Pathfinder Tales: The Crusader Road

pathfinder-tales-the-crusader-road-by-michael-a-stackpole

There’s a lot to be said about reading books by your favorite authors, regardless of the setting. When it comes to the Pathfinder campaign setting, I’m a complete noob. I’ve never heard of the game or its subsequent books, but Michael A. Stackpole I knew. With a picture of a female warrior decapitating goblins in a burning town on the cover, The Crusader Road looked like a story that was worth checking out. I didn’t even need to read a description of the book. As they say, fortune favors the bold, and Stackpole did not disappoint. This is a great book.

Set in Echo Wood, this is a story about a family of three exiled nobles making a new home for themselves in a harsh forest. In Echo Wood, next to Silvershade Lake, they start a settlement. They deal with dangerous locals: vengeful fey, violent Kellid barbarians, marauding goblins, and deadly ogres. Yet the deadliest threat of all is their own kind: ambitious humans set on vile schemes no matter what the costs.

Woven into that story is a cast of intrepid characters. There’s Lady Tyressa Vishov who leads the founding of the settlement. She’s a strong willed character and a natural leader, a contrast to the corrupt nobility she must work with and against. Then there is her daughter Serrana, a girl bred for court but forced to adapt to a lifestyle completely foreign to her. She’s matched by Nelsa, a native to Echo Wood who, along with her family, help educate the struggling settlement on how to survive. Nelsa’s quick wit and fun way with words makes her one of the most likeable characters in the book. Yet the primary character of the story is Jerrad.

While I don’t want to give too much away, Jerrad is a meek, intelligent boy living in the inescapable shadow of his father. Jerrad does not long to be a hero like his father because he thinks it’s completely impossible. He knows he isn’t a hero. His interactions lead him to constant trouble, but also humorous and exciting adventures. Through his interactions with others, he becomes a likeable character, despite his clumsiness, weakness and even cowardice. Stackpole skillfully takes an unlikely 13 year old noble with no combat prowess or courage, and carefully reveals the hidden character beneath that shell.

Capping this book off, the great characterization is melded with some truly enjoyable moments. There are scenes that made me laugh out loud, and others that had me yelling and fist pumping. Unexpected character deaths keep things unpredictable, yet the story always keeps a positive, light-hearted edge, never delving into a grim-dark tale. As the story progresses, there are moments of self-discovery and transformation, bravery and self-sacrifice. Be they heroes or villains, the characters are moved and shaped by the events that unfold. It comes together to make a truly entertaining adventure.

Whether its the humorous antics of goblins or the ferocious terror of ogres, The Crusader Road delivers a good amount of action. It adds depth with a cast of complex, evolving characters and simpler ones driven by the strength of their personalities. The twists and turns of the story cranks up the drama and keeps things interesting right up to the end. Altogether, Stackpole weaves a character driven fantasy that satisfies and yet leaves you begging for more. With characters this good, you can’t help but ask for more stories with them in it. I really didn’t know what to expect going into this book, but on leaving it, I had an enormous smile plastered on my face. I give Pathfinder Tales: The Crusader Road a five out of five metal bikinis. It’s that fun of a read.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.
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  1. […] The Crusader Road is my latest book. It’s my first venture writing fiction in the Pathfinder™ universe. I had a lot of fun writing the book, and I think it turned out pretty well. If you want an unbiased opinion on that issue, you can read the review at Roqoo Depot. […]


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