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Queen of Thorns review SPOILER HEAVY (Didddddd I mention spoilers)


Pathfinder Tales

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8, Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Okay, just finished Queen of Thorns.
I not only like it the most of the three on its own, but I love what it does as part of the evolving character arc for Varian and Radovan.

More thoughts below the spoiler line. WARNING: NO PUNCHES PULLED THIS IS SPOILER TASTIC!

click here:

I forget who coined the adage: "don't put a gun in the first act that
isn't going to go off in the third act" but one of my favorite elements of this story was the numerous subtle internal callbacks that reward readers.
Chief among them--in my opinion--is Radovan's heritage.
I love that in Prince of Wolves we find out about the nobility
inherent in his heritage. There are even a few moments of tension--if
I remember correctly--in Master of Devils or the intervening short
fiction about the fact that Radovan resents that he doesn't get equal
standing to the boss despite being the "damn prince of wolves."
As readers I felt like we previously saw Radovan's heritage as a sort of
rounding-out of his character while the devil side of him seemed like
part of his more recent history.
In Master of Devils the infernal aspect of Radovan's lineage became
front and center, but mostly due to the mechanics of his infernal
transformation. Any thoughts I had about a greater purpose
to his devil-side was subsumed by his predicament in the second book, thus still making it important but sort of distracting us as readers with Radovan's ordeal under Burning Cloud Devil.
At the end of Master of Devils I liked that Radovan had lost that part
of him, but is seemed a little neat, making me wonder if there was
more to come.

What was so engaging, for me, in Queen of Thorns was that it merged
the two previous elements of its predecessors. Radovan's nobility
became just as crucial as his infernal lineage in a way I had never
anticipated. It went back and imbued the events in Prince of Wolves
with more significance, something that I love for whenever I read a series.
Also, unlike a comic book series that goes off the rails (alternate
universe after alternate universe, characters that die and come back
over and over, clones), the reveal of Radovan's role as the Infernal
AND Abyssal gate means that the Devil part of him is not only
ever-present, but can change depending on the possessing devil without
feeling like a trite and hackneyed re-hash of what's been done before.

Dave Gross has managed to preserved the dynamic of Redovan's infernal side while introducing a way for it to constantly renew itself.
Watching that develop over the last three books has been excellent, and Queen of Thorns is the payout.

Where Varian is concerned I've enjoyed the sort of downgrading he's
had from his more noble roots in Prince of Wolves. His promotion of
Radovan to friend and then "brother" is really great character
development in my opinion, and I like the fact that we watch his
personal relationships evolve from those of manners and etiquette to
those of true depth and resourceful cooperation. I felt that the
Varian of Prince of Wolves was more self-reliant because he was
embroiled in his own skill set, whereas in his conversations with
Zaldanavox we see him drawing on skills he himself likens to Radovan's
charms rather than his own highborn courtesies. I also like the way
we have seen over the total three books his own arcane pursuits become enhanced by his greater worldly adventures.
His discovery of the riffle scrolls was his own design, but his incorporation of the calligraphy into his spellcasting in Dragon Temple grew out of the menial indignities that in other circumstances he might never have been exposed to.

The fact that Varian's own diplomatic tangle with the dragon gets
summed up by Radovan as "just keep her happy," really underscores that
the two of them are finding themselves in each others roles more and
more.

Stepping outside of the writing to the work's interaction with the Pathfinder Game, I love that there are subtle payouts for the readers that are also heavy gamers.
I think Zuldanavox is a great example. As a green dragon, informed gamers know that they're lawful evil. Dave Gross doesn't need to find a way to translate that from "gamespeak" into "bookspeak."
In fact, I felt that by having Radovan say in the earlier part of the book that the difference between a demon and devil is that "you can make a deal with a devil," we not only get foreshadowing of his later
compact with Hell, but we as readers are also getting a prescient description of the relationship Kyonin must ultimately have with the Queen of Thorns.
Again: Gun, first act. Third act, boom.

I also think that one of the ways the story transcends typical
shared-world fiction is that the main characters don't feel steeped in
any single alignment.
The prince was treacherous, but because he believed he knew best for
Kyonin. Caladrel was not evil, or sociopathic, he simply chose the
wrong side and was willing to betray others for that belief. The fact
that even Zuldanavox is open to diplomacy for the common good of
solving the Witchbole Problem reinforces that the characters have more
complex motivations than "what would Chaotic Eeeeeeeevil do?"

And on a purely visceral moment of enjoyment: the moment where Varian undoes the riffle scroll to cast (I'm assuming True Strike) to split Caladrel's arrow before it hits Variel was AWESOME.
I saw it in my head almost like when Li Mu Bai deflects the hundred darts in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
But even in just enjoying the action-packed moments the book really grabbed me. I was enjoying a slow and digestive read up until the battle in the City of Thorns began in earnest.
Then I couldn't put it down.

All in all I loved the book on its own and as part of the whole. I'd love to know what others thought/think.
Cheers
-JDB

Andoran

Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

Spoiler:
So, Varian... dye, magic, or a hint of bigger things to come? :P

Cheliax Contributor

xellos wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

What, was that not obvious? ;)

If you need another hint, there's a big one coming in the web fiction that launches... Say, it launches today. The third chapter might answer your question, or perhaps it will only extend the foreshadowing.

Because that's how I am.

Andoran

Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Dave Gross wrote:
xellos wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

What, was that not obvious? ;)

If you need another hint, there's a big one coming in the web fiction that launches... Say, it launches today. The third chapter might answer your question, or perhaps it will only extend the foreshadowing.

Because that's how I am.

Oh, I have my theories. We shall see! =P

Cheliax Contributor

BTW, we'll have two rooms in chat tomorrow night, one in which I'll be careful not to drop spoilers, the other in which I'll pretty much tell you anything that I'm not saving for a later surprise.

Cheliax Contributor

To those who've finished the book: Did you find the character name notes under each title chapter useful or superfluous?

Qadira RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

Dave Gross wrote:
To those who've finished the book: Did you find the character name notes under each title chapter useful or superfluous?

A little superfluous: the fact that they switched perspective every chapter (save for the epilogue where it switched midchapter) and the fact that Varian and Radovan have very distinct voices makes the names unnecessary.

That said, I think this was my favorite out of the three fantastic books. The first book took me about a week to read through, and the second a matter of days. This book was so riveting that I read it in less than six hours.

Andoran

Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

Superfluous in the sense that the characters have very distinct voices; but I liked that they were there anyway.

Contributor

The character name tags are superfluous if you're reading the tale through straight beginning-to-end, but if you're instead doing the here, read a chapter while waiting for the bus, there, read a chapter while waiting for your friends after class sporadic entertainment routine, it's a quick way to jog your memory and also helps you to more quickly get into a character's voice if you imagine a certain tone and inflection for each character.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

I was missing the chapters narrated by Arnis- SQURREL!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Figured this would be the place to add spoilery comments.

Spoiler:
'elf gate' made me laugh out loud. "Would you like to use my elf gate" is the new pickup line.

I like to think Oddnoggin's squirrel translators were there just for me.

Cheliax Contributor

Matthew, I did think of you and a few others who'd made similar remarks about Master of Devils when writing the squirrels, but I restrained myself from making an obvious Up gag.

Cheliax Contributor

Now you have me wondering whether folks have favorite tertiary characters from QoT, like Oddnoggin and the squirrels. There aren't as many in this book as usual.

Osirion RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Dave Gross wrote:
Now you have me wondering whether folks have favorite tertiary characters from QoT, like Oddnoggin and the squirrels. There aren't as many in this book as usual.

Quang:
Of all the Devils in The Little Hell, Quang (to my mind) is the one with the biggest balls. All of the others seem like either Unique Devils or at least souped up versions of normal Devils, whereas Quang just seems like a regular Imp. But he still stands up to the others and says his mind. It's gonna be freakin' hilarious when Quang gets his chance to hitch a ride and I'm eagerly awaiting that day.

:D

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Dave Gross wrote:
Matthew, I did think of you and a few others who'd made similar remarks about Master of Devils when writing the squirrels, but I restrained myself from making an obvious Up gag.

I feel all warm and fuzzy.


I fear I'm beginning to become addicted to Varian and Radovan (and Arnisant)'s adventures.
I confess I only bought "Prince of Wolves" because I was bored. I had (and still have) really bad memories from when I read various novels set in the Forgotten Realm or Dragonlance settings. Now I have read the 3 books (and the novellas and short stories) and I'm glad to say Dave Gross has made me forgot those times. Thanks a lot for that (and for the books of course)

Contributor

Dave Gross wrote:
To those who've finished the book: Did you find the character name notes under each title chapter useful or superfluous?

Superfluous because I blew through the book in one sitting last night, but as KAM points out, it would probably be pretty useful if you were reading in a more stop-and-start fashion.

Oddnoggin was pretty awesome/sad, as was the tainted unicorn. I really liked the concept of repeated encounters with demons leaving corruption scars (totes stealing that idea if/when I next do demons, fyi. It's, uh, continuity!). Reminiscent of Princess Mononoke but unique to Golarion too.

Cheliax Contributor

Liane Merciel wrote:
Dave Gross wrote:
Oddnoggin was pretty awesome/sad, as was the tainted unicorn. I really liked the concept of repeated encounters with demons leaving corruption scars (totes stealing that idea if/when I next do demons, fyi. It's, uh, continuity!). Reminiscent of Princess Mononoke but unique to Golarion too.

No surprise you should mention Mononoke; Nausicaa was certainly one of the visual influences on the City of Thorns, if only glancingly.

Steal away! I can't wait to see your next book.

Contributor

Dave Gross wrote:
Steal away! I can't wait to see your next book.

Well, it won't do me any good for that one, because

Spoiler:
there are no demons
.

But after that, we shall see. It's definitely the kind of idea that sticks in your head with potential...

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Oh, the talk about scars reminded me.

I've used the 'healing feels different depending on the source' thing for a few years now, it's humbling to see a professional thinking along the same lines.

(And today's lesson, don't get healed by Kuthites or followers of Loviatar unless you like pain)


Matthew Morris wrote:

Oh, the talk about scars reminded me.

I've used the 'healing feels different depending on the source' thing for a few years now, it's humbling to see a professional thinking along the same lines.

(And today's lesson, don't get healed by Kuthites or followers of Loviatar unless you like pain)

I think Robert Jordan did that back in the prologue to Eye of the World - add servants of the Dark One (a.k.a. He Who Must Not Be Named) to that list.

Cheliax Contributor

Namtarou wrote:

I fear I'm beginning to become addicted to Varian and Radovan (and Arnisant)'s adventures.

I confess I only bought "Prince of Wolves" because I was bored. I had (and still have) really bad memories from when I read various novels set in the Forgotten Realm or Dragonlance settings. Now I have read the 3 books (and the novellas and short stories) and I'm glad to say Dave Gross has made me forgot those times. Thanks a lot for that (and for the books of course)

Thanks for the kind words. Have you checked out the free web fiction stories? There are something over thirty of them now, and if you've enjoyed these books I think you'll like them. Posting reviews of the ones you like best is a great way to make the day of the writer.

Cheliax Contributor

Especially if you've already read the book, please drop a question or two on me for tomorrows Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). Here's the placeholder link. You can mask spoilers, and I'll answer the same way. Tomorrow I'll update this link with the actual thread introduction. You can find the update and other links on my Twitter feed (@frabjousdave) and my various other social media sites.

In the meantime, check out this chat James Sutter and I had at Sword & Laser.

Taldor

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Tales Subscriber
xellos wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

I read the book over the weekend and have no idea what you're writing about: please explain for the hard of thinking.

Oh, yeah, loved this. Dave Gross is the Pathfinder writer. I laughed so hard at the final line that my fiance asked me if I was okay.

Taldor

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Tales Subscriber
Dave Gross wrote:

In the meantime, check out this chat James Sutter and I had at Sword & Laser.

Skips to 24 minutes in, the stuf before that was non-Gross and pretty dull.

Cheliax Contributor

GeraintElberion wrote:
xellos wrote:
** spoiler omitted **
I read the book over the weekend and have no idea what you're writing about: please explain for the hard of thinking.

Spoiler:
This is easy to miss, as the references have been subtle so far. Xellos is referring to Radovan's assumption early in Queen of Thorns that the boss had been dying his hair or using magic to hide the gray streaks briefly mentioned in Prince of Wolves, and possibly also elsewhere.

While the truth has not yet been explicitly revealed, it's hinted in both the new novel and in the unfolding web story, "Killing Time." The biggest clue will come in Chapter Three of the new story, but Xellos is a very perceptive reader and is way ahead of you.

Also, thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed the last line. It came to me very early in outlining and never changed.

Cheliax Contributor

flash_cxxi wrote:


** spoiler omitted **

:D

Spoiler:
You are definitely paying attention to the devils. I confess to a soft spot for Quang, too. He's definitely got little dog syndrome. Remind you of anybody else in the book?

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Modules, Tales Subscriber

I finished the book yesterday! I just took the time to read through all the spoilers in the thread.

I enjoyed the book! I agree that this was the best of the three so far. I will try to get a review up in the next week or so.

-Aaron


Working my way backwards, read King of Chaos last month and just finished reading Queen of Thorns.

Simply put, this is a very good fantasy novel. The big thing I am struck with is that this is not a novel commissioned just to serve as iller for the game setting. It never feels clunky. Sure, there are refernces to spider climb, magic missle, wall of ice etc, but its never 'Varian casts a 4th lvl spell wall of ice". Its done as well as you can do while incorporating the game mechanics of the world in which its based.

I actually do appreciate that Dave makes the effort. It would feel wrong to write a pathfinder based novel and have Varian not be bound by the mechanics of that world.

Overall, the biggest strength is the characterization of the two main protagonists. These are people with real depth, which can be sadly lacking in many fantasy novels.

Cheliax Contributor

Thanks, Black Dougal. I'm especially interested to see your continuing reactions since you're going backwards. I've always hoped the novels could stand alone and be read in any order, but so many new readers insist on starting from the beginning that I've seen very little about how it works for people non-chronologically.


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Modules, Tales Subscriber
Black Dougal wrote:

Simply put, this is a very good fantasy novel. The big thing I am struck with is that this is not a novel commissioned just to serve as iller for the game setting. It never feels clunky. Sure, there are refernces to spider climb, magic missle, wall of ice etc, but its never 'Varian casts a 4th lvl spell wall of ice". Its done as well as you can do while incorporating the game mechanics of the world in which its based.

I actually do appreciate that Dave makes the effort. It would feel wrong to write a pathfinder based novel and have Varian not be bound by the mechanics of that world.

I agree that Dave Gross does a great job at incorporating game mechanics into the stories without making it obvious. I am looking forward to rereading Queen of Thorns once I finish rereading Master of Devils.

If I may recommend another Tales novel, you should check out Blood of the City by Robin D. Laws. He also does a great job (maybe even a better job?) at putting in the game mechanics (spell components, character leveling, etc) without smacking you in the head with the Core Rulebook.

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