Monday, April 2, 2018

Queen of Thorns [RPG]


Radovan and Varian return for their third book-length tale in David Gross' Queen of Thorns.  Having previously set books in Ustalav and Tian Xia, Gross continues to keep things moving by setting this tale in Kyonin--the forest homeland of the elves of Golarion.  There isn't a lot of Pathfinder fiction about Kyonin, so this novel is indispensable for players and GMs who want better insight into it.  The story itself is fantastic, full of strong characterisation, clever story beats, fantastic integration of world lore, and plenty of humour.  I did find the ending a bit of a let-down, but all in all this is a worthy entry in the chronicles of Radovan and Varian, and there are plenty of nice threads set up for the next book in the series.


Radovan and Varian have come to Kyonin in the hopes of having Varian's once-exquisite carriage repaired.  A gift from his long-departed father, the carriage is a masterful piece of worksmanship but was wrecked during the events of Master of Devils.  Varian, as a half-elf, receives a chilly reception in Kyonin, but the elves allow him to proceed in search of the craftsman along with an escort: a Paladin of Iomedae, an Inquisitor of Calistrae, and a ranger.  Finding the craftsman turns out to be easy, but a revelation is far more interesting: Varian's father is alive!  The makeshift adventuring party set off through the forests of Kyonin to find him, and eventually track him to a lost city shielded from intruders by illusions.  Only, Varian's father isn't alone, as the true power in the city is an ancient dragon.

My summary probably isn't doing a great job of making the book sound interesting and appealing, but it's definitely worth reading.  Gross has a smooth, wry writing style that makes great use of the different perspectives of his two main characters (each chapter alternates between their points of view).  Each member of the group is characterized well, and there's some great insight into how a Calistrian thinks and acts, for example.  Varian's father and the dragon are full three-dimensional personalities.  There's strong continuity with Gross' previous Pathfinder novels and with Pathfinder lore in general, but it's quite readable and exciting.  My only complaint is that the book culminates in a big battle against invading demons that, although done well, felt jarring and unnecessary.  Sometimes big isn't always better, even in sword-and-sorcery fiction.  Still, there's so many exciting things set up in this book: a return to Cheliax, Radovan having a son(!) and a new devil in his body, etc.  I'm definitely looking forward to reading the next one.

No comments: