Monday, November 26, 2018
I'm a huge fan of Tim Pratt's other work (like the Marla Mason urban fantasy series), so I had high expectations going into Liar's Blade--and they weren't disappointed in the least. Liar's Blade is one of those books that could be really bad in lesser hands, as the main characters are a conman and his intelligent, talking sword, and the plot involves a long quest through several countries. But instead of coming across as a series of random encounters with an absurd sword providing commentary, the novel is wickedly clever, the supporting cast are intriguing, the plot is steeped in Golarion lore, and the dialogue is crisp and laugh-out-loud funny. Liar's Blade isn't the typical piece of fantasy RPG tie-in fiction, but in this case that's a good thing. More in the genre should have the wit that Pratt provides here. I'd strongly recommend this one.
* A free short story that explains how the main characters met each other is available here: Paizo Web Fiction.
The novel starts with Rodrick, a rakish conman, and his intelligent sword, Hyrm, in the nation of Tymon in the River Kingdoms. After narrowly escaping some trouble from a professional gladiator, Rodrick and Hyrm take a job escorting a pilgrim (Obed) and his associate (Zaqen) to retrieve a religious relic in Brevoy. The journey takes the group through several of the River Kingdoms, providing some great "on the ground" views of what they're like that corresponds with (but is much more interesting than) the gazetteer-approach of campaign setting books. Along the way, the mystery of Obed and Zaqen deepen, and Rodrick (and the reader) start to suspect that this job is more than it first appears. Eventually, Obed is revealed to be a Gillman worshipper of Gozreh, while Zaqen is a sorcerer with what, in game terms, would be the aberrant bloodline and a sort of tumor-familiar. There are some great encounters along the way and the great banter between Rodrock and Hyrm keep the pages turning while the overall story becomes more and more compelling. Are Obed and Zaqen trying to resurrect Aroden? Or is this just another lie? What do the origins of the Worldwound have to do with this? Even in this spoiler-heavy section of the review, I'd rather leave things vague and encourage you to read this one fresh. It's definitely worth the wait.
In sum, I'm happy to label Liar's Blade as one of the best Pathfinder Tales novels I've read so far. It's engaging, smart, and memorable.