‘Pathfinder Tales: The Redemption Engine’ - Book Review (Nobody Steals Souls in My Town)

I've read a lot of of fantasy books based off of roleplaying games. The quality of their plots often leaves much to be desired, and they're all over the place as far as deciding what rules and complexities from the game to follow and which to blatantly ignore. This is all to say that those aren't really concerns here. James L. Sutter knows his stuff.

The Redemption Engine is Sutter's second book and the second to follow the character Salim Ghadafar, an atheist forced into the service of Pharasma, the goddess of birth, death, and fate. (How can you be an atheist in a world where gods are real, and why is one in the service of a deity? Don't you want to find out?) Salim is sort of like Pharasma's detective, a mortal agent who investigates anything amiss on the mortal plane that impacts the Boneyard, Pharasma's realm. The time souls have gone missing, and it's up to Salim to find the culprits.

First and foremost, The Redemption Engine is still a novel set in the Pathfinder universe, and, as a result, the rules of how things work can get a little complex. This is especially true with a plot like this one that involves multiple Planes (a realm of existence like Heaven or Hell) and the many creatures that inhabit them. But, even as someone not greatly familiar with the way the gods and religions are organized in the Pathfinder universe, I found it easy to follow along. The book also provides a map of the city, Kaer Maga, that features heavily in the plot and a glossary of terms covering a little bit of everything Pathfinder; however, for those of you who know your Caulborn (a hive mind that devours thoughts) from your psychopomps (Pharasma's version of angels), Sutter remains ever faithful to the organization of the Pathfinder universe and drops in little nods to other parts of the greater world.

Sutter has an amazing mind for crafting interesting characters. It didn't matter if a character was along for the whole ride like Salim or his young guide, Gav, or was merely one link in Salim's investigation. There wasn't a single character I could point to and go, “Nah, I don't want to hear their life story.” There is such rich characterization here that even characters that I was shaky on upon first meeting, I learned to love. (I am team Maedora. She needs her own spinoff series.) I can't remember ever feeling that way about reading an RPG fantasy novel. Best of all are the one-on-one interactions between Salim and the rest of the cast. Salim is a complex man whose strict beliefs and the way he philosophizes, argues, discusses, and learns from others kept me reading chapter after chapter.

The novel does suffer from some pacing issues. It's an investigation thriller, and there's a large section where the novel drags, in desperate need of an infusion of adrenaline. This could have been solved by cutting a section or two of Salim's investigation or rearranging a few events, but once it picks up, boy does it pick up. Sutter writes excellent action scenes even when the scope of an event seems like it would be impossible to write about. Sutter's descriptions of magical effects had me squirming, and his fight scenes left me tense.

On top of it all, Sutter has shown me how cool Clerics can be. I might have to change up my arcane caster ways next time I need to roll up a new character for a Pathfinder campaign.

A sample illustrated chapter from the book can be found here that features my girl, Maedora. You can learn more about the book and order your own copy on the Paizo website.


Five Pompous Psychpomps out of Five

Kristine Chester, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor

Favorite Comic Book SeriesAtomic Robo
Favorite D&D Class:  Wizard
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:  Cookies N' Cream

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