Similar to the also amazing Castles of the Inner Sea, this book has outdone itself. The sheer amount of amazing content packed into such a small book excites me beyond description. Each of the 15 dragons come alive in their respective chapters. A full background, description, and stat block make them simple to drop into any campaign as either an encounter or even the seed for an entire campaign's BBEG.
It doesn't stop there either. Each dragon has a lair lovingly detailed and mapped out. The lairs are so close to being a mini-adventure, that with just a little bit of extra prep each dragon could easily be a multi session excavation (or mini-campaign). My absolutely favorite part is at the very end of each chapter: the hoard. Every dragon has a thoughtfully collected hoard specific to their history and personality. This alone can be worth it's weight in gold if lifted by a cunning GM.
While it is fitting, my only gripe is that most of the dragons are of a very high CR. This makes the book a little less accessible to GMs that like to stay with low level parties/campaigns. However there is still enough of a CR range for most gaming groups to get something out of this book. Honestly, it isn't even enough of a gripe to detract a star from my rating of the book, more just something I wanted to point out to those looking for a little bit more disclosure.
To the 10 authors who worked to assemble this amazing book, I thank you all for putting together such a cohesive and comprehensive title.
If I were ever forced to pick just one Campaign Setting book to recommend to a new GM, this book would be it. It has a little bit of everything, whether it is something to drop into a game, or use as the seed for a whole campaign. I received this book only the other day and have read it over twice now, consuming it like water.
There are seven chapters in this book, starting with an excellent introduction that gives a brief overview of all the castles covered, and an informative list of castle terminology. After that there are six castles looked at, each given their own chapter. The chapters are broken down into an overview, history, description, talk about its denizens, and the threats of/to the castles. Last but not least there is also a mini-adventure at the end of each chapter related to that castle.
Did I mention that every castle also stats out at least one relevant NPC, and has a minimum of two gorgeous maps (usually one for a castle overview and a second for the location of the mini-adventure)? As a huge fan of cartography I can admit that the maps are what sealed the deal for me on this book. I feel spoiled as I flip through this book seeing full page grid maps of castles, keeps, spires, and dungeons.
Even with the amount of information packed into such a small book, nothing feels half done. While I am left wishing that each chapter had it's own book after reading this, what is in here is a rich building block for a creative GM to fill in a lot of the gaps. There's also a mini-adventure in here for pretty much any level gaming group (groups of four 3rd, 4th, 8th, 10th, 15th, and 17th level adventurers). This book oozes accessibility for a GM of any level gaming group. I will always keep this book within quick reach for great ideas, maps, NPCs, and adventures. Alyssa Faden and Tim Hitchcock have outdone themselves on this one.
I can support most of the positive things people have said below, so there's no reason to dive into what others have obviously spent more time going over. I love the flavor of the world and the setting, and it has a nice Germanic flavor that really tickles my personal interest. I love the cartography in this book as well, so amazingly well done!
I do have some problems with the product though and figure I may as well give warning to anyone interested in purchasing the first print run. There are quite a few typos throughout the book, and while that's not so bad there are some instances of placeholder text left in (the most prominent instance was $$ rather than the page number that was being referenced). While this can be understandable to some as an admissible error for a smaller publishing company, but when I'm investing $50 on a hardcover book this leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
Other small complaints of mine include: I feel there is some pretty poor art at points, but the overwhelming amount of art is astounding and more than makes up for it. This is a very admissible problem for a smaller publisher, and the good far outweighs the bad. I was also a bit disappointed with the section on the races of Midgard in general, it only encompass about 1/2 the amount of info I would have liked and am left assuming that if it wasn't covered in the MCS that I should just grab the flavor from Golarion (which takes me out of the setting a little).
So as you can tell these are only minor distractions. Honestly if just a bit more care was taken with the copy editing for this book I would still have given this product a 5 star rating, and I personally find the amount of issues in this book to be careless and not just an accident here and there. The second printing I'm sure will fix these issues so my recommendation is to wait on that and get the gorgeous hardcover version. The setting, layout, cartography, and world building in this book are top notch and it is because of that the issues I have with the first printing sting all the more.