Sign in to create or edit a product review.
Rough Start, Good FinishKarameikos —
I had a rough start with this book. The book starts with two story lines each supporting one of two main characters, Ellasif and Declan. While the story lines gradually come together, at the beginning of the book the stories were far enough apart that I easily set the book down. As the stories came together, the book became more compelling for me to the point where I didn’t want to put the book down as the climax approached. After reading this book I think I’m more of a fan of the Varian Jeggare and Radovan Virholt multiple-main-character books by Dave Gross, where the two characters experience the same story, from different perspectives, with an occasional split between the experiences of the two characters. The supporting characters mainly added flavor to the setting and served as blunt plot tools and were therefore predictable and near stereotypical for me.
For example, Declan’s interaction with the necromancer in the beginning felt under developed. After finishing the book I struggled to recall the relevance of the events with Jamang other than creating some foundational elements for the sake of consistency later. For example, the animated books set the foundation for Declan’s magical art, which was a very creative idea, however.
Declan's ideas on the corrupting effects of magic could have been explored more and been a strong point of inner tension, however when magic was needed Declan had no qualms about tossing spells.The interaction with Skywing was the most interesting relationship and ended up having the longest staying power.
I think Ellasif’s opening sequence in White Hook hooked me, but I didn’t have enough time with Ellasif to jump forward fifteen years without questioning what happened during that time. Yes, this was all filled in later, but I had a rough start with both Declan and Ellasif.
The story has some great twists that I didn’t see coming until the end. I found the sequence with Ellasif and the Varisian caravan very entertaining.
As far as setting, I always enjoy when an author takes the time to try and represent Golarion as authentically as possible. In this way, the book provides additional value to me, a Pathfinder gamer, rather than providing only entertainment.
I was looking forward to learning more about Irrisen. I think, however, Liane Mericel did a better job depicting Nidal in Nightglass than the treatment of Irrisen here. In thinking about running a campaign in Irrisen, I found myself wanting to know more. Fortunately I found more of the character and soul of Irrisen in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Irrisen, Land of Eternal Winter. The book does bring in elements of Baba Yaga and her legacy and I enjoyed those references.
Irrisen is portrayed as cold, sophisticated, complex, civilized and yet full of beasts and monsters who would otherwise tear civilizations apart unrelentlessly. Using gaming terms, why would neutral evil winter wolves and chaotic evil trolls bend in servitude to the Jadwiga unless the Jadwiga were brutal in their power. The power and brutality that keeps these monsters in check is developed nominally and I was not convinced. In places like the Bone Mill, human thralls and goblins work away, two groups that seem routine for forced labor. Despite the fiendish references in the book, I did not see the correlations between Irrisen and the Hells, and I was unconvinced that the evil residents would be controlled by presence and power of the Jadwiga.
In sum, I found getting into this book difficult and I wanted more from Irrisen. In the end, Declan and Ellasif had won my support, but I found their development fragmented. The climax and resolution were satisfying. If you love stories in the Land of the Linnorm Kings, Irrisen, winter witches and Ulfen, you’ll enjoy this book.
Rider BewareKarameikos —
The story of Luma, the main character, treats the reader gently in the beginning, much like a roller coaster working up a steep initial incline. For me, just like a roller coaster, the plot twist at the top of the incline shot me into a fast moving story full of thrills. I did, however, put the book down at the top of the incline and in the end, felt the ride missed a few opportunities. Overall, however, I found this book a solid entry into the Pathfinder novels line.
I put Blood of the City down because I was enjoying working up the first initial steep incline of the roller coaster. I was looking at the landscape around the roller coaster and enjoying the view. Specifically the city of Magnimar really jumps to life in this book, not only through Mr. Laws’ written description of the city and the various quarters, but also via Luma, who is a cobblestone (urban) driud. Mr. Laws’ treatment of the cobblestone druid’s connection to the city is creative and engaging and helped me form a vivid image of Magnimar. The portrayal of Mayor Grobas as an intellectual, yet political beast, resonated with me. The description of Luma’s druidic powers, and how she interacts with the city, are an excellent transformation of game mechanics into a cohesive fantasy reality. I also enjoyed seeing the hallmarks of a good mystery in the works. I enjoyed the contrast of Luma’s relationships as one of the Derexhi family, where she gets little respect, versus how the Derexhi’s coordinate so well in combat.
Then the top of the roller coaster, a plot twist I felt was the most significant one, came while I was still looking at the view. As the story launched into a corkscrew I called time out and put the book down. After a day I realized Mr. Laws had hooked me and had reached what I can only surmise was his objective for the first part of the book. I realized I needed to pick up the book and ride on. Once I began reading again I finished without getting off the ride again. The details of Magnimar, and the inhabitants, continued to be spectacular as the ride accelerates to the end. The twists and turns of the ride are packed with action and definitely create a sense of urgency with a few small horizontal pieces of track to allow you to catch your breath and unfold another layer of the mystery. In some scenes I was rooting for the supporting characters with such passion that I mentally warned Mr. Laws to not mess with my expectations or I would again put down his book. In almost all instances I found myself nodding in satisfaction.
What I missed after picking up the book again was the same level of investment in Luma. I could not get emotionally attached after having to step away from the book. Additionally, the Shoanti play a role in the book, however I was not emotionally moved by the resolution of their role even though I got invested in their story. For me, Mr. Laws could have spent a few more pages here and made a powerful, moving scene. Lastly, I didn’t buy into the overall antagonistic motivation. I may have expected more in this regard, however, because I read some of the fantastic ideas in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Magnimar, City of Monuments product. In contrast, Mr. Laws motivation seems plain. I do not hold the technical errors in my electronic copy of the book against Mr. Laws but encourage Paizo to please not make these types of unprofessional mistakes again.
Mr Laws does a fine job of resolving everything he started, leaving everything I wanted as a reader resolved. I recommend buying a ticket on the Blood of the City ride, but beware, the first drop is a doozie.
True to PathfinderKarameikos —
Ms. Merciel has done her homework not only on Pathfinder game mechanics, but also on Golarion. In choosing to read a Pathfinder Tales publication I hope to read stories with this level of attention to detail. Nightglass does not disappoint in this regard. I also appreciate her development of the protagonist, Isiem.
The story, however, is one that has already been told many times, and in that regard the book was nothing new. I was not emotionally moved by Ms. Merciel's presentation of the story. I never got invested in Isiem the way I would have liked.
I really enjoyed Ms. Merciel's detailing of Nidal, which presents a great canvas against which she did an excellent job of painting a great piece.
If Ms. Merciel had developed a new story line I would give her work five of five stars. I do recommend the book for anyone looking for a faithful depiction of elements in Golarion.