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Pathfinder Tales: The Redemption Engine

***** (based on 7 ratings)
Pathfinder Tales: The Redemption Engine
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by James L. Sutter

When murdered sinners fail to show up in Hell, it's up to Salim Ghadafar, an atheist warrior forced to solve problems for the goddess of death, to track down the missing souls. In order to do so, Salim will need to descend into the anarchic city of Kaer Maga, following a trail that ranges from Hell’s iron cities to the gates of Heaven itself. Along the way, he’ll be aided by a host of otherworldly creatures, a streetwise teenager, and two warriors of the mysterious Iridian Fold. But when the missing souls are the scum of the earth, and the victims devils themselves, can anyone really be trusted?

From acclaimed author James L. Sutter comes a sequel to Death’s Heretic, ranked #3 on Barnes & Noble’s Best Fantasy Releases of 2011!

ISBN–13: 978-1-60125-618-8
ePub ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-619-5

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

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Product Reviews (7)
1 to 5 of 7 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>

Average product rating:

***** (based on 7 ratings)

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Weighed and Not Found Wanting

*****

If Death's Heretic can be said to be Sutter's treatise on order versus chaos, The Redemption Engine is his contribution to good versus evil. Extremely engaging, highly entertaining, a thorough mystery populated with intriguing and invigorating characters and lavishly-detailed locales. Makes me miss some good old-fashioned Planescape. And there's obvious improvement over his first novel in the series. Eagerly awaiting more from Salim.


A+, would recommend.

*****

James L. Sutter excels at fast-paced action and dialogue that feels more like an action movie than a typical novel. The Redemption Engine is even better in this regard than his first book, Death’s Heretic. This book continues the planar travelogue tradition of the first one, giving amazing descriptions of Heaven and Hell along the way. The description of Heaven was especially good—we’re used to descriptions of Hell by now, it’s comparatively easy to envision a horrible dungeon plane of lost souls. Envisioning a realistic Heaven is more difficult, but the Heaven presented here was as breath-taking and obnoxious by turns as I would expect a plane of Lawful Good souls to be.

If you’ve read Death's Heretic you’ve got a good feel for Salim’s backstory and what makes him tick. This book challenged that in some ways I really wasn’t expecting and left him in a place that felt realistic and left me hoping that another Salim book is coming so that I can see how he’s going to develop.


Seven Mounting Heavens of Salim

*****

James L. Sutter delivers another excellent Salim Ghadafar story with the Redemption Engine. From the wonderfully strange city of Kaer Maga and its equally weird citizens to far off planar locales, this story never slows down. Oh. Be on the lookout for two characters who in my opinion almost stole the show. To sum up, I really love this story, its characters and its locations. Do yourself a favor and buy this book. You will not regret it!


Review from the Grassy Gnoll

*****

Originally posted on The Grassy Gnoll. Version posted here has been edited for length, and had some spoiler tags added.

As soon as the story started, I was sucked into the city of Kaer Maga. ... You get a really good feel for just how strange this city is based on how he reacts to it. After all, if it's weirding out a hard-bitten inquisitor who regularly travels to other planes of existence ... I think it's a pretty good indication that you're not in Kansas anymore. So much that the inhabitants of the city take for granted is strange and confusing to Salim, with full-blooded orcs wandering around freely, undead servants being accepted and allowed, and an area of the city ruled by freed slaves who somehow seem to have reconciled themselves with the fact that the rest of the city still condones slavery.

Perhaps the most effective moment in setting the scene was Salim's moment of, panic isn't the right word, but it's all I can think of, when he turns around and almost runs into a troll.

Spoiler:
Fearing that the beast will cause massive damage to the crowded market, he goes to draw his sword, only to watch in shock as a merchant peaceably negotiates a price with the troll, who then guts himself, reads the merchant's fate in his own entrails, calmly stuffs them back into his body and walks away. That's right, the trolls are a valued part of society, acting as augurs and fortune tellers to those with the cash to pay them.
It's a nice touch, a way to show that the rules really are different here, and it leads me nicely into my next point.

As I mentioned in my review of Skinwalkers, I really like when they tie the Tales novels into the Pathfinder canon. And that's been done really well here. The troll augurs have been detailed before in the City of Strangers setting guide, and play a role in The Asylum Stone as well. The adorably cocky and charming streetwise guide, Gav, also appears in The Asylum Stone. I can't say for sure what else has been tied in, as unfortunately I don't currently have access to a copy of City of Strangers or my copy of The Asylum Stone, but I'm sure there's going to be plenty more bits and pieces to really drive home that it's not just some generic city that's been thrown together. For example, I'd be very surprised if Alaeh A'kaan and his spectacular inn, the Canary House, were not part of the city prior to this book. This kind of attention to detail definitely helps pull me into the story more.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Salim adventure if we didn't get treated to a veritable feast of strange and wonderful locations, and The Redemption Engine certainly doesn't disappoint. As the back of the book states, Salim visits both the idyllic plane of Heaven, where the Archons and Angels maintain order in paradise; and the fires of Hell, home to the Devils. Both of these settings are detailed beautifully, as are some other exotic locations that I don't want to spoil. As is usual, we also get plenty of exposure to the Outsiders of Pathfinder throughout the story. ... I think the way they were written actually gave some really good insight into what it means to be a manifestation of an ideology rather than a truly free-willed sentient being (yes, they can make choices, but they tend to act within their alignment and role more often than not). It was also really nice to finally get some, if not a whole lot, of information on how exactly the Aeon's go about their task of maintaining balance. Honestly, it was something I really didn't see coming, and I can't wait to work something to do with it into one of my games. There's also a very telling comment about the nature of those who go to Heaven, as opposed to Elysium or Nirvana (the Chaotic Good and Neutral Good planes).

Spoiler:
When a character asks about why the souls are waiting in line to get into Heaven, the response is essentially "because those are the kind of people who go to Heaven".
It shows that people get what they truly deserve in the afterlife. The cunning and calculating evil go to Hell, the psychopaths go to the Abyss, the nihilistic evil go to Abbadon, and the reverse applies for the Good aligned in their final journey. This kind of look at how the planes works is much appreciated, as it gives a much better understanding of how the multiverse functions in this setting.

Discussion of Characters:
Now, on to characters. As I'm sure you've figured out, I adore Salim. He's a brilliantly written character, with wit, style and confidence justified by the fact that yes, he is good at his job. But he has his flaws, and that's why I love him. He can be over-confident, he's prideful, and his insistence on working alone gets him into trouble that could have been avoided if he'd just accepted the help he was offered. It means that there's room for the character to grow and develop, and he certainly does throughout this novel. I'm not going to talk too much about him though, because I'll never stop. So let's talk about a few of the other characters.

As I mentioned earlier, Gav the street guide from The Asylum Stone makes an appearance as Salim's guide. His sharp wit, layman philosophy, and fierce loyalty mixed with his natural charm make him an endearing character. He's ready to follow Salim anywhere he goes, because as far as he's concerned, it's the right thing to do. Maybe it's because he reminds me of someone I knew a long time ago, but I consider him to be one of my favourite secondary characters from recent times.

Roshad and Bors deserve a mention here as well. The sorcerer and fighter (I assume he's a fighter) are intriguing characters, with their close bond both to each other and, as the story progresses, Salim. Members of the mysterious group known as the Iridian Fold, they seem to be the real catalyst to Salim realising that he doesn't have to do everything alone, that he can have friends. I don't want to give too much of their story away, so I'm just going to say that you should really go and find out about their background in Sutter's new addition to the Pathfinder Tales webfiction, Boar and Rabbit, which takes place prior to the events of The Redemption Engine (part one has just been posted here).

Maedora is the other character I'd like to talk about. She's an interesting counterpoint to Salim, in that she basically performs the same role, from a different side. She's a powerful psychopomp, and like Salim cares for nothing her duty. Her only satisfaction seems to be making sure that the proper order of the afterlife is maintained, with souls going to where they belong. She also has an interesting dislike of Salim from the outset, apparently feeling that he is unworthy of the power and tasks laid upon him, no matter that he didn't want to take them up in the first place.

The interactions between Salim and these characters is filled with enough conflict, banter, tension, victories and setbacks to drive some excellent character development. It makes them feel like living, breathing characters, with their own worries and cares. I think part of this is the conversational way that they're written, the dialogue never really breaks into a formal style, keeping things sounding like a real conversation.

Okay, nearly done. Let's talk about the writing style. If my earlier comments didn't make it clear, The Redemption Engine is an action packed novel. Once it gets rolling, it rarely slows down, and it gets rolling early. That said, James Sutter's writing makes it easy to keep track of what's happening. There's no confusion about who's doing what, where the characters are headed, it's all very clearly written and easy to understand. Combat is well written and exciting, with the descriptions giving a strong mental image of the action. In regards to violence, I wouldn't say it's any worse than any of the other novels in the Pathfinder Tales series. There are descriptions of injuries caused by magic and blades, but none of it is gratuitous or overly graphic, just enough to make it clear that they're fighting for keeps.

I'm also a big fan of the way he manages to get across core concepts of the characters, like Salim's disgust at having to use Pharasma's power. Rather than state that Salim hates it, we get a descriptive element to it, where he likens the feeling of her divine power a taint contaminating him, like a mudslide pouring into a clear pond. Little touches like that are what make it such a joy to read.

Like Death's Heretic, it's one of the longer of the Pathfinder Tales, taking me most of a day to read. Death's Heretic took about the same amount of time for me, as did Chris A. Jackson's Pirates Honor and Ed Greenwood's The Wizard's Mask. So it's one of the meatier novels in the series so far.

So, to summarise. Would I recommend The Redemption Engine?

Short Answer: Yes.

Long Answer: Hell yes I would! Read it. Right now. Then tell me how awesome it is. Go on, I'll wait. In fact I might just reread it right now, in the hopes that when I'm done I'll look at the list of upcoming books in the series and see a third Salim story on there. It's got everything I wanted out of it. Angels, Devils, other miscellaneous Outsiders, plane hopping shenanigans, long coat (or robe) wearing clerics who kick ass and take names. Twisted plots and powerful magic. What more could you ask for?


Awesome or Awesomest?

*****

I've spent the last couple years telling my gaming friends, secular friends, and random people on the internet to read Death's Heretic. And I have an unhealthy fondness for Kaer Maga, so my expectations could be accurately described as "sky high."

And this was everything I wanted and a few things I really should have remembered to ask for. There's a good mystery, interesting characters, and a central philosophical question that actually makes you think.

One thing that still took me by surprise was the quality of the planar scenes. There are seriously things about the planes that have been bugging me since TSR was running the show... and get neatly tied up here like it was the plan all along.

I could pick nits, but my only real regret is that the central question of Death's Heretic speaks to me more than the central question here. I don't think it's actually a weightier issue, just one that's more important to me.

Short Version: If you've read Death's Heretic, read this. If you haven't, go read Death's Heretic, then read this.


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