The end of last week brought me my Paizo subscriptions box, and among the contents was the newest volume of the Pathfinder Tales: Dave Gross' Queen of Thorns. Even with a lot to do, I gobbled it up over the weekend.
This, the third offering from Gross in the PF Tales line crowns him as the undisputed king of the line, and should secure a wider reading for the Jeggare/Virholt novels. (Be sure to start with the "Pawns of Hell" serial fiction that introduced the characters in The Council of Thieves Adventure Path.) What is it that fuels my bold claims? Perhaps Gross has some competition when it comes to energetic plots and world evocation, but when it comes to character development that is satisfying and sophisticated, there is no beating the arc of development that he has traversed so far with Varian Jeggare and Radovan Virholt. It is hard to beat in any contemporary fantasy of which I am aware -- in a class with James Enge in Blood of Ambrose, Zelazny in the first Amber series, and Howard Andrew Jones in The Desert of Souls. (A couple of Vance's characters in the Lyonnesse series get close and perhaps Vlad Taltos in Steve Brust's novels will rise to this level -- I've only made it through the first set of the Taltos series, so I'm undecided in that case.)
If you have been holding off from Pathfinder Tales, dive in and read these three together first. If you have been looking for a fantasy series that will take you on a varied ride with compelling characters and amazing changes of scenery, look no further -- Gross will take you from Golarion's analogue of silverscreen Transylvania to its fantasy Orient (major martial arts films homages) to its Faerie in this last volume. Just try and beat that.
I keep trying to think of something to be more critical of, but I'm afraid Gross has pulled an A+ on the Mythopoeic Obscura grading scale. Disputers are directed to the paladin below.