Jenderda has gone home to escape her pirate past. It happens that Jenderda lives in a stark rough island chain known as the Ironbound Archipelago, which is dominated by Nordic culture, longships and all. Jenderda wants to settle down and raise her son away from the swashbuckling life she led. She returned to find her childhood home ransacked, her father brutally murdered, and her sister missing a presumed dead, thanks to raiders. Many years later she has put her past behind her and has become a respected trader. All this comes crashing down around her as the islands are once again threatened by a strange clan of shapeshifters known as Skinwalkers, who start pillaging nearby islands. The raids and their grizzly results follow the same pattern of the raid that killed Jenderda’s father. Now Jenderda must take up her father’s axe and defend her fellow islanders and, most importantly, her son.
Salim Ghadafar is an atheist who happens to be the catspaw of the goddess of death. Yes, you read that correctly—he serves a goddess he doesn’t believe in. When the worst of the worst show up dead, yet their souls are unaccounted for, Salim is dispatched to find those souls. His first stop is the anarchic city of Kaer Maga. While there, he finds clues that lead him to Heaven and Hell. Along the way, he meets a cast of characters that would have P.T. Barnum salivating. Salim must find the lost souls, no matter how despicable they may have been in real life, and he must do so while trying to figure out whom he can trust and how he can avoid becoming more indebted to a goddess he doesn’t believe in.
The Pathfinder Tales once again prove that just because a book is based in an RPG setting, it doesn’t mean that said book can’t be deep and thought-provoking. This is a bit of a weighty tome; the paperback version I read came in at 509 pages of story with additional pages containing the always appreciated glossary beyond the story. This novel is as weighty in concept as it is in length. Sutter combined steady action with addressing some of the most esoteric concepts that can be tackled in fantasy writing. Combined with the subject matter are some interesting characters that continue to develop along with the story.
In The Herald, the final book of the Sundering series, which heralds the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons, we see the popular world of Faerûn being torn apart by the ambitions not only of Shar, the evil goddess of darkness and mystery, but also by ambitious beings who would like nothing more than to ride the coattails of her power or to establish power bases of their own. One such group signing up for a ride on those dark coattails are the Shadovar. They are hatching nefarious plots across the world, including attacks on the magical wards of the famed repository of Candlekeep and the ancient elf city of Myth Drannor. They seek to consume all of the powerful magic contained at both of these locations so that they can sunder the world. In the center of the maelstrom of chaos, Mystra, the goddess of magic, has withdrawn from the world, leaving Elminster as her champion to maintain the Weave, which is what binds Mystra’s magic to Faerûn.
Kleef is a watchman in the City of Marsember. Though the watch is corrupt and ineffective, the “good” news for the people of Marsember is that they don’t have to worry about that much longer since the city is on the eve of being overrun by the Shadowvar. Kleef and his patrol are monitoring a strange man and his beguiling traveling companion when he discovers that a Shadowvar agent is tailing them. Kleef springs into action to intervene, and, in doing so, he ends up in a running battle with multiple Shadowvar who seem hell-bent on capturing and killing this odd couple. During this battle that rages through streets choked with refugees fleeing the city, Lady Arietta (who just happens to moonlight as a common bard in many of the taverns of the city) witnesses Kleef holding off his shady foes and decides to insert herself into the fight. By doing so, she not only places herself in danger, but her family as well. Kleef learns that not only is the sword that his father handed down to him more powerful than he thought, but that the odd couple that he saved are chosen of the goddess of love (Sune) and the god of death (sort of). If that wasn’t enough, the odd couple—Joelle and Malik—have an artifact that must be delivered to a place that to a common watchman like Kleef exists only in legend. Talk about a rough day at work.
400, Paizo Publishing
Gideon Gull is a bard in training—actually he is dual majoring in the bardic arts and becoming a spy/assassin. The college he attends is the Rhapsodic College, and right below it is the Shadow School. While finishing his training, Gideon is haunted by a specter from his past, or, more correctly, a fog. This magical fog plays on the fears of strong-willed creatures and turns weak-willed folk into murderers and insane people. Because this fog is being unleashed on the already tense border between Taldor and Gideon’s home country of Andoran, Gideon must gather up his bardic friends and figure out who is behind this insidious fog before a war tears these two nations apart.