Posted on July 26, 2010 by teampreston
Available at Amazon.com
Pathfinder Tales: Prince of Wolves by Dave Gross
Paizo Publishing, 262 pages
Advance Reader Copy
For half-elven Pathfinder Varian Jeggare and his devil-blooded bodyguard Radovan, things are rarely as they seem. Yet not even the notorious crime-solving duo is prepared for what they find when a search for a missing Pathfinder takes them into the gothic and mist-shrouded mountains of Ustalav. Beset on all sides by noble intrigue, mysterious locals, and the deadly creatures of the night, Varian and Radovan must use both sword and spell to track the strange rumors to their source and uncover a secret of unimaginable proportions, aided in their quest by a pack of sinister werewolves and a mysterious mute priestess. But it’ll take more than merely solving the mystery to finish this job. For shadowy figures have taken note of the pair’s investigations, and the forces of darkness are set on making sure neither man gets out of Ustalav alive…
The Pathfinder Tales are a series of novels set in the fantastic new Pathfinder RPG setting. Having read several tie-in novels for a wide variety of settings/ games I was excited to give this a shot. I think my excitement was well placed; the novel is a lot of fun and a fantastic “first look” in to rich Pathfinder setting.
The author does something we see little of these days (it seems) in utilizing the first-person perspective. Admittedly it took a chapter or so to warm up to it, but it seemed to really work. The first person perspective makes the events of the story seem a bit more personal and the author did a fine job in making some really interesting characters.
Characterization, or rather a lack of it is one of my pet peeves. If a character is in the novel, especially a protagonist/ antagonist I want to feel something for them. I want to understand why: get in their head a bit. There is an expectation of the author having strings to pull on the reader, and Dave Gross takes advantage of that nicely.
I can honestly admit, I really liked Varian and Radovan. Their faults and errors in judgment, awkward feelings, missteps make them feel real…and I’m a sucker for real-feeling characters. It makes me as a reader sympathetic. I admit it, I was hooked.
The setting itself is described nicely. I know every says “show don’t tell” but to be honest, a bit of it is reasonable in this case as it is really the first glimpse many folks will see of the setting. A bit of exposition is understandable. Actually, I wish the story was longer so I could absorb more of the setting, but there will be more novels, so I’ll be sated later. The novel feels like a “taste” of a much bigger world.
The cover art is well done. Well suited to the genre. Dan Scott did a very fine job and the visual presentation works nicely!
Since I have an ARC (advance reader copy) I don’t know if any changes will be made to the final version that ships to the stores. If I could make a recommendation, I’d put a good map up front and maybe a “cast of characters” as well for easy reference.
In summary, Dave Gross does a wonderful job in telling a compelling story with characters that are rich and colorful. The plot unfolds in unexpected ways (bonus!) and doesn’t resort to lame gimmicks: it’s just a damn good tale.
A very impressive opener! I can’t wait to read more Pathfinder Tales! Now I’m anxious to do some gaming in the setting: explore further.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Review by Jeff Preston