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*****

A great follow-up to Death's Heretic, and in my opinion, an improvement on what was already a pretty good book. Great cast of characters, a mystery, twists, action, and wonderful visits to Kaer Maga and some of the Outer Planes. Plus, some welcome character development for Salim. It would have bothered me a little if he stayed too static over the course of the 2 books.

The only thing I didn't care for was the interaction w/ the Aeons, but that's only b/c I think they're a rare misfire in Paizo's otherwise great collection of planar races. Conceptually, I find them ridiculous. But that's not the author's fault (unless he's responsible for them, I guess). The editing was not too bad. Like pretty much every other book in this line, there's always room for improvement.

If the Tales line ever continues, I hope it includes another book w/ Salim. This was one of my all-time favorites in the line.


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****( )

High marks for a pretty unique, interesting main protagonist. The mini-tour of a few Outer Planes, and the First World, woven into a murder-mystery, was also quite enjoyable. Some interesting encounters all around. Not a lot to add given the extensive reviews already here. I'm looking forward to reading the next book w/ Salim.

Editing was pretty good, though w/ room for improvement.


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****( )

Another great entry in this series, and like the previous book, it builds logically on that which came before. The stakes continue to rise, as does the tension (though the 2nd book had that in spades!). It's not just the main (3) characters that are interesting, though, but the supporting cast is pretty cool too (who wouldn't love Snick?!). Plenty of intrigue, espionage, and high-seas drama.

An interesting development was w/ Celeste, who became an unwitting (won't spoil it)...let's just say her capabilities grew w/ her newfound abilities. But the fact that it was unwitting and even unwanted was a cool twist.

Editing the same as the last 2 novels in the series.


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The best-laid plans of corsairs and courtesans...

****( )

Wow, this was quite the follow-up to Pirate's Honor. I very much liked the new place of honor given to Vreva Jhafae, who becomes easily as interesting a character as any of the others. There were some brutal twists in this book which added to the shock value, but it was a rollicking tale.

The relationship between Vreva and the Inquisitor set against her was an emotional rollercoaster. Harrowing stuff by the end. I liked also how this book built upon what came before in a logical fashion (which is continued in the 3rd book, Pirate's Prophecy, of course).

Editing was similar. Better in the 1st half than the latter half; a pattern I can't quite explain.

My only criticism would be the undoing...shall we say...of a particular character's demise. I kept that vague to avoid spoilers. Why I hated that the character perished, it added to the lethality of the stakes underway, and I was a bit disappointed when it was undone.


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The long con

****( )

This was pretty interesting. A diverse crew of pirates a bit more ethical than the usual, and the romance between the captain and the navigator--no spoilers, though the back cover quickly gives it away--was not your typical fantasy romance. The story is a long con job w/ many twists, some unforeseen. The foil (mark) was an atypical antagonist in some ways.

I'm not quite the nautical enthusiast the author is, though, so some of the extensive use of (no doubt) true-to-life nautical terminology left me a bit cold. The editing was pretty good, w/ some stumbles in the latter parts of the book.


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****( )

Unlike perhaps some of the other reviewers/posters, I liked this even more than Nightglass. And given that I liked Hellknight the best of them all, I can only conclude Ms. Merciel gets better and better on every outing.

A good cast of characters, and the ultimate villains of the horrid Fiendslair were truly frightening.

The character arcs of Isiem and Ascaros, the childhood friends of southern Nidal, was a nice study in contrasts.

On a side note, I continue to be impressed w/ all the shades of nuance and characterization authors in this line use for their paladins. Despite being all LG, they have all stood out for me in one way or another. In this book, it was Kyril.

Editing was pretty good.


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****( )

An interesting protagonist, but not one of my favorite protagonists. The redemption story--or at least its beginnings--however is well-done. The earlier Nidal experience was quite a heady experience, no holds barred. Probably best recommended for a mature audience, shall we say.

I saw the Strix, in the far west of Cheliax, like the Native Americans in this country. A poor writer would have made them into "noble savages", but Ms. Merciel is quite the opposite of a poor writer. They were what they were; and lived life on their own terms in a hardscrabble existence as best they could.

Others have pointed out a few glaring editing mistakes but overall it was pretty good.


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****( )

This was pretty good. The study in contrasts between the aggressive dhampir Larsa and the more reserved Pharasmin priestess, Jadain, made for a good tension between the allies. Ustalav got a nice overview, not surprising given the author. Considine might have been my favorite character. The Pharasma factions and tensions was a nice, unexpected twist to the book.

Editing was not good, however. It started out ok and got worse in the latter parts of the book.


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I fought the law, and, the law won!

*****

What do you get when you forge a party comprising a LG paladin, a LN Hellknight, and a LE diabolist? Three different interpretations of the power of Law. More importantly, you get a rollicking good time w/ great characters, villains, dialogue, and a strong vote for best supporting character (that would be the diabolist's companion, Vhaeros) in a PF book.

Kudos on making us believe a star-crossed romance between the paladin and the diabolist could, maybe, possibly, work out. Some of the best dialogue in the book came from Velenne, in fact.

Editing was very good; not a lot of noticeable errors at all.

I would love a sequel to this book, w/ all 3 characters working together again (and Vhaeros makes 4). Also, a shout out to those in the acknowledgments who contributed towards the final product; thank you as well!


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The Expendables of Lastwall

****( )

I hope this isn't the last we see of Rodrick & Hrym; this is why the Tales must return in print!

Anyway, another enjoyable romp, w/ another cool cast of characters. Lots of witty banter (mostly between our dynamic duo), and the actual villain--once unmasked (heh heh)--is pretty cool, too. I do love these tales of thrown-together misfits, and their misadventures are always fun. Different books have different casts of side characters, but this group was particularly enjoyable.

Editing not too bad.


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****( )

Not quite as enjoyable as Liar's Blade, but that's a very high bar to reach. Roderick & Hrym are an enjoyable duo, and the supporting cast of characters is large and mostly interesting as well. I appreciate the effort to deal w/ the ramifications of the last book's ending, and that by the end of this book, there seemed to be indications of another at least modest change in store for our pair of (anti-) heroes.

Editing wasn't bad (for all none of you interested in what I mean by that...fewer than 10 noticeable typos, I'd guess).

The Jalmeray setting was pretty cool.


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Well, the cover was great

**( )( )( )

I've read all of GG's Gord the Rogue books, and most of the PF Tales novels. I didn't think this held a candle to most of the Tales novels, and didn't enjoy this as much as some of the better Gord books. I'm afraid female characters and protagonists never was a strength of Gygax. They're not a centerpiece of this book by any means, but when they appeared, I just wasn't feeling it. The end was a little much for me as well.

I didn't care for the mash-up world of Aerth, either. Too close to Earth for me. Also, avoid the Erik Mona introduction until AFTER you've read it; a ridiculous spoiler is found therein.

I have no interest in reading the other 2 books in this trilogy (which I'm not sure Planet Stories published or not), based on this 1st book.

Editing is not that great; like an average Tales novel I'm afraid.


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My new favorite

*****

This was my 3rd Tim Pratt PF book in 3 days (sadly, I'm back to work tomorrow). While I greatly enjoyed the 2 Alaeron & Skiver books (especially "Reign of Stars"), this book--written curiously enough in the middle of those 2--was my favorite. W/ only 11 PF books left to read, this very well might be my new favorite, narrowly edging out "Plague of Shadows". Though in a way I hate to rank the best of these books.

I can't really say anything more (or more eloquently) than the other reviewers have already done. Though beyond the Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser/Fritz Leiber homage the author and reviewers all point out, no one seems to have mentioned a comedic riff on Moorcock's Elric & Stormbringer relationship, which was how I took Rodrick & Hrym's relationship to be. There's some not so subtle hints on exactly that relationship; at least the sword part of it. Since I grew up w/ Leiber & Moorcock as my fantasy staples, that meant this book had extra meaning to me.

Regardless, the humor in this book never stops. I was either grinning or laughing out loud for almost the entire book. I loved the banter, ALL the characters of any significance, the plot twists upon twists upon twists. The final reveal about Hrym's true origins is quite cool as well. I have nothing bad to say about this book. I won't even mention editing, as I can live w/ a half-dozen typos and the like in a book this size. Ok, I did mention it, but it didn't affect my review score...


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Misadventures in Numeria

****( )

A wonderful follow-up to City of the Fallen Sky, which I read yesterday. I really like Alaeron and Skiver, but the author does a wonderful job of giving us other fleshed out characters to root for and against (Zernebeth was awesome). For those who complained that Alaeron didn't do all that much in the 1st book, rest assured he's much more competent and self-assured--if as hopelessly myopic in other ways--in this book.

The 1st third of the book in particular had me grinning and at times laughing out loud. The dialogue is snappy and often funny. The 1st book had Alaeron on the cover, but I'm pretty sure this one has Skiver on the cover (wasting an action throwing a knife at a Myrmidon...but he's got plenty of knives). Speaking of Skiver, he really came into his own as a cunning rogue w/ some great plans. The 2 characters definitely complement one another.

Editing just a notch below the 1st book, but overall not too bad. Here's hoping I enjoy the adventures of the protagonist(s) of the "Liar's..." books, of which I see there are 3, as much.


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Bombs (and mutagens and extracts) away!

****( )

This was quite fun. I enjoyed the protagonist, the companions, the antagonists, et al. I also enjoyed the journey from Andoran to the Mwangi Expanse and stops along the way. Many of the PF novels take place mostly in 1 country or area (which is fine of course), so it was nice to have a meandering journey in this book. A plot-twist at the end w/ 2 of the main characters was well-done, and avoided a cliche ending, which was most appreciated.

Editing was pretty good (usually that's a pet peeve of mine in these books). Today I'm going to read the sequel, "Reign of Stars".


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Back to the Worldwound

****( )

I liked this pretty much. Though I'm becoming less enamored of the Tales model of "chapter 1 for character A, chapter 2 for character B", what was interesting here was that sometimes you were reading from the perspective of the villain. Not something you see every day. Lots of twists and characters to keep you interested, and I have to say the main twist near the end--involving the "Reaper"--was unexpected and cool. I always like when something plays out against type.

Minor criticisms...well, as is all too common, the editing of these books. I'm getting too good at filling in missing words, correcting typos, and mentally removing extra words. Also, while I enjoyed the "talking weasel" character quite a lot, naming it "Toy" was a distraction I didn't want.

Bonus points for hinting at the real BBEG w/ a simple coin description. That was cool; didn't spell it out but didn't need to...if there were ever a sequel, I would hope that would be explored more.

EDIT: another criticism of sorts. Why have the villain a PF "witch", a distinct class that exists in the game, but not have a single hex thrown around. I get that the patron was punishing him, but why not simply make him a more standard spell caster?


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Who knew Bards could be so fun?

****( )

I thoroughly enjoyed this. I liked the various party members (mostly bards--a class I've never played in roughly 40 years of RPGs), the setting, the factions, the sympathetic villains (I'm leaning toward antagonists as a general term), and the dialogue. The story had drama, pathos, humor, and lots of witty dialogue. A few serious belly laughs ("I love a good debriefing!").

Also, though a small part of the book, the "true neutral" druids really hit home what that would mean in a fantasy setting. Or could mean. I'm sure some people wrote that off as cliche, but it made me view true neutral druids a little differently than I had previously.

I also liked how it avoided a cliche happy ending w/ not 1 but 2 different romances. Characters that didn't survive the conflict. Side characters I cared about. The effort put into the songs behind the bardic spell casting. All good stuff.


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***( )( )

I thought this was an improvement on "Skinwalkers". I liked the Mythos touch. I liked the different factions on the island w/ their own agendas as opposed to a clearly delineated band of antagonists v. protagonists. I liked that there were real casualties, given the incredible odds they were up against; it gets a little much when everyone survives for a happy ending.

Dislikes would include her son, Kran. More often than not, I'm afraid I just found him annoying. And the little dog surviving the whole adventure stretched disbelief. Also, the proofreading and editing seemed nonexistent. Worse than "Skinwalkers". While I could guess the missing words when I came upon them (often a simple "the"), or overlook an extra word, or fill in the past tense of a few verbs...all together it was too much for a professionally published novel.

Overall, a fun read. 3.5 stars for me.


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***( )( )

I'm struggling a bit w/ how I felt about this. Having read more than 1/2 of the PF Tales novels at this point, I find I do have a preference for party-based tales. Or even tales w/ 2 main protagonists. Here, Jendara is really the only character I would call a protagonist. Everyone else is a side character. So that's a personal preference thing.

I liked the setting, was not put off by the grim but realistic violence, and after a period of adjustment, didn't really mind the low-magic fantasy of it all. Jendara was a decent protagonist, but I think I wanted other characters more sharply drawn and fleshed out. I will read Starspawn next (or soon) as I just realized it's a sequel, and see if some of the problems I had w/ this book have been ironed out.

Too many editorial issues (mainly missing words and articles) for my comfort level. Also, some of the language was jarringly modern, and thus felt anachronistic. I saw the plot twist midway through the book coming a long ways away, and didn't necessarily "buy it". Their initial interaction didn't help.

Not a bad 1st novel, though. I look forward to Starspawn and its Mythos elements.

EDIT: for everyone writing a review, make sure you copy it first, b/c half the time this stupid website loses your review when you try to post it, and you have to try again. Argh. "You backtracked too far." Really?!


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The Descent

****( )

This was pretty enjoyable. The 2 main characters were both unusual--a dwarven barbarian and an oread monk--and their relationship an interesting one. Maybe opposites attract? As I've seen in some of the other Tales novels, their antagonists run the range of sympathetic to irredeemable evil. Well-done. Battle scenes are great, especially when Akina goes into a rage, and there were quite a bit of fun interactions w/ the denizens of the Darklands.

My favorite scene involved a malevolent but surprisingly loquacious, downright philosophical Roper. Trying to induce a conversation w/ a monk who's taken a vow of silence. Brilliantly twisted.


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Bungle...in the jungle...

***( )( )

Ok, sorry, Jethro Tull was the 1st thing that came to mind for the title...I struggle most w/ those.

The book was pretty good. Nice to have something in the Mwangi Expanse. I liked most of the characters, both the protagonists and the antagonists. The villains had a nice range of irredeemable to sympathetic. I tend to like the PF Tales that revolve around a party more than just a single, main character. Little touches were appreciated (e.g., naming something like the Biloko which would indeed be known, but having to describe w/out naming a Hezrou Demon).

I only had 2 knocks on the book. I found the main character annoying sometimes, to be honest. I get that she was traumatized, and still young and relatively inexperienced, but being in her head so much was, for me, not a good thing. On a lesser note, sometimes the language was a bit too modern or anachronistic for me. Thankfully not often enough to ruin the book.

I'd give this 3.5 stars, and welcome Paizo to allow for 1/2 stars in their reviews!


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Journey to the Center of Golarion

***( )( )

What I liked about the book: the ERB homage; the journey and struggles through the Darklands; at least starting off in a new area (the Realm of the Mammoth Lords); the blind Oracle sidekick; and a "villain" (Eovath) that was at least partly sympathetic and thus not one-dimensional; the Serpentfolk noble, Ssa.

I didn't dislike the protagonist, Kagur, but she seemed a bit one-dimensional, w/ little to no character growth throughout the book. Also, I struggled to enjoy the adventures in the Vault of Orv. The end was...abrupt.


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Anti-heroes aplenty

****( )

I read this as a follow-up to "City of Blood", which shares 1 character (the most awesome Hendregan, the insane fire sorcerer). I will readily admit that this book took me a while to warm up to, but once I did (about a 3rd of the way in?), it just got better and better. I see some of the reviewers dropped it b/c it didn't grab them early on; for those attempting it in the future, I say give it a chance to mature. For those reviewers who dissed it for (gasp) writing in the present tense...I never even noticed; it was a non-factor in my enjoyment.

What I like about most of the PF novels is finding characters and plots that are a little out of the norm. Here, a band of morally-challenged but engaging anti-heroes is a good start. It takes a while to have them all together as a team, but once that happens, I think their interactions and bantering quickly pull you in. As for the story, an audacious con pulled on demons in the Worldwound, well, that's just ballsy.

The ringleader, Gad, is an interesting main protagonist. In a world of relatively high fantasy, it's endearing to find characters that can really utilize what we would think of as the more social skills in the game underneath the fiction. As opposed to the mightiest warrior, spell caster, etc. [In fact, the mightiest warrior in the party, the half-orc Tiberio, did his utmost to avoid battle altogether.]

I would love another novel w/ Hendregan. The scene w/ him talking to and negotiating with the demonic lake of lava was just awesome.


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The metamorphosis of an urban druid...

****( )

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Some great twists, lots of intrigue and mystery, well-drawn characters, snappy dialogue, and a protagonist w/ an unexpected but cool character arc.

The last lines of the book were just great, and not soon forgettable. Like this book.

Also, if you're even remotely interested in Magnimar as a setting, you should read this book. Even more so than a typical PF novel, this does a fantastic job of fleshing out a locale.


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Nicely unpredictable

****( )

I quite liked this. W/out spoilers, the cast of "main characters" is quite extensive and exotic, often playing against type (e.g., a bald, hairless dwarf).

The reveal of 1 of the puppet masters was cool, and I loved how the novel led back to very ancient aspects of Golarion's lore. And to things even older...

The main character, the protagonist Krunzle the Quick, is a rogue's rogue. You wouldn't necessarily want him in your party, but his adventures--and more frequently, misadventures--were fun to observe.


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