I few years ago I read “The Path” trilogy by Diane Pharaoh Francis.  While the books weren’t that great, they do give great fodder for tabletop game scenarios.  For that reason alone, I would recommend reading the first book.  Today’s entry will be a quick review of the first book (the good one), and my next entry will cover the two that sucked…er..I mean…that followed.

Path of Fate tells the story of Reisel, a young lady who has been forced into destiny she neither expected or wanted.  Reisel had been trained as a tark, a healer of sorts in service of the goddess who controls her kingdom.  She dreams of a long, peaceful life with her beloved.

Not long into the story, however, she meets Saljane, a goshawk sent by the goddess.  Saljane is to form a bond with Reisel and together they are to become an Ahalad-Kaaslane, a representative of the goddess.  Reisel initially rejects Saljane, damaging their mental bond.  As she journeys with other Ahalad-Kaaslane, however, they learn how much they need each other.

There are a few things that I really liked about the story:

  1. Single perspective on an evolving character – The central character, Reisel, was someone that most people could relate to, and I appreciated that the author kept the story with her.  While the magic was unique to her world, the insecurities and challenges she faced were not.   The other characters were quite one-dimensional, but I really enjoyed reading about Reisel.  I also like the third-person-limited approach to writing; it allows me to discover information at the same rate as the main character.
  2. Off-screen violence – Though the book contained graphic violence, the most graphic scenes were always kept “off-screen.”  The characters discover evidence of things like disease, murder, rape, etc., but none of these incidents were described as they occurred.
  3. No explicit or gratuitous sex – Though the story did contain contain elements of romance, it didn’t include include gratuitous sex.
  4. Interesting magic system – The overall concept of the Ahalad-Kaaslane was very interesting.  One of the things that I’ve come to appreciate over the years is indirect forms of magic.  It’s easy to have wizards slinging fireballs and lightning bolts; it’s a lot harder when their magic is limited to augury and divination.
  5. Simple story, complex characters – Despite several complex background elements, the overall story was quite simple.  This is the key to a really good story: simple story, complex characters.  If you look at most of the great films, you will find that the story itself can be described in a few short words.  It’s the depth of the characters that make the story interesting.  In my opinion, a cliched story with complex characters is always superior to a complex story with cliched characters.  While most of the characters in the story were boring, the fact that the story stuck with a character as interesting as Reisel made the story much more interesting.
  6. Quotable lines – One of the things that I look for in any film or book is quotable lines that will remind me of the story later.  Path of Fate actually had two excellent quotable lines:
  • Those scars will not mar your kind of beauty.  This was said to Reisel after she had been beaten up and scarred.  This really connected with me, as I’ve known women that fit that description; those who possess that tough, gritty beauty that is even enhanced by earned scars.
  • You are what you pretend to be.  Again, this one really hit home with me.  Often in life, we become upset by our condition and our position.  If we pretend to enjoy our work, though, we can often discover new and interesting things about it that make it enjoyable.

If you can, definitely give Path of Fate a read; I think you’ll find that it stimulates a lot of ideas for your D&D games.