BOOK REVIEW: Pathfinder Tales: Bloodbound
Published by Tor Books and Paizo
Pathfinder Tales: Bloodbound, written by F. Wesley Schneider, is a novel set in the award-winning RPG world of Pathfinder. Before a copy of this book landed in my inbox, I was unfamiliar with Pathfinder. However, in high school I loved Dungeons and Dragons as well as the spin-off novel series Dragonlance. For that reason I have a special place in my heart for this type of writing
Schneider is the co-creator of the Pathfinder game, and Bloodbound is his first novel. It’s written in a style typical of the epic fantasy genre. Schneider takes great care to immerse the reader in the Pathfinder world, describing everything in great detail. I enjoyed the fact that I didn’t have to be familiar with Pathfinder previous to reading the book. Although I spent the better part of my youth in RPG worlds, I’ve long since stepped away from them and worried that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy this read without being up-to-date on those types of things. Thankfully, my worries were misplaced, and Bloodbound stands on its own.
A pitfall books based on games can fall into is that they can seem like drawn-out advertisements. Schneider does a nice job of avoiding this. At no point did I feel as if the author was trying to convince me to buy the game. If I had, I would have been greatly disappointed.
What sets this book apart from others in the genre is its heavy horror influence. Vampires are on the docket, and I’m not talking about the sparkling, flowery, teeny-bopper Twilight variety. Here we get back to basics with the well-known Anne Rice archetype: the ageless, complicated, bloodthirsty, and cruel “old ones.” The flay your skin from your body for the fun of it while lamenting your blood on their petticoat type.
Submersed in this world, our two main characters are thrown together by luck and happenstance. Larsa is a dark and emotionally wounded half-vampire. Jadin is a young naïve and faithful priestess of the Goddess of Life and Death. This classic odd couple embark on an adventure together that throws everything they’ve known into question and nearly claims their lives.
The plot may seem standard at first glance, but there are enough twists and turns to keep it fun and engaging. The characters are well developed, and the reader certainly doesn’t want for detail. I was happy to discover I couldn’t automatically guess what was in store for the characters. I have a bad habit of trying to outwit an author while reading, but this book remained unpredictable… for the most part.
If anything, this book is guilty of too much detail, and I found a number of times the descriptions slowed action. At one point Schneider spent a significant amount of time describing the political structures of the Pathfinder world. While I understand the author’s want to relay to the reader what he has so vividly imagined, the minutia of detail was exhausting and did nothing to advance the plot. If I had never known this information, I would have been just fine in my understanding of the plot and characters.
Over-description aside, the author’s talent for illustration with words serves the reader well during horror sequences. One particularly wonderful image is a scene where a reanimated corpse’s skin slides around its arm like a sleeve. Schneider has a real talent for horribly beautiful descriptions.
It was nice to read something with not just one, but two strong female main characters. And no, in case you’re wondering, they aren’t just thinly guised sex machines in strong women’s clothing. This is a book where I felt the female protagonists were truly well-rounded full characters and the author had no need to rely on sexualizing them to garner interest. Don’t get me wrong; women have (and, gasp, enjoy) sex. Female characters that do the same is perfectly fine; however, I find many authors twist a sex life into their characters either in a hope to appeal to more readers or because they have equated promiscuity with power and strength.
If there is any room for improvement on this tale, I would have liked to see it get to the action more quickly. The first quarter of the book moved slowly. This was due in part to the lengthy descriptions but also the alternating narrative. Bloodbound is almost like two shorter books squeezed together to create one.
As we follow Larsa and Jadin, the chapters alternate first-person perspectives. Because of this it took twice as long for the action to build up as it would have normally taken. In addition, it took awhile for me to get used to the alternation. I applaud the author for trying his hand at a device rarely used and find he was fairly proficient at it once we got over the first hump.
On a different note, and this is a problem I’m seeing with more and more books, this one needed another proofread. There were more than a handful of mistakes, and each one took me out of the story. It’s no different than many others in this respect, but the text warrants another polish.
Overall, I found Pathfinder Tales: Bloodbound to be entertaining, and it’s perfect for the young adult crowd or those that prefer lighter fare than J.R.R. Tolkien or George R.R. Martin. It’s an easy read and a fun fantasy tale with its roots in horror. Fans of the Pathfinder world will most certainly be entertained by Bloodbound, but it’s not necessary to be familiar with the world to enjoy the book. I had a hard time rating this one; it’s not quite 4 stars, but better than 3, so we’ll call it a 3.5. Worth the read if you’re into this genre.
I wrote and published this review originally for Dread Central. See the original post here.