Book Review – Pathfinder Tales: Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner

Wow. A month between updates… admittedly not the longest break I’ve taken, but not ideal. Especially when I’ve got so much I want to be talking about. Anyway, I’ll hopefully be making another post soon talking about my plans for the blog, so I won’t go into that now. But before I wade into today’s review, there’s something I wanted to mention quickly.

A while ago I got an email from MacMillan Audio asking if I’d like to feature some sample soundclips for the Pathfinder Tales audiobooks on the site. I’m a big fan of the novels, and of audiobooks in general, so of course I said yes… then promptly forgot to actually post them. They’re finally up now, so if you’re interested you can check out samples for (at time of posting) six of the books over on the sidebar. As more become available, I’ll update the playlist. I’m still trying to figure out if there’s a better way to display the player on the site, I want to keep it prominent, but it feels a bit squashed over there in the sidebar. I’ll keep working on it.

And with that done, we can get started on the review of the newest novel in the Pathfinder Tales series (and Wendy, I owe you a huge apology for taking so long with this one). I’m going to try to keep this one a bit shorter than my usual reviews, I think half the reason I take so long between posts is that my usual in-depth reviews take hours upon hours to write.

Full Disclosure: I was provided with an advance copy of this novel by the author for review purposes. This has in no way influenced my opinion of the work, and this review is a full, fair and honest accounting of my thoughts on it. The copy I received is an uncorrected proof, but I doubt there have been any significant changes between what I read and the final publication.

Pathfinder Tales: Starspawn

Wendy N. Wagner

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars (are right… I know, I know, it’s a terrible joke, but I couldn’t resist…)

Jendara prepares to slam an axe straight into the face of madness...

Jendara prepares to slam an axe straight into the face of madness…

From the blurb:

The Stars Are Wrong

Once a notorious pirate, Jendara has at last returned to the cold northern isles of her birth, 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 delved into the lost island’s alien structures 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…

From Hugo Award winner Wendy N. Wagner comes a sword-swinging adventure in the tradition of H. P. Lovecraft, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

I’m pretty excited to be reviewing this one. Not only is it bringing one of my favourite settings (Pathfinder’s Golarion) together with Lovecraftian horror, but it’s also the sequel to the first book I ever reviewed on this site, Skinwalkers. Skinwalkers was a favourite of mine, and I’m pleased to say that Starspawn is more than living up to the expectations I had for it. Ms. Wagner has once again managed to craft an exciting and, at least as far as the Pathfinder Tales series goes, unusually dark fantasy thriller. It’s worth noting now that those coming in expecting a true Lovecraft-style horror story are going to be disappointed, in keeping with the heroic fantasy nature of the setting, this is very much a pulp action horror story, closer to a Robert E. Howard mythos tale than a traditional cosmic horror story. This is in no way a bad thing, I’ve got room in my life for all manner of Cthulhu Mythos stories (though I will admit to a somewhat irrational hatred of Brian Lumley’s Titus Crow series), it’s just worth mentioning for the die-hard Lovecraft purists who dislike any suggestion that humanity can do anything but cower before the inevitable doom brought by eldritch horrors.

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Interview with Wendy N. Wagner, Author of Skinwalkers

And we’re back, with the third interview of the week, and probably the last for a little while. Don’t worry, more interviews will be forthcoming, as soon as I can find anyone willing to sit still long enough for me to bombard them with questions. As I’ve mentioned before, this interview is actually the first one I had scheduled, but was delayed due to the need to get the other interviews published while the related Kickstarter campaign still had plenty of run time. That’s out-of-the-way now, so it’s finally time.

After I reviewed Wendy N. Wagner’s first novel, Skinwalkers, I decided on a whim to send an email to Wendy asking if she would be interested in being my first interviewee for the blog. I’d been vaguely thinking about starting to try to interview various authors, designers and so on for a little while, and it seemed like an opportune time to start, since I was curious about the differences between writing short fiction and writing a novel, as well as the process of writing for an established setting like Pathfinder. Email sent, I figured it’d be a while before I heard back, and was pleasantly surprised to get a reply from Wendy within the next day, agreeing to the interview. So I whipped up some questions, fired them off, and am now ready to share the responses.

Now, before we get started, if you haven’t read my review of the novel Skinwalkers yet, I recommend doing so first. It might help give some context. You can find the review here: Review – Pathfinder Tales: Skinwalkers.

Wendy N. Wagner, wearing what I suspect is a Lovecraft Historical Society shirt (and if it is, I'm jealous).

Wendy N. Wagner, wearing what looks like a Lovecraft eZine t-shirt. Who doesn’t love Lovecraft?

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Review – Pathfinder Tales: Skinwalkers

Hey guys. There won’t be a recap of last night’s Reign of Winter session today, because I had to call it off at the last-minute.

My friend Edwin made a valiant effort at stopping a goal in hockey yesterday, but got a high-speed booted kick in the jaw for his trouble (not intentional, the guy was just running hard as he could, and ran straight through Eddie, taking a tumble himself in the process), and his wife is currently out-of-town. So I called Jimbles, let him know what had happened, picked up some Goodberry’s frozen custard and rolled around with a bag of DVDs to keep him company and make sure he was okay.  I think the rest of the group understands, when a friend is hurt and needs you, they take priority. He would have done the same for me if the roles had been reversed… Hell, over the years he’s done things like this for me countless times. The strangest thing about the whole situation though was the song I was listening to when I got his call… I’d been listening to various OSTs all day for inspiration while writing, and decided to swap over to Chevelle’s latest album, La Gárgola. Track 4 had just got through the intro when I got the call. The name of the track? Jawbreaker. Ah Synchronicity, your sense of humour is as gloriously dark as ever.

Anyway, he’s fine now, though still very sore. And I promised an update today, so even though I don’t have a session to recap (and won’t until June, at least not for Pathfinder, as the group have other commitments until then), I had to come up with something for you. Which is when I realised that this is the perfect opportunity to stop thinking about reviews, and actually write some. I’m going to start with something a bit easier to review than source books though, since that involves having to weigh up concepts of game balance, playability and so on. So my first review is going to be for one of the more recent Pathfinder Tales novels, Skinwalkers.

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