "show, don't tell," it was not obvious from this work.
If you are looking for background on Magnimar, and you don't mind reading 400 pages of schlock to get a few useful points, I would advise getting this book from a library or a friend. That minor use is the only reason I am giving it two stars instead of just one.
I would not, under any circumstances, advise paying money for this.
"Blood of the City" is a tense, action filled adventure involving intrigue, friendhip, death and tragedy. It is actualy very good as a thriller, which is what I'd expect out of a Pathfinder Novel, the fights are described expertly (nearly as good as in Death's Heratic), the story is unpredictable in a good way, and in it I probably found the best, most plausible translation of game mechanics into a story from any of the Pathfinder Tales line (admittadly i didn't get around to reading many of them yet).
To sum up, "Blood of the City" is actualy a very enjoyable story and I read the last 1/3 of it in one tension filled sitting. It's oh so regretable that it's a story about atuomatons, not people.
The book has not emotional hook whatsoever. None of the characters seems to react as a human would, to anything. The main character is as emotionaly dead as the white stone from which Magnimar is built. While she experiences major changes and revelations in the book, we get no emotional response from her - her inner world, the way she experiences things and feels them, is hidden from the reader. The book feels more like a dry recounting of events than an actual story. Kind of like how a history teacher sounds when lecturing about world war 2 - it's supposed to be a grand story about the largest war the world has ever seen, but you don't experience it that way. Her companions are all not very well rounded characters and we only get to see very rare, short glimpses to their personalities.
To be fair, the book actualy address the issue - many characters call out the POV, Luma Derahxi, for being very guarded with her emotions. At one point a character even complains that Luma was "able to give an accurate description of a room and eveything that was in it... but of how the terrible things that happened in the room effected her, she gave no hint..." That's fine by me as a character trait, but why can't the reader learn about the inner world of the character?
Maybe Author Robin D Laws knows exactly what he is doing and it's all a descision he's made to help portray the character - if so, it's an impressive echievment, and from what little he's shown of character development I actual think he can do it very well, except that he maybe finds it not very interesting. The end result, unfourtanatley, is that my enjoyment of the book was decreased dramaticaly, which is a real shame because the book had such great potential.
Will I recommend this book? No, I have to say I wouldn't. But I certainly would try to read another of Laws' books and see if I can find a liking to it, because the potential for greatness is certainly there. Unless you are activley looking for a story set in Magnimar or anything, I'd skip "blood of the city", and give some of the other books in this line a try.
This is the tale of a “Cobblestone Druid,” named Luma Derexhi. She is the eldest daughter of the Derexhi family, a family that specializes in providing protection for others in the city of Magnimar. Luma is a member of the “Top Squad,” a party of her siblings that act as a sort of special forces group in the city. Robin Laws has, once again, written one of the best adventuring parties in the Pathfinder Tales line. Each party member is an individual and has good reasons for taking the actions they do.
The book starts out as a mystery that Luma is investigating, and then changes over to a revenge story for the final half of the book.
The revenge story aspect left the same taste in my mouth as a spaghetti western. I was melancholy because the hero gets revenge, but revenge does not make her happy. I feel that this makes for a good ending, despite the melancholy.
One of the neat aspects of this book that I enjoyed was seeing how a PC might perceive the process of gaining a level and the new powers associated with it. It was well written, and did not require knowledge of game mechanics to “get it.” Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was the return of Hendregan, the mad fire sorcerer from The Worldwound Gambit. He is an interesting character and I would be interested in seeing him develop more as Mr. Laws writes more books in the Pathfinder Tales line.
Edit:Upon further consideration and in the process of a second reading, I have decided to up my review to five stars. This book is in my top three of the Pathfinder Tales along with Plague of Shadows and Death's Heretic.
The story of Luma, the main character, treats the reader gently in the beginning, much like a roller coaster working up a steep initial incline. For me, just like a roller coaster, the plot twist at the top of the incline shot me into a fast moving story full of thrills. I did, however, put the book down at the top of the incline and in the end, felt the ride missed a few opportunities. Overall, however, I found this book a solid entry into the Pathfinder novels line.
I put Blood of the City down because I was enjoying working up the first initial steep incline of the roller coaster. I was looking at the landscape around the roller coaster and enjoying the view. Specifically the city of Magnimar really jumps to life in this book, not only through Mr. Laws’ written description of the city and the various quarters, but also via Luma, who is a cobblestone (urban) driud. Mr. Laws’ treatment of the cobblestone druid’s connection to the city is creative and engaging and helped me form a vivid image of Magnimar. The portrayal of Mayor Grobas as an intellectual, yet political beast, resonated with me. The description of Luma’s druidic powers, and how she interacts with the city, are an excellent transformation of game mechanics into a cohesive fantasy reality. I also enjoyed seeing the hallmarks of a good mystery in the works. I enjoyed the contrast of Luma’s relationships as one of the Derexhi family, where she gets little respect, versus how the Derexhi’s coordinate so well in combat.
Then the top of the roller coaster, a plot twist I felt was the most significant one, came while I was still looking at the view. As the story launched into a corkscrew I called time out and put the book down. After a day I realized Mr. Laws had hooked me and had reached what I can only surmise was his objective for the first part of the book. I realized I needed to pick up the book and ride on. Once I began reading again I finished without getting off the ride again. The details of Magnimar, and the inhabitants, continued to be spectacular as the ride accelerates to the end. The twists and turns of the ride are packed with action and definitely create a sense of urgency with a few small horizontal pieces of track to allow you to catch your breath and unfold another layer of the mystery. In some scenes I was rooting for the supporting characters with such passion that I mentally warned Mr. Laws to not mess with my expectations or I would again put down his book. In almost all instances I found myself nodding in satisfaction.
What I missed after picking up the book again was the same level of investment in Luma. I could not get emotionally attached after having to step away from the book. Additionally, the Shoanti play a role in the book, however I was not emotionally moved by the resolution of their role even though I got invested in their story. For me, Mr. Laws could have spent a few more pages here and made a powerful, moving scene. Lastly, I didn’t buy into the overall antagonistic motivation. I may have expected more in this regard, however, because I read some of the fantastic ideas in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Magnimar, City of Monuments product. In contrast, Mr. Laws motivation seems plain. I do not hold the technical errors in my electronic copy of the book against Mr. Laws but encourage Paizo to please not make these types of unprofessional mistakes again.
Mr Laws does a fine job of resolving everything he started, leaving everything I wanted as a reader resolved. I recommend buying a ticket on the Blood of the City ride, but beware, the first drop is a doozie.