When a mysterious monster carves a path of destruction across the southern River Kingdoms, desperate townsfolk look to the famed elven ranger Elyana and her half-orc companion Drelm for salvation. For Drelm, however, the mission is about more than simple justice, as without a great victory proving his worth, a prejudiced populace will never allow him to marry the human woman he loves. Together with a fresh band of allies, including the mysterious gunslinger Lisette, the heroes must set off into the wilderness, hunting a terrifying beast that will test their abilities—and their friendships—to the breaking point and beyond.
From acclaimed author Howard Andrew Jones comes a new adventure of love, death, and unnatural creatures, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
I don’t normally write reviews, a pattern I’m trying to break. With Stalking the Best we get an enjoyable read of a wide (but rapidly dwindling) cast.
Back are Elyana and Drelm, the unusual pairing from the end of Plauge of Shadows. One nice thing about them is they have their own lives, and are not even touched by the ‘will they/won’t they’ tension seen so often in such pairings. Both are professional, and friends.
The villians, and their plots are equally varied. People familiar with the world will quickly suspect the <redacted> when they are first seen, but <redacted>’s plans are much more layered.
The use of rarer classes actually works in the broader context of the River Kingdoms. While the LBEG and Lisette are not as common as a fighter or a wizard, they work in the context of the ‘everything goes’ nature of the Kingdoms, much better than, say, a ninja in Taldor. Also the logistics of a gun user are nicely referenced, as well as the fact that the story takes place largely away from resupply. I will admit, it would be entertaining to see, for example, someone write the logistics of a archer fighter or ranger who blows through 4+ arrows a round.
Game mechanics are visible at times, which works in the context of a RPG novel. Some surprisingly mundane methods are used to support the mechanics, others take advantage of rules people forget. (Without spoiling to much, when your SLAs don’t work, your spells still might.)
The cast of characters, while focusing on three, is rather large, and you get attached to a few before they die horribly. This is an ensemble piece, with some surprisingly powerful moments (Drelm’s final fate is clearly a surprise to everyone, including him.)
So I've been looking forward to this book since it was announced a few months ago, and I picked it up today at the local bookstore. I could not put it down, and just finished it, so I came here to share my views!
-Good characters! Glad to see Elyana and Drelm back, as I really enjoyed Plague of Shadows. I was also glad that all of the POV characters have strengths and weakness that drive their motives throughout the novel, and make the story better.
-The story was excellent, and the various races and classes of the Pathfinder RPG are well represented, and to me, in a way that makes sense. All the confusion over Lisette and her "wands" was rather hilarious, and helps show just how rare gunslingers are.
-Since this is a non-spoiler sort of thing, I will finish off with the fact that this book is a keeper and will be read again, and I will be convincing my players to read it as well.
I REALLY enjoyed this book. It got my attention right from the start, and kept me turning pages till the end. I wish I could say that for some of the other PF Tales books, which turned out to be good, but just took a hundred pages or so to really get me invested. (Still trying to finish the "Queen of Thorns"... ugh, and I LIKE Radovan and Jegare)
I like the Gunslinger class, so seeing it in action was fun. Eagerly awaiting more from this author... hopefully another sequel.
A disclaimer: I enjoy reading fantasy fiction for the sake of the story, not laser perfect adherence to a setting's rules. I find criticism in that vein to be sort of missing the point. If you are the type of pedant that can't handle that then, really, none of the Tales are really going to be your cup of tea.
This installment revisits some of my favorite characters in the classic "adventuring party" type format. If you are a fan of any of the other Tales you will not be disappointed by this one, in fact, I would go as far to recommend it to folks that aren't fans of the setting, it was that much of a pleasure to read.
General plot = okay except as spoilered below. A bit predictable, but while I knew the knife was coming, the direction it came from was not predictable.
Characters = well done and consistent. Not a fan of the classes used.
Plot vs Rules:
The rune on the summoner's head should have been visible, removing the only suspenseful part of the novel. But that would have ruined the plot, so instead, the author ruined the story for me.
Summoners and gunslingers are supposed to be rare outside of the respective areas they hail from. But both are found far from home, coincidentally, in a speck of a town in the River Kingdoms.
I am also a "no guns in my fantasy" type of guy, so that is a mark against the novel for me.
And why are there so many summoners in PF Tales all of a sudden? I swear if there is a summoner in any upcoming PF Tales, I am canceling my subscription. So prolly the next Dave Gross novel featuring Radovan, the synthesist summoner (another class I dislike in general).
Climatic battle: 15th level summoner, 9th level witch, 6th level pack lord & misc low level rangers = How did so many of the party survive? And the enemies tactics sucked for the preparation time and knowledge of the heroes they had.
I had written a longer review, but it was consumed by the post monster and I have calmed down a bit...