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4/5

I liked this for the most part. A wise-cracking antihero but one w/ some depth. Dark humor throughout. Some not unwelcome cracks at the fantasy genre in general, not to mention some hoary cliches of RPGs.

Editing was quite good (usually a pet peeve of mine w/ this line).

I read most of it w/ an intermittent smile on my face. I like a keen wit in a character, and the author supplied that in spades.


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Absolom, o Absalom

4/5

Wow, my review was eliminated after only working on it for 5 minutes. Shame on you Paizo for a website glitch like that. Regardless, I won't take out that frustration on the review.

I guess this will be a shorter review. An enjoyable book about a Knight of Ozem and her companion, a gnome priestess of Brigh, that plays out mainly in Absalom. Part mystery, part adventure, part travelogue I guess. Some nice lore thrown in to the mix, a good pace, above-average editing (not perfect), all in all enjoyable.

I would love to see more adventures w/ these 2 protagonists should the Tales line ever be revived.


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Something different

3/5

I would give this 3.5 stars. I liked the whole pioneer story in a mostly low fantasy setting (here, the River Kingdoms), and enjoyed the coming-of-age story of the young Vishov boy. He was almost the antithesis of the normal hero, which was perhaps the point.

The setting was good, some decent characters, some unexpected twists, some nice dialogue, etc.

Minor quibbles would be that I really liked Tyressa, and would not have minded if she really was the main protagonist, like it early seemed she might be. I thought the daughter's progression from A to B was too quick and thus not credible. Not sure if I liked the quasi-illiterate speech patterns of the Muldoons. And, like many PF Tales novel I've read to date, the editing borders on unprofessional.


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Better than I was expecting

3/5

given all the negative reviews. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. I will agree the never-ending chase got a little old, and their continued escapes strained credulity. Ok. But I liked the 2 main characters, especially the halfling, and it was a fun ride.

Too much time (and page count) was spent on the initial city escape, to be sure.


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A return to form

4/5

A solid sequel to Beyond the Pool of Stars. Similar to Stalking the Beast, which was itself a sequel to Plague of Shadows, we once again have a maturing and sympathetic portrayal of the main heroine's main companion. In the first 2 books it was the wonderful half-orc Drelm, and in these latest 2 books, it's the lizardman Jekka.

I still prefer Elyana, Drelm et al. to Mirian Raas, Jekka et al. If I had to guess, though, future PF novels by HAJ will bring entirely new characters and locales, so there's that to look forward to.

I liked the competing...villainous might not be the right word...interests and foils to the party, but it felt like the agent of the Child-God Walkena was a bit underutilized to be honest. On the other hand, the "vengeful sorcerer" (no spoilers) from the back cover was delightful. Her banter w/ a certain wordsmith in 1 scene was great.


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4/5

Having read Plague of Shadows and then Stalking the Beast both in the past week, I was honestly a bit crushed to find the author had moved on from Elyana's adventures, and started w/ a new character.

Familiar benefits of reading this particular author came through: party-based adventure, interesting companions, realistically-high body count in a dangerous world...

Also, of the 9 PF novels I've now read, this was only the 2nd outside of Avistan, so I really appreciated the change in setting. If only b/c it was fresh and new to me.

I can't help but admit I didn't care for this as much as his previous 2 novels, as I compare Mirian Raas to Elyana anyway.

I deeply appreciate and admire what he did w/ the Lizardfolk, though. I was rooting for them long before the end, and I will have a hard time playing a PnP game and considering them mere enemy fodder after reading this book.


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4/5

A fantastic follow-up to Plague of Shadows, bringing back Elyana and Drelm, the latter of whom really evolves as the novel proceeds. As in the earlier novel, great adventuring party, characters, plot twists, battles, etc.

One thing that stands out in these novels is the high body-count. It's almost a bit shocking, but I like the fact that there's not a slavish adherence to the game rules, such that you're not wondering why all the important or interesting characters "simply don't get resurrected". I think PF fiction works best if that little out is downplayed more often than not.

In addition to the excellent Elyana and Drelm, the introduction of the amoral gunslinger Lisette is another high point of this novel. There are also many secondary characters I found quite interesting.

I found the end a bit sad, but realistic, given why Elyana left Stelan in the first novel. Really brings home how those w/ long lives (like the elf Elyana) might choose to deal w/ those w/ more limited life spans.

I dearly want to see more of Elyana; and a novel w/ her and Lisette working together would be just great.


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4/5

Wow, I really loved this book. Great, party-based adventuring, moving characters, plot twists I did not see coming, and lots of excellent action scenes.

I read this last weekend and immediately hit its sequel this weekend. Elyana is a great heroine, and she had lots of company as far as engaging companions. I love how the author plays against stereotypes and 1-dimensional characters. The half-orc Drelm could so easily have been a caricature, and I appreciated his development (even more in the next book). That said, you know you've got a good writer when the ostensible "bad guy" turns out quite sympathetic. Redeemable, you might say.

Great stuff.


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3/5

I wish we could do 1/2 star ratings; I'd give this 3.5 stars.

Not my favorite of the PF novels I've read, but still a good read. It took a while to warm up to Ellasif, who's ostensibly the main character, though I quite liked Declan (and his quasi-familiar, Skywing) from the get-go. Some of the secondary characters were quite nicely fleshed out as well.

As w/ all the PF novels I've read to date, I love how they flesh out Golarion more and more to me. This is half the reason I have a subscription, and read them instead of other fantasy novels, for the time being. I know people can look down their noses at "shared world" fiction, but I don't. I can only wish in some alternate universe, these PF authors were writing novels in my beloved Greyhawk setting, but hey, you can't always get what you want, as the song says.

I will say that if Elaine comes back to write another, I hope she writes a novel about the water druid (whose name escapes me) she first wrote about in that PF AP some years back. Excellent stuff, and I loved the character right away.


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4/5

This might be tied w/ Queen of Thorns for my favorite of the 5 novels. Though maybe it's a 3-way tie w/ Master of Devils, I don't know.

I'm getting worried the author will run out of variations on his titles, though ;-) So far we've had Prince, Master, Queen, King, and Lord.

Anyway, I loved the latest adventures of the dynamic duo, and am happy to see Jeggare finally moving beyond riffle scrolls to something more interesting.

I am just slightly concerned about how the novel ended up. Without spoilers, I'm trying to figure out how future adventures will continue in the same vein, now that the friends are...well, no spoilers. But their relationship has changed in a quite meaningful way by the end.


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Keep 'em comin!

4/5

Another late review, as I read this earlier in the year, but I want to catch up w/ reviews of everything I've read.

Almost hard to write reviews that don't repeat what others have said, and also b/c I don't think reviews are a strength of mine. But I love the characters, I love that the world evolves around them and doesn't stay static, and I love new characters/companions keep getting introduced (some of whom find themselves in future books). Good stuff.

It should go w/out saying, but the fact that these books can sometimes be loosely tied to the themes of an AP make them all the more interesting to me. And more desirous to run said AP. Which is what I assume makes Paizo happy. Though I buy the APs anyway ;-)

Edit: somehow I forgot to rate this originally...


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Another great read!

4/5

I'm reviewing this shamefully quite a while after having read it, but now that I'm back in reading mode again, I'd like to go back and catch up w/ all the PF Tales I've read to date.

I've been a fan of this duo, Jeggare & Radovan, since the early short fiction in PF. Having read all 5 of the novels, this one arguably might be my favorite. They're all a ton of fun, and I continue to enjoy both the growing relationship between the two friends, as well as advancements in personal abilities (level increases??) as time passes on. I'm glad the world does not stay static in the ongoing tales of their adventures.

As with all the PF fiction, short or otherwise, I find the best of it really draws me into an area (well, various areas, really, as they travel around the map) and helps flesh out the Inner Sea (and beyond, like in Master of Devils) like the best of the fluff pieces in the other PF products.


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A great Eastern romp

4/5

Lots of things to like here, if you're fans of the adventures of Jeggare and Radovan. Not just a "fish out of water" tale for the pair from Avistan, I liked very much that each in his own way had to deal w/ an unexpected layer of adversity. By the end, I got a tangible sense that they had grown as characters. Especially Jeggare. In gaming terms, they've definitely gotten more EXP, and I hope that future tales about them reflect that.

I was a little unsure what to make of the 3rd main role--the wolfhound, Arnisant. I was afraid that was going to be the weak link for me. But it allowed the introduction to the kami spirits that had their own role to play in the storyline.

All in all, lots of fun. As another reviewer noted, though, I'm not sure the alternating 1st person perspective should be repeated for a 3rd novel (which I definitely hope to see).


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Finally got around to reading this

4/5

Just read this on Friday, and Master of Devils yesterday. I'd been a huge fan of the short-story arcs in PF, but took my time getting around to the novels.

From a PF perspective, I enjoyed getting a good look at Ustalav, seen through the eyes of 2 interesting characters like Jeggare and Radovan. I like the nod to Sherlock Holmes & Watson in their dynamic, though of course it's a lot more involved than just that. Radovan's a great anti-hero; not too 2-dimensional like he could be. As for the Count, I find his pretensions quite amusing, and like how his worldview contrasts w/ Radovan's.

There were some minor editing issues (mostly missing words like "to", and "tenants" instead of "tenets), but luckily those decreased in the next novel. I wish the rating system allowed for 1/2 stars. I'd give this 3.5 stars (to allow for the fact I liked Master of Devils even more, which also gets 4 stars).

Look forward to reading more of their misadventures.


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Zobeck Gazetteer Vol 2 - Dwarves of the Ironcrags

4/5

Foreword & 1st chapter [History, Lore and Culture]
Nice northern European feel to their history, freely mixing real world myths and legends (e.g., the Norse Volund the Smith, the Slavic Perun the Thunderer, and Wotan as the Old High German form of the Norse Odin) with names and areas freely created for the Zobeck setting.
What’s new on this take is “The Free Dwarven Cantons of the Ironcrags”. Imagine a fantasy Switzerland, with a touch perhaps of the Ravilla treatment (Free States of Mordengard, I think, from the Sundered Empire campaign)? This section covers 13 settled cantons (though text says 14), followed by “The Lost Halls”; all of which (save one) have nice shield emblems that remind me of the original Greyhawk map and the country emblems. There’s then the “Northern Clans”, which offers a more traditional take on dwarves. There’s nice details on the interrelations between the various Cantons, outlying areas, the northern clans, and the dwarves of Zobeck. All in all, a very concise cultural view of these atypical dwarves, and very well-written (like the entire book, let’s get that out of the way right now...).
2nd chapter [The Most Honorable and Righteous Fraternal Order of Illuminated Brothers]
Dwarven secret societies meets the Masons (meets the Illuminati?) ftw! Another excellent fluff piece, in the best sense of that word, but it also has some crunch to it w/ related prestige classes. My forte is not picking apart crunch to say this is “underpowered” or “overpowered”--I’ll leave that to others--but the flavor is excellent and would work great for NPC’s. There’s even a trio of thematic magic items at the end.
3rd chapter [The Kariv: Clans, Magic, and Secrets]
I’ll be honest; I wasn’t expecting much out of this chapter if only b/c of my personal ambivalence towards gypsies. But! If ever you wanted a gypsy-like race in a fantasy setting, you could comfortably adopt this beautifully written chapter. You could also freely adopt the Hex-magic system, and I paid particularly close attention to this b/c I already have the framework for my own hex-based magic system written up, and I’m sure this chapter will help influence my final decisions. There’s also some flavorful Kariv feats to round off the chapter.
I would have loved to have seen Greyhawk’s Rhennee given the same loving treatment as this author’s Kariv did. Kudos.
4th chapter [Dwarven Magic]
Not to keep talking about me, but this chapter also ties into ideas I’ve had: racial magic (i.e., spells exclusive to a race) and proper rune magic (and Monte Cook has given me plenty of ideas there). “Lithomancy” is a great term for this dwarven magic btw. After the spells, there are also magic items and “dwarven technology”, along w/ setting-specific dwarven weapons. Even those crazy Derro get some love, w/ Derro equipment and some nasty “derro insanity tech”.
5th chapter [Monsters]
Always a fun chapter in a fantasy treatise, we have: Cavelight Moss (fills a nice ecological, predator role); Crag Drake (nasty one-size-fits-all dragon w/ cool tactical abilities); the Darakhul (template; perhaps related to Wolfgang’s Kingdom of the Ghouls, which sadly I will never own...that’s a hint, folks ;-)); Derro Fetal Savants (good lord, who came up w/ these creepy little buggers?!); Dogmoles (including the Derro created Dogmole Juggernaut); Fellforged (creative use of a construct w/ a trapped undead spirit w/in); Gilded Devil (for all you Mammon lovers out there); and finally, the Goldveined and Stone-Dead Dwarf (2 more templates).
There’s very good art w/in this book, and I can be very picky in that department. I think our very own Hugo Solis did most of the illustrations, and if you’re a regular reader of Kobold Quarterly like myself, you’ll appreciate how Wolfgang throws in classical art (e.g., Gustav Dore and Arthur Rackham).
This gets very high marks from me. Flavorful, w/ a nice bit of crunch thrown in there. My only knocks are very minor, involving some curious misspellings and typographical errors, but my guess is that most readers won’t even notice them.


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Funny as all hell!

5/5

I just loved this book, and love Zogonia. I didn't have all the individual strips of this & Mt Zogon, so this was a no-brainer for me. I'm not sure why Zogonia stopped and Mt Zogon began in its place--b/c I much prefer the former--but this was often the ultimate D&D comic for me. Right up there w/ Fineous Fingers (back in the day!) and OOTS. Lots of serious, deep belly laughs from reading through this. I highly recommend it.


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