City of the Fallen Sky is a recent release in the Pathfinder Tales line written by Tim Pratt. Tim Pratt has had stories appearing in The Best American Short Stories and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror among others. He also has a Hugo award to his name and Rhysling Award for best speculative poetry. This is the first Pathfinder Tales novel by Tim Pratt.
The tale starts in the city of Almas, the capital city of Andoran, following an alchemist by the name of Alaeron. Alaeron maintains an alchemist lab in the city, formerly his father’s lab. We soon learn that Alaeron has an intense interest in relics and has had associations with the Technic League in Numeria where he made off with relics of the Silver Mount.
Soon Alaeron finds himself caught up in the affairs of lovely woman that has fallen afoul of a prominent crime lord in Almas. Left with little choice but to assist her in paying her debt to this crime lord, Alaeron, the woman named Jaya and the thief Skiver sent to make sure they stay on task. The trio is tasked with located the fallen floating city of Kho and retrieving some relics to bring back to the crime lord to settle debts.
The novel chronicles their journey across Golarion to reach the ruins in the southern reaches. Once there the reader learns more of the fallen city Kho and the trio’s challenge of retrieving a relic from the ruins all while being pursued by Alaeron’s past.
As noted the story focues on Alaeron, the alchemist. I found Alaeron an interesting character and also an opportunity to get a closer look at alchemists and alchemy in the world of Golarion. From the alchemists lab to how alchemy works within this particular fantasy world the reader soon learns how alchemy works in this fantasy world.
The other members of the trio are also interesting. Jaya, the woman that drew Alaeron into this debt to be paid off was glossed over a bit in my opinion. Some of this is pawned off with her story simply meant to be a bit mysterious. We do not learn as much about her as I might have liked.
Skiver, the brute rogue type, was an interesting character. Starting out as one you didn’t want to like the reader soon is drawn in to actually liking this character despite his rather ruthless ways. By the end of the novel I greatly enjoyed the character.
As I am a Pathfinder GM and player one of the reasons I enjoy Pathfinder Tales novels is the tour of Golarion the reader receives as they read the various novels. In this novel I learn more about Numeria, the cities of Almas, Absalom and then on to the lands of Osiron and on to the Mwangi Expanse. The description of the lands is of interest to both the non-Pathfinder gamer and to the GM to help give one an even better feel to the world of Golarion.
The pacing in the book is excellent, easily drawing the reader in to keep them turning pages. The balance between moving the story forward while providing enough detail to bring the world alive is excellent. There was enough action to keep the reader interested and on the edge of their seat without being too over the top.
I had two minor complaints about the tale. The first of which being that in some small portions of the book the descriptions of alchemists felt very “gamey”. You could feel the RPG mechanics oozing through in how an alchemists mutagens and potions worked. While true to the RPG it felt a bit jarring to the readery.
The other minor qualm was there were some portions of the book that felt very “Terminator”-like. This happened at several portions in the book and sort of broke my mind from the fantasy story at hand to visions of the Terminator movie.
Both of these were minor complaints and overall I found this book a very good read. I would certainly like to read more from Tim Pratt in the Pathfinder Tales line. This is yet another example of a very strong line of fiction being put out by Paizo Publishing. If you have not started reading novels from this line and you enjoy fantasy fiction, you are missing out.
4.5 out of 5 Tankards