Book Review: Pathfinder Tales: Reaper’s Eye by Richard A. Knaak
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Media Tie-In
Series: Pathfinder Tales
Publisher: Tor (December 6, 2016)
Length: 352 pages
Over the years I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Richard A. Knaak. No stranger to his tie-in fiction, I have tried most of his novels for the World of Warcraft franchise, a couple of which were pretty solid, but just as many have been utter disappointments. But still, I was intrigued when I first learned about Reaper’s Eye. While the Pathfinder Tales series comprises the official stories based on the Pathfinder RPG, I also think authors might be less restricted when it comes to exploring their own characters, settings, and aspects of the various peoples and cultures in this world—which often leads to more interesting storytelling compared to other books based on a media property.
Reaper’s Eye follows a team of adventurers on a quest to a lost temple to stop an ancient threat from being released. One of our main characters is Daryus Gaunt, a former crusader who deserted his unit after disagreeing with a battlefield decision. He has been on the run ever since, constantly keeping an eye over his shoulder lest his past catch up with him. However, old habits die hard, and one night he finds himself charging into the thick of battle in response to a cry for help, only to discover later that the victim he rescued is a strange talking weasel named Toy. Taking the little animal at face value, Daryus takes it home and listens to Toy’s disturbing tale of an evil witch with a scheme to unleash disaster upon the world.
Meanwhile, our other protagonist Shiera Tristane is an ambitious archaeologist working on a plan to win herself the glory she feels she deserves. Her hopes are finally answered when she uncovers a mysterious artifact marked with some curious symbols, but translating them only brings more questions. She is soon commissioned to go on an expedition to find out more, and one of her first tasks is to find a bodyguard for the journey, which is how Shiera ends up hiring Daryus. Desperate to get out of the city, Daryus isn’t too interested in the specifics of the mission, happy enough to collect his fee and take himself and Toy onto the road.
Perhaps having several Pathfinder Tales novels under my belt now has made me a lot pickier about them, but Reaper’s Eye was probably one of the weaker ones I’ve read. It also didn’t help that this one followed the incredible Shy Knives by Sam Sykes, which is bar none the best Pathfinder book I’ve read thus far. Knaak’s characters simply didn’t capture my attention the same way. Daryus and Shiera were decent characters, but neither of them achieved greatness as both their backstories and personalities were relatively uninspired. The protagonists’ motivations were also hardly explored, so we only get the surface-level understanding of why they’re doing the things they claim are important to them. Ditto for the villain. In fact, the only one that really interested me was Toy, and let’s just say there’s something seriously wrong when your most engaging character is a talking weasel.
To Knaak’s credit though, he’s incredibly skilled when it comes to writing action scenes, which are good enough to carry the story. The plot itself isn’t overly complex, but it works for providing simple popcorn entertainment. Now also might be a good time for me to clarify that I don’t think this is a bad book—it is fun and it delivers what I think the audience expects—but it’s clear that the newer, better, and more inspiring crop of tie-in novels that have been released in recent years are leaving books like Reaper’s Eye behind. The bar has been raised, and readers like me are expecting a lot more now.
Simply put, if you’ve never read anything in the Pathfinder Tales sequence, this isn’t bad, but compared to some of the other really good ones I’ve read, it falls only in the mediocre range. In sum, I would recommend reading Reaper’s Eye if you’re a fan of the series or the author, but probably not if you’re new to the world of Pathfinder fiction and are curious to pick up your first Pathfinder Tales novel. Since most of the books are written as standalones, you aren’t going to be limited to any kind of strict reading order, and in my opinion there are better ones out there that will make a better and more enjoyable starting point.