The latest entry to the Pathfinder Tales line is Nightglass by Liane Merciel. As you can see from the image, the cover is beautifully illustrated by Tyler Walpole. But Nightglass is really only the first part of the novel, ending on page 157. However the fault is to be divided between Merciel and the editor, this addition lacks the level of cohesion required of a novel. There is an admission of this fact in the formatting and division of Nightglass into Book I: Monsters and Book II: People, but the lack of development will not let Book I stand alone and, as it stands, it does not achieve unity with what follows.
Book I: Monsters is grim. Exceedingly grim: over 100 pages of growing up and coming of age at the mercy of a dark god and his twisted minions. I can appreciate it as an exercise in world building, but this exceeds my tolerance for treatment of children in this kind of jeopardy of evil and of fundamental lostness on the part of the protagonist. While it hints of more horrors than it actually details, the thoughtful reader with a vivid imagination may still find themselves disturbed.
Now, I am no opponent of literature's capacity to disturb, but when it comes to entertainment, it must disturb as a part of accomplishing its purpose. If Book I’s purpose is to create the character and his predicament and Book II is his redemption from the realm of Monsters to the realm of People, then a tighter composition in which Book I is significantly shortened and the protagonist’s redemption begins earlier would bring about greater unity. Giving into an excess of world-building and extraneous characterization in this case overcame the basic necessities: revulsion from the Nidalese way and sympathy for the main character. To be clear, I am not saying that Book I as a whole was unnecessary. On the contrary, Isiem could have appeared with little initial sympathy without the knowledge of how he was victimized by the followers of Zon-Kuthon. Rather, what is at issue is balance, focus, and integration.
Book II is much more enjoyable. Isiem the shadowmancer is fleeing the dark grasp of the evil god of he and his people’s slavery. He struggles to survive in a harsh frontier and come to a life free of the shadows and of relationships twisted by domination and fear.
In Book II, the classic trope of what is human and what is monstrous finds play as Isiem discovers that the fearsome, inhuman strix (pictured below) are more humane than the peoples he has known previously. However, his escape from the world of the monstrously evil humans to the presumed, but human-hearted, monsters will only come with struggle, and this redemptive struggle makes Book II more plot-driven and active -- and ultimately, enjoyable.
I'm sorry to have to judge Nightglass as the weakest of the line so far. In spite of its potential and its good parts, I grade it as it stands as a whole.