by Tim Pratt, fantasy (2013)
Paizo, $9.99, ISBN 978-1-60125-515-0
Meet our hero Rodrick. He's handsome, tall, brave, courageous, amazing... or so the rumors he'd spread himself would like you to believe. He does have a sentient magic sword, Hrym, that is made out of ice and is capable of some incredible feats, but Rodrick himself is a never-do-well scoundrel who prefers to lie, cheat, and charm his way into getting gold and women - the only things worth living for as far as he's concerned. Always on the lookout for the next golden opportunity, he can't claim to be a great warrior either. Most of the time he just poses dramatically while Hrym does everything. He didn't even wrest Hrym heroically in a battle with a dragon, like he claimed, he pretty much found it during one of his many escapades in the past.
When a mysterious misshapen woman named Zaqen hires him to escort her and her master, the priest of Gozreh named Obed, in a mission to retrieve a relic of the nature god, the reward is too good for him to pass up. It soon becomes apparent, however, that his companions are hiding many things from him. What nasty surprises are they keeping from him? Okay, he plans to double cross them and steal all their money and the treasure eventually, so he doesn't have much ground to be self righteous here. But our hero has to draw the line somewhere. His life is at stake, after all.
Liar's Blade is a story where the main character is a hero by default - the bad guys are worse because he, at least, doesn't want to destroy the world, heh. The whole thing makes for an interesting ride because when these characters are not constrained by conventions of morality, the story can make a few turns that can be unpredictable. Rodrick is an acquired taste, as he can give Tasslehoff Burrfoot a run for the kender's money when it comes to being incapable of shutting up, but as the story progresses, Rodrick's constant babble becomes more tolerable. This is mostly because his babbling is nicely complemented by often sarcastic responses from Zaqen and Hrym, both who treat Rodrick exactly like the fraud he is, with hilarious results.
The humor is easily the best thing about this story. It pokes fun at some of the more formulaic tropes of the typical "a couple of adventurers on a quest" fantasy story. The humor is seamlessly woven into the story without disrupting the story or becoming too absurd and ruining the immersion experience.
Also, quite like Rodrick, this book is amazing by default when compared to many other books in the Pathfinder Tales line. It doesn't read like an awkward and stilted transcript of a weekend RPG game and the combat encounters don't seem like filler moments created from a random dice roll. Put in actual good pacing and solid build-up and I get a book that may be considered good under any circumstances, but as a Pathfinder Tales story, it is simply incredible.
My only issue here, apart from Rodrick sometimes not knowing when to just shut up, is the way the author leaves no room for the bad guys to return. These are actually interesting bad guys, and one of them actually has some semblance of complexity underneath that unusual trapping worn by this person. It is a waste to be completely rid of these characters once the story is done for. Also, the happy ending. Normally I'm all for happy endings, but this one feels tacked on for the sake of going out on a bright note, and it actually cheapens the powerful sacrifice made by a main character just earlier in the story.
Anyway, Liar's Blade is a fun ride from start to finish, and it is also a funny read. All things considered, this one is worth a look, especially for a book from the Pathfinder Tales line.
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