Tuesday, July 4, 2017
What's not to like about Death's Heretic by James Sutter? Nothing that I can see. I was expecting great things in this novel after falling head over heels for Sutter's Pathfinder sourcebook on Kaer Maga (City of Strangers), and Death's Heretic did not disappoint. This tale centers around a murder mystery in Thuvia and features a pair of investigators, one of whom (Salim) is one of the most original characters I've seen in fantasy gaming fiction. His backstory is frankly fantastic, and the way it drives him forward fits perfectly. The action scenes are uniformly great: tense, brutal, and fast-paced. One of the other exciting things about this novel is that we get our first (chronologically speaking) glimpse of the Outer Planes of Golarion. There's also a really interesting portrayal of Fey, an element of the campaign world I hadn't yet really wrapped my head around, as well as a "deep dive" into the faith of Pharasma (Goddess of the Dead). As a mystery novel, it works well as the solution makes sense but wasn't easy to figure out ahead of time. Finally, it's one of the few genre novels of the type that features a romance element that's done well. To sum it up, Death's Heretic is one of the best of the early Pathfinder novels and definitely deserves to be read by RPG and general fantasy fans alike.
A Taldan nobleman who just placed the winning bid for the extraordinarily rare (and life extending) elixir of the Sun Orchid has been murdered. No big deal: just resurrect him, right? Well, it turns out he's not only been murdered, but his soul has been stolen--from the afterlife! The Church of Pharasma has to call in a special investigator, a faith-hating native of Rahadoum named Salim, to try to solve the mystery. Salim is forced to work with the dead man's daughter, Neila, and their investigation takes them to the City of Axis, the Boneyard, the Maelstrom, and even the First World. I'd feel much more comfortable running story lines in these settings now than before, as the novel makes them come alive in a way that prose descriptions can't always match. I don't want to spoil Salim's backstory (even in the spoilers section!), other than to say that it's gut-wrenching and unique, and explains why he hates the Church of Pharasma while simultaneously being obliged to help it. All in all, a fantastic use of the variety of settings that Golarion has to offer, great characters, and a strong mystery make this one a winner.