It's no secret that I find Tim Pratt hilarious. I first got a taste of his snarky humor back in 2012 in his first Pathfinder Tales novel, City of the Fallen Sky—and Skiver remains one of my favorite supporting characters—but it was in 2013's Liar's Blade that he introduced the charming con man Rodrick and his talking sword Hrym and won my heart forever.
See, humorous fantasy is really, really difficult to do well. If you're not careful, it can end up feeling juvenile or corny, or else become a farce—a wink-nudge pastiche that is as much laughing at fantasy as with it. Tim's humor, on the other hand, comes from the characters he creates. The world isn't designed to be humorous—it's as serious as our own—but the characters find the humor inherent in even the bleakest circumstances, often at their own expense. This is Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser territory, as well as that of glorious 80s action-comedies like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, and the snappy self-aware dialogue of a Tarantino or George Clooney character. It's bombastic action that understands the frequent absurdity that goes hand in hand with being awesome.
Which is why, when Tim pitched me on the idea of a new Rodrick and Hrym novel with the phrase "Rodrick and Hrym join the Suicide Squad," I was hooked. Where Liar's Island had been a chance for us to check out Jalmeray in a way we hadn't since the module Cult of the Ebon Destroyers, this book would focus on some of our more familiar settings: Lastwall and Nirmathas. It'd also give Tim the chance to invent a bunch of high-end criminals, and make them all try to work together, which goes about as well as trapping a bunch of cats in a sack. (When Rodrick's starting to sound like the reasonable one, you know you're in trouble.) Add in a favorite monster from the very birth of Pathfinder, and I was sold.
I deeply enjoyed the chance to ride along with the Bickering Duo again in Liar's Bargain, and I hope you will as well!
James L. Sutter