Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Prince of Wolves

Dave Gross's Prince of Wolves is the follow-up to some shorter fiction that debuted in other Pathfinder venues, and is also the first novel of the Pathfinder Tales fiction line of Golarion-set fiction. The main characters of Varian Jeggare, half-elven Pathfinder venture-captain and scion of a noble house from Cheliax, with a heritage that predates the rise of the diabolical House of Thrune, and his tiefling (technically hellspawn, since tiefling is a trademarked word by Wizards of the Coast) bodyguard Radovan were described in the serialized novella Hell's Pawns as "Half elf Holmes with tiefling Watson". That novella was bridged by the serialized web fiction The Lost Pathfinder, which sets the stage for this novel. Which James Sutter, fiction editor for Paizo, described as "Indiana Jones meets Brotherhood of the Wolf in Transylvania." Which is a fair enough quick n dirty description.

One of Gross's obvious talents is his ability to tell the story in two very distinct voices. Jeggare himself is a noble scion, and an educated man, and his voice clearly reflects that, while Radovan's voice is reminiscent of a fantasy hard-boiled private eye, as if his point of view segments were written by Raymond Chandler. Both are fun voices to read, and Gross switches between them about every chapter. Both characters are also interesting, and reasonably well developed; Jeggare being arrogant and very concerned with the social niceties (and the lack thereof most places that he goes) yet also a driven and occasionally depressed man given to drink. Radovan being a blue-collar former thief, with sharp wits and a weakness for women.

Other than that, the plot is very much as described: a great deal of Brotherhood of the Wolf, a long section that is strongly reminiscent of Jonathan Harker's stay in Castle Dracula, and a sequence near the end that is strongly reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

I did think that the plot kinda ran thin towards the end. The "big reveal" and climax were a little underwhelming. But I had enough fun getting there that I didn't mind too much. Perhaps even more interesting was the strong feel in the novel that it was a "prologue". The relationship between Radovan and Jeggare was often strained in this book, and at the end they reached an accomodation of sorts; the kind that could sustain a long-running series of "The Adventures of Jeggare and Radovan" or some-such.

If that ever did happen, I'd be on board to read them.

Although I hesitate slightly to do so, I do feel like I have to mention the price. This book is roughly 350 pages or so of novel in mass market paperback size, and it costs $9.99. In contrast, the similarly sized mass market paperback version of Fellowship of the Ring lists for $7.99 and when I pulled up Paul S. Kemp's Forgotten Realms fiction, the first one I glanced at lists for $6.99... again at about the same pagecount. The latest Dresden Files to get a mass market paperback release is also $6.99.

Granted, pagecount isn't necessarily the same as wordcount, and I don't know how any of those four books stack up against each other there, but it is worth pointing out that this book is a bit more expensive than competitive offerings. I think it's worth it, because it's pretty good, certainly way better than most D&D or other licensed fiction, and comparable to the better pulp classics, though. But Paizo seems to be running a thin line on the price point; if this book (and subsequent offerings in the Pathfinder Tales series of novelizations set in Golarion) wasn't better than most D&D fiction that I've read over the years, I wouldn't pay that premium to buy it.

I'd still see if I could score a copy from the library, though.

Now that I finished this book (quite quickly, too... I never even added it to my list of "Books I own but haven't read yet" list) I'll probably not replace it until I can finish the Forgotten Realms short story anthology that I've been tinkering with for weeks. After that, I'll turn to something else that's hopefully light and quick to read. Maybe the second anthology of Hawk & Fisher short novels or something.

As another aside, unrelated to the rest of this post, I added the end titles of High Road to China to my "Listening to..." box there to the side. See it? Right there to the side. Below the "What I'm Reading" boxes.

This was a great kinda sorta Raiders rip-off from the mid-80s, starring Tom Selleck in one of his more under-rated roles (a role that is similar to Indiana Jones in some ways, highlighting how interesting it might have been if he had taken that role as Spielberg and Lucas had initially wanted. As a bit of Hollywood trivia, Selleck agonized over the choice of Magnum PI vs. Indiana Jones, and took Magnum PI due to his sense of integrity--he had signed that contract first. Ironically, the start of Magnum PI was delayed six months due to a writer's strike, and he'd have been able to do Indiana Jones after all if he'd known that would happen.) Anyway, I remember always thinking that the soundtrack was really good, and something reminded me of it recently and it turns out buying used copies of the soundtrack CD via Amazon isn't hard or expensive at all. I still really like the soundtrack now that I've got the whole thing. It's a bit repetitive, but the main theme is beautiful enough that I don't really mind too much.

Sadly, the movie itself remains unavailable, unless you have a multiregion DVD player and score a copy from Australia or something. It never got a North American release, which is shameful.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Thanks for the thoughtful review. I especially appreciate the Chandler reference. One of my notes to myself as I embark upon the next Radovan and the Count novel is "less Hammett, more Chandler."