Pathfinder Tales: Starspawn

***½( ) (based on 5 ratings)

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The Stars Are Wrong

Once a notorious pirate, Jendara has at last returned to the cold northern isles of her birth, ready to settle down and raise her young son. Yet when a mysterious tsunami wracks her island's shore, she and her fearless crew must sail out to explore the strange island that's risen from the sea floor. No sooner have they delved into the lost island's alien structures than they find themselves competing with a monstrous cult eager to complete a dark ritual in those dripping halls. For something beyond all mortal comprehension has been dreaming on the sea floor. And it's begun to wake up...

From Hugo Award winner Wendy N. Wagner comes a sword-swinging adventure in the tradition of H. P. Lovecraft, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

352-page trade paperback
ISBN-13: 978-0-7653-8433-1

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***½( ) (based on 5 ratings)

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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.


Starspawn was a thrilling ride.

****( )

This was the first Pathfinder Tale I had the pleasure of reading and it was very enjoyable.

Good:
-The action portions are paced well and really pull you into the action.
-The main characters were likeable and were developed well. Had flaws, etc.

Bad:
-The secondary characters are not fleshed out enough. Forgettable at times.
-Pacing between big plot points can start to lag.

Verdict:
The good parts were great and the bad parts were forgotten once you get back into the action. Jendara are her crew were a diverse lot that made me interested in their fates and the previous book in their story. The story pulls you in and the stakes are high as they deal with a threat to all of Golarian.


I like Skinwalkers, but this book is really bad.

*( )( )( )( )

GOOD:
Chapter one and the wraparound-cover.

BAD:
The characters are really one-dimensional and underdeveloped.
Besides from Jendara, Kran, Vorrin and Korthrax, i couldn´t keep the others apart, because there is almost zero description of how they look.

UGLY:
The book has very few action-scenes, and they last mostly for one page, sometimes for two pages (The first chapter is the only exception).
Almost nobody dies, despite horrible enemies.
The worst thing is, the structure is similiar to "Wizard´s Mask", the only other really bad book in the Pathfinder series:
Somebody get´s lost during the exploration, the rest searches for them.
During that, someone else get´s lost and the others search for them.
During that, some others get lost and so on.

I havn´t been so bored reading a novel in a few years and i read a lot of novels. This sadly is neither a good Mythos Tale, nor a good Pathfinder Tale.


Starts with a tsunami, then things get tough

*****

Journey with Jendara and her family to an island recently surfaced from the bottom of the sea, with strange alien spires and vaguely tentacular architecture. What could possibly go wrong.

Jendara continues to be a great protagonist - capable of tremendous heroism, yet grounded by her love for the simple life and her family. They have never been challenged like this though.

Another thundering tale of adventure and horror in the Steaming Sea from Wendy Wagner. Don't miss it!


The Grassy Gnoll reviews Starspawn

*****

Originally posted on The Grassy Gnoll. This excerpt has been edited to remove some potential minor spoilers. The full review can be found here: The Grassy Gnoll | Book Review - Pathfinder Tales: Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner

...

Starspawn picks up a while after the events of Skinwalkers (I’m not totally clear on the elapsed time, but I’m assuming a couple of years). Jendara Eriksdottir has settled into life in the island village of Sorind with her son Kran and her husband Vorrin (the brother of her deceased former husband), working as traders from their ship the Milady. Their new life is shattered when a tsunami hits the island, destroying their home (and the homes of many in the village), and a mysterious new island rises out of the ocean nearby. In the hopes of being able to rebuild their home, Jendara and Vorrin gather their crew together and go to seek their fortune on the newly risen land, not realising that it isn’t entirely uninhabited… I won’t say too much more, since I don’t want to spoil anything, but from this point on it’s a fast-paced and action packed adventure full of foul creatures, evil beings from other dimensions, and the titular starspawn itself.

Honestly, most of my thoughts from my review of Skinwalkers hold true for the sequel. The characters are still one of the best parts of the novel. That said, the secondary characters have been given more development this time around, which I'm very happy about. Jendara still gets the majority of the spotlight, since she's the main character, but there's a lot of time devoted to her relationships with other characters, and it gives a really good feel for those characters. I particularly enjoyed the family dynamic between Jendara, Kran and Vorrin. Kran is still desperate to prove himself, but he's also become more headstrong and willing to push back against Jendara's attempts to protect him. Vorrin is a loving husband, but he and Jendara clash on more than one occasion regarding their current situation, and what to do about Kran. Other highlights are Tam and Glayn, a male human-male gnome couple (at least I think they're a couple, and if they're not, then my head cannon says they are anyway); Zuna, the competent but standoffish (with Jendara at least) first mate of the Milady; and Sarni, a former thief that Jendara rescued and made part of the crew, resulting in her idolising Jendara and trying to be just like her. Each character has their own quirks and flaws, and none of them feel like a Generic Fantasy Character #10.

Much like Skinwalkers, this is a far grittier novel than you may expect out of an RPG tie-in novel. Jendara and her crew aren't magic users, so they're relying on their wits, skills, weapons, and not a small amount of luck to get them through the trials ahead of them. Their opponents on the other hand... well, there's no reason they can't have magic, either as innate spell-like abilities, or as actual spell casting ability. But it's not flashy, and is used in a pragmatic way, as a tool to accomplish their goals, as opposed to the usual high magic adventures (see Dave Gross' Varian and Radovan novels for example). Additionally, the physical violence is more in your face than in a lot of the Pathfinder Tales novels. As I said about the previous book, it's not a problem for me (quite the opposite really, I find it a nice change), but I can understand that it might put some readers off. Overall I'd say it's a little less brutal than Skinwalkers, but it has a few moments that really make up for it, including one particularly harrowing scene that, as well as being vividly described, hits on a pretty severe phobia for me, resulting in some genuine shivers of horror. Just to be clear, I'm not saying this is horribly graphic. It's no A Song of Ice and Fire or The First Law. It's violent, but not gratuitously so, and it's in service of the story, conveying the seriousness of the situation the characters find themselves in.

...

It's interesting to note that my main concern with Skinwalkers, that I was able to see the twist coming from quite early on, isn't really a problem here. Not because the twist is better concealed, I just didn't really feel that there actually was a major plot twist this time. That's not to say that everything is straight forward. There are lots of sharp turns and unexpected moments in the fine detail of the plot, and that's a good thing. What I mean is that the overall story doesn't really have a big moment that turns everything on its head. Rather, it feels like an archetypal Lovecraftian horror story, following the classic formula of "people explore ancient city, discover thing that man was not meant to know", though being Pathfinder, obviously it doesn't go too deep into the usual outcome of "and then they went insane due to the horror of it all", opting instead for the heroes, while being traumatised by the events, being big damn heroes nonetheless. But what else do you expect from a heroic fantasy novel? Anyway, this isn't a bad thing, in fact I think the story actually works better for it. Although I know where it's going, given that the book is called Starspawn, and actually features one of the damn things on the cover, it's the journey to get to that big finale that really matters, and that journey is a lot of fun. Without spoiling anything, I also loved the ending, because while things can't end in true cosmic horror story fashion, there's a clear and definite nod to the fact that there really are some things out there that are beyond stopping, and that it's just a matter of time until the "stars are right" and things really go to hell.

So to sum it up... Starspawn is everything I could have wanted out of a sequel to Skinwalkers and more. It pulled me in right from the start, and didn't let go. In fact I started reading it on a Saturday morning while having breakfast at one of my favourite cafes, then came home, sat down and didn't get off the couch until I'd finished it that afternoon. Wendy's literary style is, as always, engrossing and a joy to read, with smooth, easily followed combat, and character interactions that feel natural. There were a couple of surprising emotional sucker punches in there as well... I'll admit to tearing up at one or two scenes. ... Honestly, I can't think of anything I didn't like about this story. It does exactly what it sets out to do, in a well written and stylish manner, and with no wasted words. Rather than saying it's short, I'd instead say that it's exactly as long as it needs to be.


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Paizo Employee Community & Digital Content Director

Announced for August! Cover image and description are final.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I'm so ready for this. ^_^

I guess I should read Skinwalkers.

Contributor

Cool! She's a great writer and does a lot of great editing work in the field, too.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Ia ia?

Contributor

Awesome, this looks super fun (and creepy!).


Is it just me....or does that look like a giant Illithid on that cover ?

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
nighttree wrote:
Is it just me....or does that look like a giant Illithid on that cover ?

Potential Spoiler:
Based on the name, I'm guessing it's one of the Star-Spawn of Cthulhu.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Hmm... Color me interested! Is it August yet?

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Valantrix1 wrote:
Hmm... Color me interested! Is it August yet?

checks unshoveled driveway

Nope. :(

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Skinwalkers was really underwhelming. Just spoon-feeding the reader like we're all morons. I might skip out on my sub for this one.

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I'll disagree, I thought Skinwalkers was pretty badass. Definitely one of my favourite Tales.

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Skinwalkers was cool. Bloody, Revenant-ish and I can imagine why it could not appeal to many 'Muricans. But this is bloody stick your guts in your face Yurp, and I embrace balls to walls literature when I see it. Moreso if the protagonist's balls are, well, a metaphor.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

I wasn't a huge fan of Skinwalkers, not that it was bad per se, but it felt like it should have been a story set in a low magic setting, not in Golarion.

I'm far more interested in this than I was in Skinwalkers though, starspawn are way more interesting of a threat than lycanthrope wanna-be cannibals.


Welp, Jendara's royally screwed!

Even if she lives through this (which is doubtful) I don't think she's going to come out of it entirely sane.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Intrigued simply because my understanding is that an actual Star-spawn (CR 20!) is a threat way above the normal level of what shows up in the novels (outside Salim's and Count Jeggare's adventures).

Dark Archive

Yes, this should be the first Pathfinder Tales main character to die or go insane.
Anything else would be illogical.

Golarions Devil's Reef or R'lyeh, just in time for the Strange Aeons AP.

Want.


Also, assuming it is an actual Star-Spawn of Cthulhu waking up, doesn't this have dire implications for all of Golarion? I mean, Karzoug was also a CR 20 threat and he was entirely capable of conquering vast sections of Golarion.


I think it's actually a devilfish myself...

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Thomas Seitz wrote:
I think it's actually a devilfish myself...

A good thought, but you can see its hands in the foreground of the art. ^_^


I thought that was just some random claw, Kal.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Thomas Seitz wrote:
I thought that was just some random claw, Kal.

Not impossible, although the one on the right seems far more indicative of having opposable thumbs.

That said, the art certainly has far more of the devilfish's iconic "spiny-ness" than the existing art for the star-spawn of Cthulhu, which tends toward smooth and slippery-looking surfaces.


Guess we'll see when the book gets released won't we Kal?

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Yup! ^_^


Heaven help Golarion if it's actually Cthulhu itself.


Berselius,

I doubt that very serious.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

While not impossible, it would have to involve interplanetary travel - Cthulhu is on a planet far from Golarion, according to Wake of the Watcher.

Spoiler:
Presumably, that planet is Earth, per The Call of Cthulhu.


Thomas Seitz wrote:
Berselius, I doubt that very serious.

Yeah, I'm guessing Cthulhu is "somewhere else" right now. ^_~

Kalindlara wrote:
While not impossible, it would have to involve interplanetary travel - Cthulhu is on a planet far from Golarion, according to Wake of the Watcher.

Ah, cool, but even if it is only a Star-Spawn of Cthulhu, it could very well have major implications for the Inner Sea right?

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Berselius wrote:
Kalindlara wrote:
While not impossible, it would have to involve interplanetary travel - Cthulhu is on a planet far from Golarion, according to Wake of the Watcher.
Ah, cool, but even if it is only a Star-Spawn of Cthulhu, it could very well have major implications for the Inner Sea right?

If it wakes up and gets free, yes indeed. Who knows what will happen in the story, though.

(That said, unless the cover art is taking some serious liberties with the story, I have doubts about Jendara making it out alive and whole...)


Starspawn are immortal and fly through space (and also have gate as an SLA), so they can technically get anywhere. (This thing could've been sealed by the aboleths long before the throwdown with Rovagug ever happened. Starspawn are that old.)


Kalindlara wrote:
If it wakes up and gets free, yes indeed. Who knows what will happen in the story, though.

Yeah, the Land of the Linnorm Kings might never be the same to say the least. Then again, the Star-Spawn of Cthulhu could end up stumbling across a Tarn Linnorm (or worse) and end in up a epic monster throw-down (which might not end well for it). This should be interesting at the very least.

Kalindlara wrote:
(That said, unless the cover art is taking some serious liberties with the story, I have doubts about Jendara making it out alive and whole...)

It's ironic how many perils she's had to face since retirement eh? First Winter Wolves and Hill Giants, then Skinwalkers, and now an unspeakable eldritch horror from under the ocean depths. It's like destiny wants to make her regret ever forsaking her life as a pirate.

Zhangar wrote:
Starspawn are immortal and fly through space (and also have gate as an SLA), so they can technically get anywhere. (This thing could've been sealed by the aboleths long before the throwdown with Rovagug ever happened. Starspawn are that old.)

Yowza, I wonder how that cult got down there then? Maybe a tribe of Gillmen that accidentally made contact or became trapped long ago?

Scarab Sages

Kalindlara wrote:

I'm so ready for this. ^_^

I guess I should read Skinwalkers.

You might want to read Mother of Bears as well. I should probably read both of the too :).


*still think it's a devilfish*


Have a look at the enlarged pictures. Clearly hands with long claws, rather than the pincer's a Devilfish has, and the face looks far more like a Starspawn or Cthulhu than a devilfish.

Dark Archive

This is 100% clearly a Star-Spawn of Cthulhu.
From the title of the book over the "The stars are right/wrong" line to the fact that this comes out at the same time as "Strange Aeons" it is apparent that this is no large CR4 magical beast but a huge CR20 abberation.


Marco Massoudi wrote:

This is 100% clearly a Star-Spawn of Cthulhu.

From the title of the book over the "The stars are right/wrong" line to the fact that this comes out at the same time as "Strange Aeons" it is apparent that this is no large CR4 magical beast but a huge CR20 abberation.

Could be worse, could be an ADVANCED GIANT Star-Spawn of Cthulhu (which is a CR 22 right there).


"The Stars Are Wrong" sounds like the perfect quip right before you punch out Cthulhu. Sadly, poor Jendara probably won't be punching out any Great Old Ones...

Cheers!
Landon

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

... has anyone stopped to think that they're not fighting, and that the Starspawn is just catching a falling Jendara?


Yes...because that's the sort of thing we do...

*rolls eyes*

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I didn't say it wasn't gonna eat her afterwards.


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules, Tales Subscriber

More Pirate Jenny, yay!


Landon Winkler wrote:

"The Stars Are Wrong" sounds like the perfect quip right before you punch out Cthulhu. Sadly, poor Jendara probably won't be punching out any Great Old Ones...

Cheers!
Landon

Considering Jendara is only around level 6 I'd say there would be a better chance of Asmodeus being redeemed as a LG Deity than her defeating Cthulhu (or any other Great Old One for that matter).


I'm writing my review of this at the moment, should hopefully have it posted either tonight or tomorrow night. All I'll say at the moment is that it was worth the wait, and if you enjoyed Skinwalkers, you'll want to pick this up.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Review posted. Full review can be found here: The Grassy Gnoll | Book Review - Pathfinder Tales: Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I hates you! I have to wait till my subscription ships! XD


Luvs me some Lovecraft.


Rysky wrote:
I hates you! I have to wait till my subscription ships! XD

Heh. Yeah I got pretty lucky with a review copy. Read it a few times over the last few months :) it's well worth the wait though, like I said, if you enjoyed Skinwalkers and wanted more, you'll love this.

Scarab Sages

Jendara is one bad ass barbarian.

Spoiler:

Just taking on the Leng Spider alone was an epic battle!

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Tinkergoth wrote:
Rysky wrote:
I hates you! I have to wait till my subscription ships! XD
Heh. Yeah I got pretty lucky with a review copy. Read it a few times over the last few months :) it's well worth the wait though, like I said, if you enjoyed Skinwalkers and wanted more, you'll love this.

Jealous :3

And I did, so I can't wait for this one.

Dark Archive

So she kills a CR 14 creature?

Must have gained a few levels since "Skinwalker".

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Marco Massoudi wrote:

So she kills a CR 14 creature?

Must have gained a few levels since "Skinwalker".

With no magical equipment.

She definitely has been leveling.

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