by Howard Andrew Jones, fantasy (2013)
Paizo, $9.99, ISBN 978-1-60125-572-3
Stalking The Beast brings back some familiar faces from Plague Of Shadows, but this one can stand alone very well, if you don't mind mild spoilers like - duh - the main characters surviving the events in that previous book.
Elyana Sadrastis, our battle-hardened elven ranger, is currently staying awhile in the small town of Delgar, generally giving her BFF, the half-orc Drelm, her moral support and expertise. She's pleased that Drelm has finally found a woman who would love him despite his looks and him being a half-orc (look at those fangs, not pretty), and Drelm has won the support of the people and even the mayor (his fiancée's father) to become the captain of the guard. Once Drelm settles down, however, Elyana wonders what she will do with herself.
Things are never boring in fantasy worlds, however, and soon, an invisible monster starts going on a rampage in the neighborhood, leaving piles of dead bodies in its wake. Elyana and Drelm, along with some of her elven buddies, begin organizing a hunting party to take down the beast. Meanwhile, a bounty hunter, Lisette Demonde, shows up in town with her impressive guns and her grouchy dwarven assistant. She soon proves to be a skilled warrior worthy of tagging along with the party, but those people have no clue that she has another motive to tag along: she is hired by Drelm's future father-in-law to kill the half-orc. Ho, ho, ho!
Stalking The Beast is not a deep story, but my goodness, it is such a fast-paced non-stop action-packed adventure romp that I can't put down this book at all until I reach the last page. This is fantastic feel-good vicarious adventure material. There are many well-written scenes of combat and carnage, lots of violence and a high body count, and plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting.
This story is also brimming with girl power. I thought Elyana quite bland in the previous story, and well, she is still quite bland here and it's almost a punchline how every guy finds her too hot for words, but she also gets more opportunity to kick some rear ends with super bad-ass style here. Lisette is the more interesting character here - she's the anti-heroic foil to Elyana, cynical and pragmatic, but of course she soon finds herself liking her companions too much to pull the trigger. Drelm is a tough guy, but his simple and uncomplicated way of looking at things can be sometimes unexpectedly humorous, especially when contrasted with his female comrades' tendency to analyze things a little more thoroughly. They and an assorted secondary characters make a good team.
The author also tosses in themes like friendship, loyalty, and what not. Nothing too deep to distract from the mayhem, of course, but enough to give the story some depths to go with the blood and guts.
What you see is what you get when it comes to Stalking The Beast: these guys really are stalking some monsters, and it's all fun from start to finish. This is a great popcorn read, and I'm actually sad to reach the last chapter because the party was so entertaining while it lasted. Give me more, I want more!
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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