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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Review: Gears of Faith by Gabrielle Harbowy


Gears of Faith
Author:  Gabrielle Harbowy
Series:  Pathfinder Tales 38
Publisher:  Tor Books, April 4, 2017
Format:  Trade Paperback, 288 pages, and eBook, 350 pages
List Price:  US$14.99 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  ISBN 9780765384409 (print); 9780765384416 (eBook)

Review: Gears of Faith by Gabrielle Harbowy
Pathfinder is the world's bestselling tabletop role-playing game—now adapted as a series of novels.

Keren is a sworn knight of Iomedae, proper and disciplined in every way. Her girlfriend, Zae, is the opposite—a curious gnome cleric of the clockwork god, who loves nothing more than the chaos of her makeshift hospitals. When a powerful evil artifact is stolen from a crusader stronghold, both knight and gnome are secretly sent to the great city of Absalom to track down the stolen bloodstone.

Sure, they may not be the most powerful or experienced members of their organizations, but that’s the whole point—with legendary champions and undead graveknights battling at every turn in their race to recover the stone, who’ll notice one young knight and her gnome? All they have to do is stay alive long enough to outsmart a thief capable of evading both gods and heroes.



Brannigan's Review

Gabrielle Harbowy’s Gears of Faith, while enjoyable, often fails to fulfill its promises. We follow two main characters, Keren Rhinn, a human, and Zae, a gnome, who are lovers and who both have a strong religious faith. Keren, as a Holy Knight, is more comfortable using her sword to accomplish her god’s missions, while Zae, a tinkerer, uses her faith in healing and creating. Together they are given a mission to find a thief of a holy relic while also seeking further training.

The hidden antagonist is the thief who stole a part of a dead god and we’re left to wonder who the thief is and what he or she wants to accomplish with the relic. We follow Keren and Zae as they travel to a new city to both seek new training in their respective religions. Keren learns how to call on her god to help her cast magic, and Zae receives formal inventor training. While in the city we meet many different characters that could be the thief.

Harbowy’s writing has a very natural flow to it, which makes it easy to lose time reading. She writes characters you easily embrace and enjoy, and is very descriptive in her writing. My main problem with the book is that Harbowy starts it off by saying the characters are going to be going to school and apprehending a thief. While Harbowy technically does show us the characters going to school and looking for the thief, we never really dive into either plot points very deeply. I felt like we spent the book in a wading pool. I never felt like I got a satisfactory immersion with either character. Because of this, the climax of the plot felt rushed and unsatisfying.

Harbowy's Gears of Faith, while being a wonderful fantasy story, in the end falls flat on its promise of showing the characters growing while going to school and seeking the thief. There isn't an issue with language. Minor acts of violence and sexual situations make it appropriate for older teens and adults. If you would like a light fantasy read, pick up your own copy today.

Review: Pirate's Prophecy by Chris A. Jackson


Pirate's Prophecy
Author:  Chris A. Jackson
Series:  Pathfinder Tales 31
Publisher:  Tor Books, February 2, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages
List Price: US$14.99 (print); US$7.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765375476 (print); 9781466847347 (eBook)

Review: Pirate's Prophecy by Chris A. Jackson
Paizo Publishing is the award-winning publisher of fantasy role playing games, accessories, and board games. Pathfinder Tales: Pirate's Prophecy is the continuation of their popular novel series.

Captain Torius Vin and the crew of the Stargazer have given up the pirate life, instead becoming abolitionist privateers bent on capturing slave ships and setting their prisoners free. But when rumors surface of a new secret weapon in devil-ruled Cheliax, are the Stargazers willing to go up against a navy backed by Hell itself?



Brannigan's Review:

Pirate’s Prophecy is Chris A. Jackson’s third book in the Pathfinder series. Unfortunately, I could tell I was missing a lot of back history with the characters in the book. I felt like I was having dinner with my wife’s old high school friends—unable to laugh at their inside jokes or understand what’s not being said as much as what is being said. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy myself. The food was still good and the company friendly. Alright I’ve played out this analogy.

Jackson’s a skilled writer and it shows by the fact that I knew I was missing things but I didn’t mind that much as the characters were entertaining and the story and plot kept me interested. It’s hard to mess up a pirate adventure. Add in some subterfuge and you’ve got a winner idea in my book.

The pirate crew of the Stargazer were all engaging. The main characters in this book are: Captain Torius Vin, who struggles with his old life of simple piracy and his new found life of acting as a spy and saboteur; Celeste, the Captain’s love interest who is a Naga (mythical snake with a human head) and suffers from time loss while stargazing; and Vreva Jhafae a female spy who tries to discover what dangerous weapon is about to be unleashed on her nation.

If that doesn’t grab your interest you’ll be pleased to know that Jackson is a master at description and keeps the flow of the story moving. You feel like you’re on the deck of the Stargazer or in the seedy docks of Ostenso. Your heart races in combat and worry regarding whether or not Vreva Jhafae will be be caught.

Pirate’s Prophecy is a Nautical adventure with plenty of nail-biting moments. You’ll find it hard to put down. I will say there are definitely some things you’ll feel like you’re missing as this is the third book with these characters, but if you’re not the type to be put off by that, I would recommend giving it a read—or go buy the first two books. I’d recommend this book for Young Adults and Adults as there is minor violence and adult situations. Perfect for fantasy lovers, nautical adventurers and fans of spy craft.

Review: Hellknight by Liane Merciel


Hellknight
Author:   Liane Merciel
Series:  Pathfinder Tales 32
Publisher:  Tor Books, April 5, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages
List Price:  US$14.99 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765375483 (print); 9781466847354 (eBook)

Review: Hellknight by Liane Merciel
Paizo Publishing is the award-winning publisher of fantasy role playing games, accessories, and board games. Liane Merciel's Pathfinder Tales: Hellknight is a thrilling addition to their popular novel series.

The Hellknights are a brutal organization of warriors dedicated to maintaining law and order at any cost. For devil-blooded Jheraal, even the harshest methods are justified if it means building a better world for her daughter. Yet when a serial killer starts targeting hellspawn like Jheraal and her child, Jheraal has no choice but to use all her cunning and ruthlessness in order to defeat an ancient enemy to whom even death is no deterrent.



Brannigan's Review

Liane Merciel’s Hellknight from the Pathfinder Tales universe is an engrossing mystery. The story takes place in Cheliax region and the city of Westcrown. The city and its history blends into the story. What was once a beautiful proud city has fallen under the rule of a noble family that openly works with demons and dark magic as well as the Hellknights, a brutal organization that demands justice and order at any cost. Most of the races in the Hellknights are devil-blooded humanoids that wear their ancestry in the forms or horns, scales, fangs and other frightening visages that cause them to be outcasts from normal society, but as Hellknights they find a purpose. In Westcrown, it is to keep order. Parts of the city have fallen to ruins that are overrun by monsters.

The story starts in the ruins when devil-bloods or hellspawn are killed by Sechel, an assassin who kills in an unusual way. She rips hearts from her victims’ chests, but instead of dying the victims remain in an comatose state with a hole in their chest. Jheraal, a Hellknight investigator, is assigned to investigate the crime and stop the murder. Ederras, a Paladin fighting at the Worldwound, finds out his brother, a noble in Westcrown, is murdered, leaving him the sole heir to his family name and wealth. Ending his self exile, he returns home to find his brother’s killer. It’s not long before Jheraal and Ederras, two opposites, are working together to find and stop the murderer. As they investigate, they only discover this mystery is deeply rooted in their families’ and city’s history.

Merciel’s two main protagonists, Jheraal and Ederras, are the primary POV characters. They each take turns showing you the world and story through their perspective, giving the reader several unique ways of looking at the story.

The characters are all well developed. Merciel does a wonderful job of giving them a life outside of the main story and allows them to grow and develop. I actually fell in love with Sechel and would relish reading more about her in her own book. This shows how well Merciel did in humanizing her characters, even those that don't have as much time on the page.

I highly recommend Hellknight for anyone that enjoys a fast paced fantasy mystery. For those that have no knowledge about the Pathfinder universe, don’t worry, I didn’t either until I started reading the books and I’ve never felt left behind. Don’t let a good mystery slip away. I would recommend this book for young adults as well as adults. There is some descriptive violence and minor adult situations, but nothing I would be worried about my teenager reading.

Review: Shy Knives by Sam Sykes


Pathfinder Tales: Shy Knives
Author:  Sam Sykes
Series:  Pathfinder Tales 40
Publisher:  Tor Books, October 18, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
List Price:  US$14.99 (print);  US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765384355 (print) 9780765384348 (eBook)

Review: Shy Knives by Sam Sykes
Shaia “Shy” Ratani is a clever rogue who makes her living outside of strictly legal methods. While hiding out in the frontier city of Yanmass, she accepts a job solving a nobleman’s murder, only to find herself sucked into a plot involving an invading centaur army that could see the whole city burned to the ground. Shy could stop that from happening, but doing so would involve revealing herself to the former friends who now want her dead. Add in an aristocratic partner with the literal blood of angels in her veins, and Shy quickly remembers why she swore off doing good deeds in the first place.

Based on the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

With more than a million players worldwide, Pathfinder is the world's most popular tabletop RPG.



Brannigan’s Review

Sam Sykes has joined the Pathfinder world. I know there are a lot of readers out there excited to find this out. Sykes brings his humor that has won him many fans in the past to a gripping who dunit mystery set in the Pathfinder world entitled Shy Knives.

Shaia ‘Shy’ Ratani, a thief with a heart of bronze who hasn’t quiet decided to turn away from her roguish ways is hired by Dalaris, a grieving woman whose betrothed was murdered. Everyone says he was murdered by centaurs, but Dalaris believes there are hidden forces working against her and her now dead fiancé. It becomes Shy’s job to find out who really killed him and why. As is common in most of these murder mysteries dealing with the upper class, nothing is as it first appears, including the characters.

Sykes does a wonderful job making Shy a truly engaging rogue. Her wit is always on point and often gets herself into trouble as she has no filter on what she says. This is where the majority of the famous Sykes’ humor comes into play. I also enjoyed the fact that Shy was still and foremost a rogue and wasn’t afraid to look after herself and break and bend rules to get the job done. Dalaris is also a wonderfully complex character who at first doesn’t appear to have a lot of depth but then you learn she too holds her secrets.

My only complaint is a personal one. I have never been a fan of first person narratives. I know this is a personal preference. For me it’s harder to get immersed into a story. It also makes me always wonder if I can trust the POV of the character. Another part of this story that might be an issue for other readers is the humor. It’s not a comedy by any means, but Sykes’s humor is unique and I can see if you don’t like his style you might find the book irritating. Some readers like their fantasy dark and serious, so take that into consideration.

Shy Knives is a perfect rogue’s tale. Sam Sykes knows how to write an interesting and humorous fantasy murder mystery. If any of those things are interesting to you, I would highly suggest you read this book. There are minor adult situations, language and violence so I would recommend it to older teens and adults.

Review: Liar's Bargain by Tim Pratt


Liar's Bargain
Author:  Tim Pratt
Series:  Pathfinder Tales 33
Publisher:  Tor Books, June 7, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
List Price:  US$14.99 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765384317 (print); 9780765384300 (eBook)

Review: Liar's Bargain by Tim Pratt
Paizo Publishing is the award-winning publisher of fantasy roleplaying games, accessories, and board games. Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Bargain is the latest in their popular novel series.

The sequel to Hugo Award Winner Tim Pratt’s Liar’s Island! For charming con man Rodrick and his talking sword Hrym, life is all about taking what you can and getting away clean. But when the pair are arrested in the crusader nation of Lastwall, Rodrick faces immediate execution, with Hrym spending the rest of eternity trapped in an enchanted scabbard. Their only hope lies in a secret government program in which captured career criminals are teamed up and sent on suicide missions too sensitive for ordinary soldiers. Trapped between almost certain death and actual certain death, the two join forces with a team of rogues and scoundrels, ready to serve their year-long tenure as best they can. Yet not everyone in their party is what they seem, and a death sentence may only be the start of the friends’ problems.



Brannigan's Review

Liar's Bargain is the third book set in the Pathfinder world based on the characters of Rodrick and his talking sword Hrym. I read and reviewed Liar's Island a while back. I've come to see how Tim Pratt writes and I enjoy it. He doesn't let things get too serious. He likes his characters to have fun as well as his readers.

Rodrick is a confidence trickster finds himself caught by some holier than thou Paladins along with some other criminals. This group is quickly forced into performing some tasks that are the types of missions crusading paladin's are too good to do. It reminds me a lot of the Suicide Squad comic book, if you're familiar with that. This premise isn't new, but Pratt does a great job of keeping it fresh and allowing the characters to move the plot along. By the end of the book, I found myself wanting the group to stay together. The characters had a fun dynamic in their relationship while on their missions.

Even though this is the third book with Rodrick and Hrym, Pratt still finds some opportunity to show growth in his characters and their unusual relationship. The world building is perfect. Even after a few books in this world, each one has taken place in a new area with its own history and custom, and each writer has done an excellent job at breathing life into the world.

One of the things I enjoyed the most was the villain. I'm not going to tell you anything about the villain so you can enjoy it once it comes. I love being shown new creatures. I had never read about this one in particular, so I'm not sure if it's only found in the Pathfinder world or not, but a very cool monster.

Liar's Bargain is an enjoyable romp in the fantasy haystack. There is minor violence and minor adult themes. I'd recommend it to teens and adults. If you can't enjoy yourself while reading this book, you might need to talk to a doctor about supplementing your fun with funzala (side effects include giggling, uncontrollable smiling, the happy sweats, excited clapping, impossible death).





Previously

Liar's Blade
Pathfinder Tales 13
Tor Books, August 18, 2016
     eBook, 388 pages
Paizo Publishing, March 12, 2013
     Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

Review: Liar's Bargain by Tim Pratt
With strength, wit, rakish charm, and a talking sword named Hrym, Rodrick has all the makings of a classic hero - except for the conscience. Instead, he and Hrym live a high life as scoundrels, pulling cons and parting the weak from their gold. When a mysterious woman invites them along on a quest into the frozen north in pursuit of a legendary artifact, it seems like a prime opportunity to make some easy coin - especially if there's a chance for a double-cross. Along with a hooded priest and a half-elven tracker, the team sets forth into a land of witches, yetis, and ancient magic. As the miles wear on, however, Rodrick's companions begin acting steadily stranger, leading man and sword to wonder what exactly they've gotten themselves into... From Hugo Award-winner Tim Pratt, author of City of the Fallen Sky, comes a bold new tale of ice, magic, and questionable morality set in the world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.




Liar's Island
Pathfinder Tales 28
Tor Books, August 25, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Review: Liar's Bargain by Tim Pratt
Rodrick is a con man as charming as he is cunning. Hrym is a talking sword of magical ice, with the soul and spells of an ancient dragon. Together, the two travel the world, parting the gullible from their gold and freezing their enemies in their tracks. But when the two get summoned to the mysterious island of Jalmeray by a king with genies and elementals at his command, they'll need all their wits and charm if they're going to escape with the greatest prize of all-their lives.

From Hugo Award winner Tim Pratt comes a tale of magic, assassination, monsters, and cheerful larceny, in Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Island, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.


See Brannigan's review here.

Review: Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner


Starspawn
AuthorWendy N. Wagner
Series: Pathfinder Tales 34
Publisher:  Tor Books, August 9, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  US$14.99 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765384331 (print); 9780765384324 (eBook)

Review: Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner
Paizo Publishing is the award-winning publisher of fantasy roleplaying games, accessories, and board games. Pathfinder Tales: Starspawn is the latest in their popular novel series.

The sequel to Hugo Award Winner Wendy N. Wagner’s Skinwalkers! Once a notorious viking and pirate, Jendara has at last returned to the cold northern isles of her home, ready to settle down and raise her young son. Yet when a mysterious tsunami wracks her island’s shore, she and her fearless crew must sail out to explore the strange island that’s risen from the sea floor. No sooner have they arrived in the lost island’s alien structures, however, than they find themselves competing with a monstrous cult eager to complete a dark ritual in those dripping halls. For something beyond all mortal comprehension has been dreaming on the sea floor. And it’s begun to wake up...



Brannigan's Review

I'm back! I know I know all of my ones of fans have been crashing the site begging me to write a new book review, so thanks to Floyd in Briar Hook, Delaware for sending all of those emails and for your trailblazing social media campaign. Much love.

Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner was the best book for me to read to get me back into reviewing. It has pirates, natural disasters, a mysterious island crawling with all kinds of half-man, half-fish creatures. A Lovecraftian monster, treasure hunting, battles, creepy crawlies and even a dolphin being sacrificed to a dark god by the deep ones. I mean really!? What more could I want in one book. Nothing that's what. Now, lets get into the juicy bits.

The protagonist is Jendara, an ex-pirate mother of a mute son named Kran who's married to Vorrin, the captain of the pirate ship Milday. Jendara was in a previous book entitled Skinwalkers, also by Wagner. There are several mentions of past adventures that took place last year, which I assume is from the first book, but thankfully I never felt lost in this book. I was able to enjoy the current adventure without needing to go grab a copy of Skinwalkers, but if you're like me, you will want to read more about this crew. All right, back to Jendara. She's a very nice character: a strong woman, mother, wife and adventurer. Wagner did a great job balancing all the sides of this character and in the end helped her feel completely real and relatable.

The story starts off simple enough with Jendara and her son Kran on an island in an archipelago, when a tsunami hits and destroys most of her village. Right after the event, her husband and his crew of pirates arrive to offer aid, and explains that an island has risen out of the sea nearby and is covered in ruins and riches. Jendara and her son join the crew on a quick treasure hunt/exploration of the new island in hopes of using it to help the islanders recover from the tsunami. The rest of the story takes off from there. Kran and Vorrin both get enough time on the page to get a sense of their characters, but there isn't a lot of detailed information given. I truly believe these bases were covered in the first book along with the rest of the crew, which didn't bother me a bit. I had enough information about each supporting character that the story warranted. The island itself is the antagonist of this story with plenty of different creatures and groups causing problems for the crew. We get hints to this island's past, but a lot of it was left hidden, which added to the mystery.

Wagner knows how to weave a story. Everything starts off nice and calm, and then wham!, the action starts and it doesn't let up. She threads in plenty of mystery about the island, the people found there and their intentions. We're left to wonder about several different character's fates as the party explores the island. Wagner colors the story with just the right amount of humor to keep things from getting too dark and stressful, but doesn't ruin the overall mood.

My only complaint would be by the ending of the book there were five different groups on the island, including the crew, and I didn't feel I got enough of an explanation about the motives and means of each of the groups. Now, that's not saying the ending is unsatisfying or rushed. I just wish I knew a little more. Wagner gives different levels of information about each group so this is a sliding scale. Not withstanding this one issue, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book. You don't always need to know everything to enjoy a book.

Starspawn is the type of book that brings out the kid in me. There's so much going on and written in such a way that each event builds on top of the other creating a crazy ride. It's books like this one that remind me why I love fantasy and renew my love for the genre. Just knowing there are authors out there writing books like this will keep me young at heart forever. For those of you who would like to know, there is violence and minor language. I would recommend it to teens and adults.





And for those who'd like to read Skinwalkers:

Skinwalkers
Pathfinder Tales 19
Tor Books, August 18, 2015
    eBook, 404 pages
Paizo Publishing, April 15, 2014
    Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

Review: Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner
As a young woman, Jendara left the cold northern isles of the Ironbound Archipelago to find her fortune. Now, many years later, she's forsaken her buccaneer ways and returned home in search of a simpler life, where she can raise her young son, Kran, in peace. When a strange clan of shapeshifting raiders pillages her home, however, there's no choice for Jendara but to take up her axes once again to help the islanders defend all that they hold dear.

From author Wendy N. Wagner comes a new adventure of vikings, lycanthropes, and the ties of motherhood, set in the world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Interview with Chris A. Jackson


Please welcome Chris A. Jackson to The Qwillery. Pirate's Prophecy, Pathfinder Tales 31, was published on February 2nd by Tor Books.



Interview with Chris A. Jackson




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Chris:  I wrote a little in college and was thoroughly discouraged by the Short Story Writing course I took, so I didn’t really try again until many years later. I have, however, been a gamer (fantasy and SF tabletop role-playing games, for the most part) for about forty years. In graduate school, I created my own world and ran my friends through a two-year epic adventure. What I didn’t realize at the time was what great training this was in world building, plotting, and characterization. When we had finished, I had a stack of source materials about three inches deep. I hated to throw it away, so I decided, with the players’ permission, to novelize the adventure they played. The book turned into a trilogy. It was pretty rough in retrospect, but it taught me how to write. From there, I branched out into other stories set in that very same world.




TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Chris:  I’m a plotter simply because I don’t have the memory to be a pantser. I do sometimes write short stories with only a vague idea in mind, but for novellas or novels I have to have an outline. That doesn’t mean I always—or ever—stick strictly to the outline. The hardest part of writing, for me, is self-editing that first draft. I can correct errors like typos and clunky sentence structure readily enough, but all of the information in my head doesn’t always hit the page, so I often leave gaps in information that I can’t see. I solve this problem with beta readers. Fortunately, I have several very good ones.



TQDescribe Pirate's Prophecy in 140 characters or less.

Chris:  An unwelcome gift of prophecy, whispers of a devastating secret weapon, and pirates turned spies to thwart the machinations of devils.



TQTell us something about Pirate's Prophecy that is not found in the book description.

Chris:  The story is about hard choices. How far will you go, what are you willing or unwilling to do, in the course of your mission to avert a war? Pirate’s Prophecy is all about making those choices: fight or flee, kill one or risk thousands, lie or tell a damning truth.



TQWhat appeals to you about writing novels in the Pathfinder Tales?

Chris:  Many things, actually. I had played Pathfinder for years before pitching myself as “the guy who can write pirate novels for Pathfinder” to James L. Sutter, so writing for a game I love to play is just too cool. Second, the Paizo folks are cool people to work for. Just look at their amazing message boards, fan interaction, and RPG Superstar competition, and you can tell they listen to their fans. Look at their iconic characters and game products and you can tell they are the most inclusive RPG publisher out there. On top of all that, working with Paizo’s editorial staff has been a pleasure. Sometimes you just click with an editor, and life is good.



TQYour bio at the publisher's site states that you live "on a sailboat in the Caribbean." Have any of your experiences with your sailboat influenced Pirate's Honor, Pirate's Promise and/or Pirate's Prophecy?

Chris:  Quite a lot, but more from my youth than my current sailing. I worked with my father as a commercial fisherman off the coast of Oregon as a kid, then with the National Marine Fisheries Service in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska while in college. The experiences with heavy weather, ship handling, sailing tactics, wind, and sea, have helped to breathe life into the nautical aspects of my stories. I didn’t start sailing until later, and I’ve used some of that, especially navigating shallow channels strewn with coral heads (Yikes!). The experience that greatly influenced the creation of Celeste, Stargazer’s navigator in my Pathfinder stories, is standing night watch. Staring up at the night sky when you’re hundreds of miles from shore is hypnotic and awe inspiring in a way difficult to describe. That feeling is an integral part of her character. When Celeste gazes at the night sky, she hears the song of the heavens. So do I.



TQIn Pirate's Prophecy who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Chris:  The easiest, by far, has to be Snick, a secondary character and member of the crew of the Stargazer. She is a gnome rogue, and the ship’s engineer. She’s also a devilishly clever prankster, ingenious, and loyal to her friends until death and sometimes after. She’s just so much fun, I sometimes wish she was the primary character. *sigh* The most difficult, strangely, is Torius Vin. Why? Because he is the hub around which all the rest of the characters revolve. He is complex and problematic, passionate and emotional (though he hides his feelings under a mask of piratical bravado as often as not), and he is the one who has to make the really hard decisions. He’s the captain, after all.



TQWhich question about Pirate's Prophecy do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Chris:  This is a hard one. Okay, first let me explain that there was much discussion about the cover image for the novel. Once I saw it, I fell in love with it completely—the cover artist is Remko Troost, and the entire truly awesome image can be viewed here—but I was not without reservations. The question I have not yet been asked is: “Does the cover actually represent a scene from the novel?” The answer is, unfortunately, yes.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Pirate's Prophecy.

Chris:  Here are a few:

Torius dealing with the Ostenso harbormaster:
      Saying no to Lothera was like saying no to a summer squall. It would come anyway, and seem twice as violent for every ounce of resistance. Best to reef sails and run before the wind...

Vreva speaking to her feline familiar, Mathias, after his recon aboard a Chelish flagship:
      “Well?” She glanced around, careful to keep her voice low. “Did you learn anything?”
      *Yes.* Mathias leapt into her arms as she started up the street toward the Officers’ Club. *I found out that the Devil’s Trident has one badass tomcat ruling the bilges, and he didn’t like the atten¬tion I paid to his cadre of kitties.*
      “Well, you get what you—” Vreva started to scratch him behind the ears, but her fingers came away bloody. “Mathias, you’re bleeding!”
      *So is he, and it was totally worth it!* He flicked his tail and yawned, showing his teeth. *I think I’m in love. I just have to decide with whom.*

And here’s a taste of a little nautical mayhem:
      Close enough. “Slack sheets!”
      The sailors obeyed, slackening the lines so that Stargazer’s sails flapped in the wind. The ship slowed, but not much.
      “It’s gonna be close!” came a cry from the crow’s nest. Lacy Jane had a better vantage than anyone else aboard.
      Torius held his breath.
      The tip of Stargazer’s bowsprit shattered the brass lamp hanging from the galleon’s port stern corner post. Thillion swore loudly and inventively as glass showered the foredeck.
      “Windy!” Torius admonished.
      “You said leave paint!”
      Torius braced himself. “This is gonna hurt!”
      “Grapples away!” Grogul bellowed.
      Stargazer swept past the galleon’s stern close enough to spit on the weathered wood.



TQWhat's next?

Chris:  I have another Pathfinder Tales pirate novel already submitted to Paizo for publication next year, and something a little different in the works for the one after that, the details of which I can’t reveal yet. As for other publishers, I’m writing a nautical fantasy novel for Privateer Press in their Iron Kingdoms game world that will continue the exploits of the same crew of scallywags in my Privateer novella, Blood and Iron. I’m continuing my own successful Weapon of Flesh series of magical assassin stories with Weapon of Pain releasing this summer, and Weapon of Mercy next summer. I’m also writing novels for a newly formed publishing endeavor, The Ed Greenwood Group. My first, Dragon Dreams, set in the contemporary fantasy/horror universe of Hellmaw, released in November 2015. I’ll be following up with a pirate fantasy, Queen’s Scourge, due to release in 2017, and a sequel to Dragon Dreams in 2018.

I’m also writing some short fiction. Legendary Games is putting out Legendary Planets, a seven-chapter, swords-and-planets-themed adventure for Pathfinder and D&D 5e. I’ll have a serialized short story in each chapter. Lastly, my short story, First Command, will be in the soon-to-be-released Women in Practical Armor anthology from Evil Girlfriend Media. Of course, there are always potential projects on the misty horizon. Readers can subscribe to my newsletter at jaxbooks.com for updates and announcements.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Chris:  My pleasure!





Pirate's Prophecy
Pathfinder Tales 31
Tor Books, February 2, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with Chris A. Jackson
Paizo Publishing is the award-winning publisher of fantasy roleplaying games, accessories, and board games. Pathfinder Tales: Pirate's Prophecy is the continuation of their popular novel series.

Captain Torius Vin and the crew of the Stargazer have given up the pirate life, instead becoming abolitionist privateers bent on capturing slave ships and setting their prisoners free. But when rumors surface of a new secret weapon in devil-ruled Cheliax, are the Stargazers willing to go up against a navy backed by Hell itself?




Previously

Pirate's Honor
Pathfinder Tales 14
Tor Books, August 18, 2015
     eBook, 368 pages
Paizo, May 14, 2013
     Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

Interview with Chris A. Jackson
Rough Seas A pirate captain of the Inner Sea, Torius Vin makes a living raiding wealthy merchant ships with his crew of loyal buccaneers. Few things matter more to Captain Torius than ill-gotten gold-but one of those is Celeste, his beautiful snake-bodied navigator. When a crafty courtesan offers the pirate crew a chance at the heist of a lifetime, it's time for both man and naga to hoist the black flag and lead the Stargazer's crew to fame and fortune. But will stealing the legendary Star of Thumen chart the corsairs a course to untold riches-or send them all to a watery grave? From award-winning author Chris A. Jackson comes a fantastical new adventure of high-seas combat and romance set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.




Pirate's Promise
Pathfinder Tales 24
Tor Books, August 18, 2015
     eBook, 484 pages
Paizo, January 6, 2015
     Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

Interview with Chris A. Jackson
Torius Vin is perfectly happy with his life as a pirate captain, sailing the Inner Sea in search of plunder with a bold crew of buccaneers and Celeste, his snake-bodied navigator and one true love. Yet all that changes when his sometimes-friend Vreva - a high-powered courtesan and abolitionist spy in the slaver stronghold of Okeno - draws him into her shadowy network of insurgents. Caught between the slavers he hates and a navy that sees him as a criminal, can Torius continue to choose the path of piracy? Or will he sign on as a privateer, bringing freedom to others - at the price of his own? From fan-favorite author Chris A. Jackson comes a tale of espionage and high-seas adventure, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.





About Chris

Interview with Chris A. Jackson
CHRIS A. JACKSON is the author of the Pathfinder Tales novels Pirate's Honor and Pirate's Promise. His self-published and small-press work includes the Scimitar Seas and Weapon of Flesh series, which have won three consecutive gold medals in the Foreword Reviews Book of the Year awards, as well as becoming Kindle best sellers. Jackson has also written a novella set in Privateer Press's RPG fiction line. He lives on a sailboat in the Caribbean.





Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @ChrisAJackson1


Interview with F. Wesley Schneider, author of Bloodbound


Please welcome F. Wesley Schneider to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Bloodbound was published on December 1st by Tor Books.



Interview with F. Wesley Schneider, author of Bloodbound




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Wes:  I’ve been writing for a long time. My Mom says, as a kid, I used to tell her stories and insist that she write them down. So, I guess I’ve always enjoyed telling stories.

Professionally, though, I started writing in 2000, about the time the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons released. I’d been a D&D fan for years and had already targeted working on Dragon magazine (the monthly, D&D rules and news magazine) as my dream job. But the new edition of D&D debuted with a license that allowed other publishers to release their own game content, leading to a boom in small presses looking for D&D compatible content. Already used to creating detailed scripts for my personal games, I tried my hand at a few open calls. There were some projects for charity or exposure and a lot of rejections—all proving educational in their own ways—but eventually I started getting my work accepted and getting paid for it. When the first paycheck hit my mailbox, I realized I might actually be able to make my hobby into a career. I kept submitting, kept working, got better assignments with more established publishers—including Dragon magazine—and in 2003 landed an assistant editor position at Paizo Inc., then publishers of Dragon and Dungeon magazines.



TQAre you a plotter or a pantser?

Wes:  Absolutely a plotter. The outlines for anything I write typically end up being pretty meaty and I certainly don’t leave them alone once I start writing. No battle plan survives engagement with the enemy, and as I get into the nuances of a story I often go back to the outline and add notes for things to pick up later or that I can kick back to past chapters.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Wes:  Overwriting. That sounds like the “I’m too honest” answer to an interview question, but it’s actually something I need to get better at. You sure can go on for a thousand words about the variety of statuary covering a cathedral’s facade, but if it doesn’t matter to the story, who cares? Sometimes I get what I think is a cool idea, indulge it a bit too far, and then in editing think: Why’d I waste my time with this? What does this actually do to further the plot? Does the lily need this much gilding? Bloodbound might have released a year earlier if I was a bit more economical in my writing. (This probably applies to interview question answering too!)

Fortunately, I take a pretty sharp hacksaw to my writing. Even better, I have amazing editors in James Sutter and Chris Carey—both fantastically talented authors themselves. They’re certainly not shy about trimming the fat. So in the final equation it works out.



TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Wes:  Nobody writes a fight scene like Robert E. Howard. At the same time, “Pigeons from Hell” remains one of the creepiest stories I’ve ever read. I love how he shifts from slow-build tension to fast-paced action, the stark contrast making both more effective. You also only need to look at Bloodbound’s cover to see the influence of Howard’s monster hunter, Solomon Kane.

I’m also a big fan of gothic horror in general, not just Howard’s southern gothic tales, but classics like Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, and Le Fanu’s “Carmilla”—all three of which influenced bits of Bloodbound. Growing up in Baltimore, Poe’s also an inescapable force and I think he manipulates that whole city’s perception of what a writer is—he certainly did mine. And no one writes a vampire story without constantly comparing their fanged characters to Dracula, so Stoker’s work was certainly at hand during most of Bloodbound’s writing.



TQDescribe Bloodbound in 140 characters or less.

Wes:  If Van Helsing stopped pursing Dracula, how would a snubbed Dracula respond? And who would step in to stop him?



TQTell us something about Bloodbound that is not found in the book description.

Wes:  The majority of Bloodbound’s characters—and certainly all the true ass-kickers—are women and the only romantic relationship involves a queer vampire.



TQWhat appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Wes:  Fantasy writing’s a genie with infinite wishes—you want it, you got it. In Bloodbound, I wanted to play with a slew of gothic tropes, be they familiar menaces—vampires, ghosts, horrors from below, mind-controlled minions—or classic creepy settings—like insane asylums, ominous cathedrals, dilapidated manors, and opera houses. I got to use every single one of those, as well as many more. In other genres, you might be restricted to just a few for believability’s sake—and certainly, even here, you need to keep things plausible—but in fantasy, no one’s going to tell you no. If you can come up with a reason, anything goes.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Bloodbound?

Wes:  Bloodbound is set in a nation called Ustalav, which is part of the larger Pathfinder world. That world wasn’t created to tell just one story, but to host pretty much any fantasy tale you might want to tell in fiction, roleplaying games, whatever. As editor-in-chief at Paizo, I was one of the creators of that world, but Ustalav, our land of gothic terror, is easily my favorite part. I even wrote a game accessory called Rule of Fear entirely about the country. But all of this work on Ustalav and the Pathfinder world has happened over nearly a decade. So I still had to go back and read a ton of world lore to make sure Bloodbound meshed with existing work. It can be daunting working in such a thoroughly detailed setting, but that’s also how you find stray gems just waiting to be picked up and turned into stories of their own.

Beyond that, my sister-in-law, Aimie Schneider, is a nurse who was good enough to talk me through some of how a vampire’s body might respond to drug injections. I wanted to know if having, essentially, an undead heroin addict could be a thing. Her advice was fantastically helpful in leading me away from ideas that it just didn’t seem like the real biology or medicine supported.

So I’d add that as a caveat to what I said before. In fantasy, anything goes—but real things still have to work like real things. Even in fantasy, you still have to check your science.



TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Wes:  Considine, a vampire cast out from undead society, was by far the easiest. He’s a character who hates his situation, but he distracts himself with a parade of fine things and attractive company—not to mention, spying on his “sister” Larsa. Considine’s spoiled and likes it that way. He’s effete and self-interested, cynical and easily bored. He’s a vampire playboy, but knows he’s stranded on a cultural desert island, and that no matter how many dodos he dresses up as butlers, he’s not really lord of the house. I love writing Considine, not just because he’s got the best sarcastic banter, but because he’s got the most potential to turn from a spoiled brat into an antihero. There’s also more than a measure of self-indulgence in writing a self-indulgent character, because you can write the first thing that comes to mind—filters are for people who care about who’s listening. And if you can come back later and make a comment even snarkier, so much the better!

For hardest, that’s two main characters, Larsa and Jadain, have that honor. That might seem strange since they’re so prominent. Larsa’s a hard-bitten, straight to the point, half-vampire vampire hunter. Jadain’s a priestess sworn to the goddess of birth and death, who tries to see the good in people. They’re very different characters, but they’re both determined and willing to do anything for certain causes. The chapters switch back and forth between their perspectives, giving us Larsa’s point of view in one then Jadain’s in the next. So I’m particular about making sure that they both have distinct voices, especially when they’re both in more action-oriented chapters where they have to be direct. Jadain’s usually the one that gets trickiest. While Larsa’s usually sharp, even in tense situations I need to make sure that Jadain’s humanity and optimism comes through, or else she starts to sound like Larsa. It wasn’t a balancing act I expected going in, but it made an interesting challenge.



TQWhich question about Bloodbound do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Wes:  Pathfinder fiction and game material has a reputation for featuring characters of diverse genders, ethnicities, sexualities, etcetera. Does Bloodbound continue this trend?

Certainly! Bloodbound’s two main protagonists are both women, as are two of the story’s deadliest antagonists. A swordsman from the Egypt-inspired land of Osirian joins them, regularly offering a critical perspective on the Transylvania-esque lands of Ustalav. Aside from the immortal characters, there’s also a hero in her seventies who proves she’s not too old to head into a fray. Considine too is openly queer, though I’m not ready to pin him down as gay, bi, or otherwise quite yet. But writing Bloodbound was a long process and already I’m looking back at things with an eye toward what I might have done differently. I’m going to be keenly interested in hearing readers’ criticism about what I got right, what I got wrong, and how I can make the next story even better.

Also, being a guy who’s married to a guy, I know I started writing concerned about making the story somehow “too queer.” I’m not entirely sure why—probably something between personal insecurity and not wanting to scare off fantasy readers coming to my stuff for the first time. That’s not to say the queer elements are subtle in Bloodbound—there’s one particular relationship between two guys that is plainly there, but it’s a tertiary plot. I feel like I’m over my beginner’s anxiety now, though. If I get to play with these characters again, I’ve laid the seeds to make their relationship much more of a central feature.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Bloodbound.

Wes:  

I pressed his arm against the wall and drank fast, draining him like I was throwing down a shot. I didn’t like sharing from the same flask as my quarry, but if the evening was taking the turn I feared, I wouldn’t have another chance.

Anyway, he deserved it.



TQWhat's next?

Wes:  Well, next week I’m a guest of honor at GaymerX, where I’ll be talking a lot about the intersections between queerness and gaming of all types. It’s an amazing show and I couldn’t be more honored to be speaking. If you love gaming and you’re going to be in the San Jose area next week, we’d love to have you stop by. Everyone’s welcome!

Writing-wise, I swing between gaming and fiction pretty readily. I’ve got a massive adventure called “The Hellfire Compact” kicking off Pathfinder’s new Hell’s Vengeance Adventure Path in February. A few months later, I’ve got a story, “Stray Thoughts,” in the Eclipse Phase: After the Fall anthology. It’s a detective story involving a private eye mom, her sex worker son, and high-tech possession on an aerostat over Venus. It sounds bizarre—and I guess it is—but it turned out to be one of the more emotion rich stories I’ve ever written, so I’m interested in hearing what folks think.

Beyond that, I’m already starting to feel the fiction bug again, so who knows where that might lead!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





Bloodbound
Pathfinder Tales 30
Tor Books, December 1, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages

Interview with F. Wesley Schneider, author of Bloodbound
Larsa is a dhampir-half vampire, half human. In the gritty streets and haunted moors of gothic Ustalav, she's an agent for the royal spymaster, keeping peace between the capital's secret vampire population and its huddled human masses. Yet when a noblewoman's entire house is massacred by vampiric invaders, Larsa is drawn into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse that will reveal far more about her own heritage than she ever wanted to know.

From Pathfinder co-creator and noted game designer F. Wesley Schneider comes Bloodbound, a dark fantasy adventure of murder, intrigue, and secrets best left buried, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Role Playing Game.





About Wes

Interview with F. Wesley Schneider, author of Bloodbound
Editor-in-chief at Paizo Inc. and co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, F. Wesley Schneider is the author of dozens of Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons adventures and accessories. Aside from having passionate opinions about horror, world-building, and storytelling, he’s spoken at length on inclusively and LGBTQ topics in gaming. His novel, Bloodbound, releases in December, while his next major roleplaying offerings, The Hellfire Compact and In Search of Sanity, debut in 2016.

Wes lives outside Seattle with his husband and a particularly unlucky black cat.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~ Twitter @FWesSchneider  ~ YouTube  ~  Instagram

Review: Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Island by Tim Pratt


Liar's Island
Author:  Tim Pratt
Series:  Pathfinder Tales 28
Publisher:  Tor Books, August 25, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $14.99 (print); $9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765374523 (print); 9781466842649 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Island by Tim Pratt
Rodrick is a con man as charming as he is cunning. Hrym is a talking sword of magical ice, with the soul and spells of an ancient dragon. Together, the two travel the world, parting the gullible from their gold and freezing their enemies in their tracks. But when the two get summoned to the mysterious island of Jalmeray by a king with genies and elementals at his command, they'll need all their wits and charm if they're going to escape with the greatest prize of all-their lives.

From Hugo Award winner Tim Pratt comes a tale of magic, assassination, monsters, and cheerful larceny, in Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Island, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.


Brannigan's Review

Tim Pratt knows how to write a fun fantasy. Liar's Island was just what I needed after reading a stinker. It's light and refreshing, like a palette cleanser for my soul and a reminder of why I love fantasy. It has great characters, an interesting story and a great pace. This is my first Pathfinder novel, but it reminds me a lot of the Forgotten Realms novels I started reading in middle school.

Pratt's characters are easy to like and have personality without trying hard to prove it. Everything comes across so effortlessly that I got lost in the story and enjoyed myself. Our hero Rodrick and his sword Hrym work well together as the sword has more personality than a lot of actual human characters I've tried to connect to.

I'm not going to focus too much on the Pathfinder world building itself, as it is a shared world and I'm not familiar with it enough to know how much of it Pratt helped create. Regardless, it is rich in history and well developed. I would honestly like reading another Pathfinder book just to explore the world more.

The only thing I didn't like about the book was how much the narrative voice would explain things far more than was needed. That being said, I understand that there is a wide age range of readers that would be interested in the book and I'm sure there are some younger readers that need the additional explanations to follow the story.

Pratt's Liar's Island is a wonderful fantasy story perfect for readers that need a refreshing read after a bout of bad books. There isn't an issue with language. Minor acts of violence and only suggested sexual situations making it appropriate for teens and adults. Treat yourself and pick up your own copy today.

Review: Gears of Faith by Gabrielle HarbowyReview: Pirate's Prophecy by Chris A. JacksonReview: Hellknight by Liane MercielReview: Shy Knives by Sam SykesReview: Liar's Bargain by Tim PrattReview: Starspawn by Wendy N. WagnerInterview with Chris A. JacksonInterview with F. Wesley Schneider, author of BloodboundGuest Blog by Howard Andrew Jones plus Giveaway of Beyond the Pool of StarsReview: Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Island by Tim Pratt

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