Lair of the Geek

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By James L. Sutter
Price Penguin £5.70
Review by Dean Jennings

Death’s Heretic written by James L. Sutter, is a Fantasy adventure, based in the world of Pathfinder. For those who have never heard of it, Pathfinder is a pen and paper role-play game and the books that are written, like this one, are of characters based in this world. You don’t need to know about the Pathfinder world/game to enjoy the books.

When you hold Death’s Heretic in your hand and look at the cover you really get a sense of what you may be reading about in the book, the cover depicts a scene of confrontation where, what could only be, Salim is in an attack stance. In the background there seems to be a tall dark angel with wings open wide and the figure’s arms match the wide spread wings. The whole scene seems to be set in a desert, somewhere in the Pathfinder Universe. I really did like the book’s cover, I thought it was well designed and it did make me think of the adventures I would be having inside the pages of James L. Sutter’s book; Death’s Heretic.

The story opens with us following a warrior called Salim, who’s occupation is as a mercenary to the Goddess of Death who gives him Jobs that best suit his abilities, which have been enhanced with his loyalty to the Goddess of Death. Salim has a love/hate relationship with the Goddess and all who worship her. They like his abilities to solve problems for them, and he hates them. He finds himself in the service of the Goddess of Death being shipped all over the place to put right all those things that have been unbalanced. While Salim is on one of his normal quests he finds himself slaying undead, who’s slightest touch would turn him to something he as spent most of his life fighting against.

The story is a very fast paced affair, but also very descriptive James L. Sutter takes great care in describing the surroundings so you, the reader, can really get a picture of where you are at that time. His description doesn’t stop there, smells and feelings are also described, and really bring together everything to show you the location you are in. The people seem to have this great rounded feel to them, they all have their own personalities which really comes out in James L. Sutter’s writing. Salim himself is a very likable character, he seems to always have this inward narration going on which is really well put forward in the book. His mental prowess is also matched by his physical ability as a great warrior who has seen a great many things in his service to the Goddess of Death. Combat for Salim is very much like reading for us, it comes so naturally to him and with his ability to read people while in the midst of combat this makes him a very powerful foe.

The books paces itself very well and keeps the reader on their toes all the way through the book. The story is also very well done. At it’s basic level it is an investigation story. Salim has been employed to find something that has gone missing and Salim is the man that everyone trusts to get the job done. Along the way we meet a bunch of very interesting characters and places which are very well built and described. A character I also liked in the story was Neila. She really does play a great part in the book, as well as growing so much as a person. Her progression is done in such a fluid way that you don’t really notice. As the story twists and turns and more information is found out, the story takes on another twist as Salim and his companion leave the plan they are on to visit another, and yet again we are treated to another display of James L. Sutter’s descriptive writing as he introduces another place which has a different look and feel to it, as well as new denizens to describe.

Overall I did enjoy this book, as a role-player myself it has given me so many ideas to add to my own game in the Pathfinder world. But even if you are not a role-player this really is a good fantasy ‘who done it’ and I really don’t think you will be disappointed at all with Death’s Heretic.

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