Countess Alessandra Zorzi and her apprentice Pepper are back in Shadows of Pnath by Josh Reynolds. This time the two have left Arkham for a wild adventure through France. The Countess and Pepper have been having a great time working their way through Europe. The Countess has been “acquiring” things of occult value to send back to Miskatonic University and teaching Pepper her trade along the way.
But now the Countess’ past has come back to haunt her. Pepper gets caught in the middle and now the Countess must find a way to save her, and the rest of the world of course, from her unhinged ex-lover. Zorzi will need every ounce of her cunning and a good measure of luck too if she’s going to come out on top this time.
[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Aconyte for the purpose of this review. Warning: My review of Litany of Dreams contains some spoilers!]
Thrilling fast-paced crime caper
Reynolds decides to take us off-campus for his newest Arkham Horror book, Shadows of Pnath. Instead of running around Arkham, Massachusetts, and its surrounding areas, Countess Alessandra Zorzi and Pepper (from the earlier Arkham novel Wrath of N’Kai also by Josh Reynolds) are living it up in Europe. Unfortunately, an old lover/mark of Zorzi learns that she’s returned to France.
The last time Alessandra was in France she tricked the Comte Henri d’Erlette into thinking she loved him. Then she took off with a large portion of his priceless occult library. Now the Comte wants revenge, and he wants his books back, well one particular one anyway. It’s an ancient book written by his grandfather, the Cultes des Goules. He takes Pepper hostage to force the Countess to track down the book. And he only gives her three days to do so.
As difficult as her task already is, it’s made infinitely harder because the Comte is not the only one looking for the Cultes des Goules. There are several parties interested in this particular copy of the book and they’re all ready to go to extremes to get their hands on it. The Countess will have to use every ounce of her cunning to get her and Pepper out safely and to keep the book out of the wrong hands. Because in the wrong hands, Cultes des Goules could spell the end of the world. Even in the right hands, it’s a real liability honestly. What’s a reformed thief to do except save the world again?
A change of scene for Shadows of Pnath
Very few Arkham novels have taken place outside of Arkham. Reynolds’ choice to move Shadows of Pnath off base was an interesting one. But it was a wise one. Zorzi is an expert thief who has traipsed all over the globe stealing from the rich and the paranoid. Her first adventure in Arkham was a very exciting one but there’s only so much scope for her talents in a town as small as Arkham. Returning there would be too dangerous and would make any real adventure too difficult. By giving her and Pepper a larger stage, Reynolds was able to craft a full and exciting adventure for us to enjoy. Of course, even all of France wasn’t a big enough stage to keep Zorzi hidden from the Comte but it did give her plenty of room to maneuver through a thrilling romp and a riveting finale.
Even though Shadows of Pnath isn’t set in Arkham, Arkham still has its fingerprints all over it. The evil entity that the Comte wants to engage is connected to all the other entities that love to gather in Arkham. Indeed, its name is often mentioned in other Arkham Horror books. Further, the Countess and Pepper aren’t the only familiar faces and names that we see during this adventure. So even though Shadows of Pnath doesn’t take place in Arkham it earns its place in the Arkham Horror series.
A thief reformed
At the end of Reynolds’ Wrath of N’kai, the Countess promises to change her ways. Instead of stealing powerful occult objects for the highest bidder, regardless of their reasons, she decides to steal those artifacts back and let people at the Miskatonic University hide them safely away. Pepper goes along with her as her apprentice. It was fun to see the two of them again after some time has gone by.
Pepper is learning fast from Zorzi. And even though she is captured early on, she is able to use her new skills to work the situation in her favor. Meanwhile, Zorzi really resents being forced back into her old role, stealing occult treasures for dubious people.
Watching her struggle with the consequences of her choices, both past and present was fascinating. The fact that she really wanted to find a way to both save Pepper and keep the book away from everyone who wanted to abuse it was indicative of her personal growth. It’s debatable how much of the final outcome was planned and how much was chance, but I like to think that the Countess knew what she was doing every step of the way with never a doubt.
Shadows of Pnath is another great adventure in the Arkham Horror series
I have to say that the Arkham Horror books from Aconyte are a great series that I have very much enjoyed reading. Reynolds’ latest offering is perfectly in line with the sass and spunk that I have come to expect from the series. Readers who have already ventured to Arkham will not be disappointed with this overseas entry to the series. Newcomers will fall in love with the overall vibe of the book and with the Countess and Pepper.
Once they finish with Shadows of Pnath I suggest going back and sampling some of the other great entries in this fun line. Shadows of Pnath is really a crime thriller/adventure novel with slight horror overtones, not the strict horror that you would expect from a novel in a “horror” series. But it’s worth every minute of the read, I promise!
My Rating: 9/10
Shadows of Pnath: An Arkham Horror Novel by Josh Reynolds is available now. Will you be reading this one? Let us know on Twitter or in the Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our review of another fantastic entry from the Arkham Horror series, Litany of Dreams!