City of the Fallen Sky by Tim Pratt is a Pathfinder Tales tie-in novel based on the wildly popular Pathfinder tabletop roleplaying game published by Paizo Publishing. It takes place in the world of Golarion which is a real kitchen-sink setting–think pulp sword and sorcery mashed up with Tolkienesque high fantasy. Paizo has done a fantastic job with creating a setting which is deep, rich and colorful. The background of the city of Starfall is pure science fantasy, It is a city built around the ruins of ancient large spacecraft which fell from the sky eons ago. It is from Starfall that our protagonist the arcanist Alaeron has obtained five strange ancient artifacts which figure prominently into the plot of the book.
Some of the notable characters include a beautiful exotic archer Jaya and the mercenary rogue Skiver. Jaya is a ranger with the kick-ass archery skills from a far off land. She gets caught in scheme to fleece a retired adventurer/ treaser-hunter Radem Valim. Aleron gets mixed up in this mess defending Jaya from Valim’s goons. He also finds his dark past from Starfall catching up with him by way of rather nasty fellow by the name of Kormack. Valim enlists Alaeron, Jaya and mercenary rogue named Skiver to obtain ancient artifacts from Kho ,the titular City of the Fallen Sky. We follow our heroes on an adventure that spans the Inner Sea Region of Golarion.
The ancient mysteries of Starfall and Kho are the kind of things that make an fun-filled role-playing game session. City of Fallen Sky feels like someone took their gaming session and made it into a novel. Unfortunately, this is where the problem lies for me. The novel reads like a fantasy role-playing campaign which was fun to play but very tedious to read in print. For example, I don’t understand why Radem Valim decides to send the protagonists on an epic adventure as punishment for Jaya’s con game that goes wrong. I know we need to get the plot moving but this reasoning is very clunky and much too convenient.
The characters in this book feel like stock characters from a course called Fantasy Gaming 101. The protagonist Alaeron becomes love-sick teenager when we get inside his mind about his feelings for Jaya. The rogue Skiver is a tough as nails rapscallion who happens to be gay man. I give Tim Pratt kudos for the inclusion of a gay character in a shared-world fantasy novel. This is something you would not have seen in a shared world novel back in the eighties or nineties. It’s nice to see some progress and inclusion in old boy’s club of gaming fiction.
Overall, I would have enjoyed this book more if the characters were better realized. I feel the star of this tale is the fantastic world of Golarion. The amount of stories that could be mined from the Pathfinder setting are too numerous to consider. I look forward to the future tales in the Pathfinder Tales series.
Born and bred in the City of Brotherly Love, Patrick DeLise has been a nerd /geek from an era (1980s) before young hipster clowns appropriated the terms and made them “cool” . By days, he works as a mildmannered clerk for the local library system. By nights he dons a cowl and fights the forces of darkness in the never ending struggle. Or maybe he dons a CPAP mask and fights the forces of sleep apnea? Either way, he is hero to his wife and two kids.