Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fantasy Fiction Tuesday: The Illusionist (2011)

((For those of you who are curious, I've decided to make this series and its sister series bi-weekly affairs. That gives me more time to read and prepare for each))

Every week for the past few years, Paizo has published numerous works of short fiction on their website. These stories take place in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting and are written by numerous authors, some more well known than others.

"The Illusionist" by Elaine Cunningham is an epistolary short story about Bonali, a student of wizardry from the Mwangi Expanse who has traveled to the Varisian city of Korvosa to learn the secret of magic at the prestigious Acadamae. Although he prepared for cultural differences, no training could have prepared Bonali for life alongside his new roommate Jamang Kira, whose pride and cunning may lead both students to an early grave.

While it's easily one of the shortest stories to ever be featured on Paizo's website, "The Illusionist" leaves a lasting impression due to the quality of the writing and its interesting characters.

Told in the form of a letter to his former mentor at his previous school, "The Illusionist" is tightly written and shows why Cunningham is one of the best writers of game-related fiction. The pacing is perfect and it was thoroughly entertaining. From someone who utilizes the Pathfinder Campaign Setting for most of his Pathfinder campaigns, its interesting to see what such a legendary magic school is actually like and the differences between the magic of Korvosa and the magic practiced in the Mwangi Expanse. Those little touches really bring a setting like this to life and make you want to learn more.

The characters takes this story from just good to great. Bonali is a fish out of water, a wizard from a strange land who has to adapt to the secrets and intrigue of the Acadamae. While he is a good person and initially decides to trust his roommate, its interesting to see him grow throughout the story and you believe the choices he makes towards the end of the tale. Jamang is also a perfect foil for Bonali, someone who is used to the intrigue of Korvosa and will gladly manipulate and lie to get what he wants.

My only complaint with "The Illusionist" is that it's too short. I would love to read an entire book about Bonali and his time at the Acadamae and the city of Korvosa. Hell, I'd love to see him return to his homeland and get a glimpse of the magical academy located there known as the Magaambya. If Paizo were to commission Cunningham to write a Bonali novel, I would purchase it in a heart beat.

For those of you who are interested in reading "The Illusionist", you may do so for free right HERE. It's easily one of the best pieces of short fiction they've put out so far and is a great place to start for those who are interested in reading fiction set in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting.