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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

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: The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes

The City Stained Red
Author: Sam Sykes
Series:  Bring Down Heaven 1
Publisher:  Orbit, January 27, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 640 pages
List Price:  $16.00 (print)
ISBN:  9780316374873 (print)
Review Copy: Reviewer's Own

Review: The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes

After years in the wilds, Lenk and his companions have come to the city that serves as the world's beating heart.

The great charnel house where men die surer than any wilderness.
They've come to claim payment for creatures slain, blood spilled at the behest of a powerful holy man.

And Lenk has come to lay down his sword for good.
But this is no place to escape demons.

Brandon's Review

For those of you old enough or deep enough in the nerd culture to remember the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon The City Stained Red was for me was like eating a delicious brownie while having flashbacks to this show. You join the typical cast of adventurers including the beleaguered swordsman leader, thief, priestess, wizard, dragonman, and schict (elf type). The divergence from what you expect starts when the band is set on retiring from the business of adventuring in the city of Cier’Djaal. As usual, or so you are led to believe, for this intrepid group, things do not go quite as planned. Stepping into a city on the brink of all-out war just looking for their last payout they are pushed from one emergency to another.

Sykes has a Whedonesque dialogue for his characters that manages to stay fresh and distinct and handles the hand-off from one character to the next in a seamless way. The plotting and pace of the story manages to balance character development with action. I am not used to feeling so strongly about the fate of characters in a series before even finishing the first book, but I found myself needing to finish the book the day I started it and left me feeling a little worn out for all the ups and downs. At the end I had to ask myself how I felt about the roller-coaster. I do feel that it was well-developed and intentional and while this makes me want to trip the author should I see him walking down the street* I also have to give him credit for having done this so successfully for a genre and cast that often do little more than battle the monster of the week.

Now that I’ve gushed like a little fan boy over this book, I’ll admit that no book is without room for improvement. While Sykes manages to humanize the cast of characters and provide them an identifiable depth he does tread a little heavy on some writing tendencies early in the book to let you know we are in a medieval equivalent culture. These were, in my opinion, very forgivable and I am on board for the next in the series.

*No authors have been or will be harmed in the making of this review.

Review: Shy Knives by Sam SykesReview: The City Stained Red by Sam SykesNew York Comic Con 2013 Day 1 plus The Qwillery's 5th Anniversary Giveaway

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