Tor, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-8440-9
I always have this notion that Paizo’s Pathfinder Tales books are meant for readers from mid- or late teens all the way to adulthood. Gabrielle Harbowy’s Gears of Faith, however, has me wondering whether it was written with readers in the early teens demographics in mind.
This story features Keren Rhinn, a paladin of the goddess Iomedae, and her girlfriend, the gnome Zae who is a cleric of the goddess of invention Brigh. Now, don’t ask me how a human and a stumpy do it in bed – I don’t know, don’t want to know, and still don’t know, but I imagine some flexibility will be necessary. But this story doesn’t go far beyond enthusiastic kisses, so the romance here has all the vibes of two girls in a boarding school holding hands and perhaps getting a bit naughty after the lights go out. If you are looking for romantic overtones with more adult elements of pathos and conflicts – especially considering that Zae is a gnome and hence possibly becomes subjected to the Bleaching if she remains with the same partner for long – you may want to look elsewhere.
These two get accepted to their respective training academies in Absalom, so squee, they can kiss and make out between homework now. Alas, their arrival is subjected straight away to drama: some nefarious faction is spying on the knights of Iomedae, harassing and even trying to kill the knights in their efforts to get their hands on some artifact. Keren learns that her superiors have no problems using newbies like her as bait to distract the bad guys, while they attempt to keep the artifact out of the bad guys’ hands. Can Keren and Zae find a way to stay safe throughout the whole mess?
If the synopsis sounds exciting, well… the main characters are very talented and excel in most of the things they do, they are one-dimensionally goody-goody and positive that I personally find them sickening, and there are hardly any shades of gray here. I am reminded of those books by Enid Blyton and her sort as I turn the pages of this book, because the author downplays the more action-heavy moments for scenes of these two ladies in school, wowing their superiors and fellow students while on an independent hunt to track down the bad guys as if they are the Famous Five and the Secret Seven all rolled into one and a half ball of sass, spunk, and Buffy-speak.
On the bright side, there is nothing particularly disagreeable about the story. It’s a pleasant read that can be easily digested in one sitting. It’s just that I never feel like I’m reading something meant for adult readers. The whole thing here feels too tame and simplistic, and it doesn’t help that the characters tend to go into awe or shock too easily. For example, Zae has done many things and been to quite a many places, and yet she’s horrified – horrified! – when she hears of a long-ago tale of how an evil necromancer tortured and defeated a demigoddess. Or how Keren, for a soldier who is not exactly inexperienced, acts more like a first timer when faced with actual situations requiring real fighting. As I’ve mentioned, this story seems tailored to readers who would feel the same way as the main characters: very young teens.
Oh, and the editing could be tighter as there are some inconsistencies here and there. An early example is how a character “disappeared” on page 23, only to show up in the next paragraph before vanishing again abruptly for the rest of the scene.
Anyway, Gears of Faith is not a particularly bad read in any way, although it is also not a very memorable read due to the issues I’ve mentioned. I like my characters to resemble older adults a bit more, so I suppose I’m a bit too… “mature” to be its target audience.