Later this month the new Pathfinder Tales novel, Hellknight by Liane Merciel releases! So, I wanted to drop in and tell you all why this book might just be your new favorite in the line.
If you've been following the novels for a while (and if you aren't, you can subscribe right here and stop missing out), you probably know Liane best from Nightglass and Nightblade. Through the adventures of Isiem and his companions, Liane did more than anyone to establish the dark yet terrifyingly realistic flavor of Nidal's society, as well as much of our understanding of the winged strix. I make no secret of my admiration for the work she's done fleshing out that part of our world, so when she proposed turning her attention to Cheliax and the Hellknights, I knew that I could trust her to bring some of the most important pieces of our campaign setting to life.
And did she ever! See, without realizing it, Liane had been training for this book for years. She had spent countless sessions playing through the Council of Thieves Adventure Path, steeping in the lore of Westcrown and the surrounding region until she was an even greater expert than those of us who created it. She's meticulous with the canon, and running across all the tiny cameos and easter eggs in this novel made the setting feel alive in the way only the best tie-in books do.
Yet the best example of that skill comes in the main characters themselves. You've got Ederras, a Chelish paladin of Iomedae struggling to reconcile his calling with his rightful place in Cheliax's aristocracy. You've got Velenne, a spellcasting scion of House Thrune who can scheme with the best of them. And you've got Jheraal—illustrated here by Eric Belisle—a tiefling Hellknight specialized in solving crimes whose devotion to her order is trumped only by her dedication to the secret daughter she gave up for adoption. While far from perfect, these people are all heroes, and together they show better than I've ever seen how Chelish society can emerge from the actions of fundamentally ordinary people. Velenne in particular fascinates me, because she exemplifies how someone can be part of an evil organization like House Thrune and still be human, relatable—even likeable. A person with hopes and dreams and loves... and profane compacts with Hell.
It's a tribute to Liane's work that even Erik Mona, who created Cheliax and House Thrune, came away from the novel saying he felt like he understood that part of our setting much better now. So if you're playing in a Cheliax-based adventure path—such as, say, Hell's Rebels or Hell's Vengeance—there's really no better primer for the flavor of those campaigns than Hellknight.
So there you go! A paean to the ambiguities of society and the human condition, and—
Wait, what's that? You want to know what the book's actually about?
Oh, well, there's somebody hideously murdering tieflings in Westcrown and stealing their still-beating hearts. And shadow monsters. And graveknights. And an exploration of the Hellknights' greatest shame, one so sinister that an entire order was destroyed to keep it quiet. Sound good? Yeah, I thought so too.
Anyway, please give the book a read, then come back to the forums to let me and Liane know what you think—we'd love to hear from you!
James L. Sutter