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Pathfinder Tales: Nightglass Review

Posted on August 15, 2012 by Flames

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    Nightglass by Liane Merciel

    Nightglass is an anthropological study of two cultures and a great story. Both of the elements are nicely intertwined.

    The first half of the book follows the training of a boy named Isiem as a follower of Zon-Kuthon in Nidal. The second half is about his escape from this oppressive culture as a man and his living with the Strix around Devil’s Perch in western Cheliax. Sort of a lawful evil Harry Potter and then a flying Dances With Wolves.

    The beginning shows a survivor of a merchant caravan being nursed back to health by a dangerously(for her village) kind woman in the Fangwood, and her young children. This is our first taste of life in the nation of Nidal, where during the Age of Darkness the people called out for deliverance and their prayers were answered by the dark god Zon-Kuthon. Striking a terrible bargain for safety but being forever bound land, body, and soul to a sadistic mad god.

    After the boy Isiem is found to have a talent for magic, found with the Nightglass, he and a few other children from his village are sent off to a wizard academy/ temple in the shadowed capital of Pangolais. The training is harsh, the conditions and surroundings are warped and frightening, but they progress in the training to varying degrees. Isiem of course is a prodigy, his friends are a mix of skilled and incompetent in aspects of the wizard training.
    The students then learn aspects of the religion of Zon-Kuthon, performing horrific ceremonies of torture to themselves and others.

    This first section of the book shows the culture and lifestyle of the subjects of Nidal, having such a deep and inside look at a fantasy culture is essentially a dream come true for me. I now want books like this for all of the unusual and interesting cultures of the Inner Sea. From the daily life of villagers under the thumb of shadow powered masters, to the training and upbringing of those with talent for shadow magic, Nightglass offers a look into a terrifying society.

    The second part of the book involves Isiem’s escape from the world of shadows. He and another wizard-priest are sent as emissaries to the allied nation of Cheliax. There they are put with the Order of the Gate Hellknights, ones who focus more on magic than martial talent, and go with them to investigate a mining town in the western reaches of Cheliax. There a boomtown around a newly discovered silver mine, called Devil’s Perch, is under attack from the Strix inhabiting the area. After an attack to rescue a captured Strix finally destroys the town and drives the inhabitants and Hellknights away, Isiem is captured by the Strix.

    He is held effectively as a prisoner in a small house near the home territory of this tribe of Strix. Using magic he begins talking with the daughter of the tribe’s matriarch, no they don’t fall in love but they do become friends. She w as to learn about humans and in particular how to fight the Chelaxians threatening their seasonal hunting grounds.
    Of course Isiem and the Strix eventually band together to drive off the force sent to exterminate them, and force the Chelaxians to sign a non aggression treaty.

    I am leaving out a lot of detail and plot because I want you to go get this book and read it. So far I have found the Pathfinder fiction to be hit or miss. Guns of Alkenstar was a huge strike out, the two novels Nightglass and City of the Fallen Sky have been home runs.

    Also, I now feel like I could play a character from Nidal, and would really like to play a Strix of the type in this book, human hating but still reasonable.

    This is yet another Pathfinder novel just overflowing with Golarian flavor and information, deeply rooted in the cultures of the Inner Sea. Now I need a book set in Druma so I can learn about the Prophecies of Kalistrade, another subject of great interest to me.

    So seriously pick this up. In papeback or an ebook, it was a dream to read in my iPad. These Pathfinder novels are getting me to reconsider my aversion to non physical books.

    Reviewed by Bryce Pearcy

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