Paizo, $9.99, ISBN 978-1-60125-662-1
The hero of Nightblade is Isiem, our Nidalese rebel wizard, who was last seen moping and sulking in Nightglass. This book, by the way, is a standalone story, with minimal carryover from the previous book, so it’s fine for folks to read this without having read the previous book first. Having fled his former order of sadistic law enforcers and torturers, he moves to the country just around that corner, Cheliax, where he ends up playing hero alongside rebels wanting to topple the current devil-worshiping regime of that country. Why move far, far away to, say, Broken Bay or Minkai when one can play hero just next door?
In this one, Isiem and a bunch of folks decide to seek out a mysterious and possibly very powerful weapon, the Nightblade, said to be hidden in the lab of a hopefully now-dead wizard. Most of them want to use it for the great good, of course, although there are naturally some bad seeds in the lot who just want to profit out of the whole thing. Because this quest takes them to a very dangerous part of Isiem’s former homeland, and the dead wizard is an ancestor of an old friend, he decides to call on that old friend from the previous book. Hmm, but can he be sure that the other person is still his friend?
Nightblade is very different from Nightglass. While Nightglass doesn’t follow the typical “get a party, go to this place and kill everything for treasure” stories typical of this kind of sandbox books, Nightblade reads so much like a stilted script of an amateur DM in a tabletop game that it becomes a dreary and monotonous tale by its midpoint. The story has filler combat encounters with monsters that seem to be highlighted only to compel me to check out the latest Pathfinder bestiary splatbook for the stats, as the main characters go from this point to that point. They find a random special item, discover that they need to locate a missing part located in a particularly dangerous place to complete it. The characters here are defined by their classes and race, with minimal characterization to make them stand out as anything more than stereotypes. The Iomedean paladin is referred to so many times as “the paladin”, Isiem and his friend are “the Nidalese” or “the wizard”, Ena is “the dwarf”, and so forth. Everything here reads like a wooden adventure path with more combat encounters than actual plot.
The author tries to have Isiem still retaining some dangerous vibe, but come on, that guy is never dangerous, unless I count the possibility of death by being exposed too often to his aura of radioactive emo. The author has Isiem go, oh, he could have left the fellow for dead because he had done bad things in the past, but in the end, Isiem always does the more moral thing anyway. As a result, his constant pretense at being morally conflicted just makes him come off as whining and brooding for no good reason. Just man up and be some goody-goody wimp already! The world always need another emo Drizzt Do’Urden wannabe, after all.
At any rate, Nightblade never feels like an organic story as much as it is a very stilted and boring tale with little plot, minimal characterization, and even less focus. The whole thing feels like some kind of gimmick to advertise Golarion lore to readers, to compel them to buy related sourcebooks and adventure paths and what not. Even then, there’s no reason why the end result has to be so dry and amateurish, is there? Liane Merciel demonstrated that she could do much better than this in the past, so I don’t know what happened here. I only know that I was really bored by this baby at the end of the day.