Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Honor Among Thieves (Tales of Servin) by Elaine Cunningham

Honor Among Thieves is book one in a new series set in Servin by Elaine Cunningham. Elaine may be familiar to fans either of the Forgotten Realms setting where she's written numerous novels, or even fans of the more recent setting and novels, Pathfinder, where she's got one down and hopefully more to come.

At her website, http://www.elainecunningham.com/ she has numerous bits of lore on the setting. Some of that comes through the story, which is a novella. These isn't quite a steam punk setting, but there are clockwork elements including mechanical men along with magic and other bits.

I'll be delving into the book so there will be spoilers below.

So why am I mentioning it? There were a few bits I enjoyed.

For one, she takes the familiar, in this case the dwarfs, and provides her own touch, in this case, a sub-race, one of the "stone races", a Carmot. First, their blood is believed to amplified alchemical transmutations. Something useful in this setting because alchemy is on the rise and magic on the downfall. More interesting though is that the natural state of this type of dwarf, pale silvery gray hair, kin and teeth can be changed, like a chamelon. With a few reflavoring bits, you could take feats and PrCs designed for a Changelling and apply them to a Carmot.

New monsters are also good. How about a swarm of giant half moth, half mosquito creatures known as death moths that guard dwarf tombs? Good stuff. Some brute clock work guards done up in old style knight armor also show up.

Another thing I enjoyed was how the author makes it like an ongoing situation as opposed to some books where all the loose ends are done in one. There are things that are introduced here that don't come to a tidy end, even though they may in the future as the second book is now out.

Lastly, I enjoyed the twist. I admit that I did not see the big switch at the end coming. I suspected something was going to be different or special, but didn't know what it was. This would make for an interesting switch around in a role playing game where one of the players was using class and race X but perhaps even without them knowing it, they were perhaps monster Y. It's always good to be able to surprise the readers and yet leave enough slack that you can go back and reunite the heroes at a later date.