REVIEW: Shadows of Pnath by Josh Reynolds

Shadows of Pnath is the second of the Countess Zorzi novels in the Arkham Horror series. The Arkham Horror series is pretty much what I wish Call of Cthulhu had done with their fiction line decades ago, which is tell a popularized Pulpy adventure series where the investigators have a (small) chance of thwarting the supernatural horrors around them. The Countess Zorzi series is one of the Pulpiest with the Catwoman-esque protagonist and her sidekick, taxi driver Pepper Kelly.

Shadows of PnathUnfortunately, while the Countess Alessandra Zorzi managed to survive the K’ynan’s vengeance in the previous book, she has left behind a large number of enemies. One of these is the Comte Henri d’Erlette, an former lover with a family history of black magic, who kidnaps Pepper in order to force the Countess to retrieve his copy of Cults des Goules. It turns out the Countess stole it from him and he takes that personally.

The Comte is not the only individual who wants the infamous tome, however. The Black Chamber, the RL predecessor agency to the NSA, has gotten into the supernatural occult business. I wondered if this was an homage to Charles Stross’ The Laundry series where that is the United States’ chief cult. If it’s not, though, it’s still a pretty good thing to see the US government stumbling around and trying to cut off the head of the supernatural while having no idea what it requires to do so in the Arkham Horror universe. They’ve also made some extremely poor choices in allies, working with the Silver Twilight Lodge that were the bad guys in The Shadows of Yog-Sothoth campaign and no less nasty here.

Plus, the ghouls themselves have a fairly large role in the story. It turns out they’re not too happy about Cults des Goules publishing the secrets of their race and are willing to kill everyone that Alessandra knows to get it back. This forces Alessandra to track down the client she sold it to and bargain or steal it back. Unfortunately, the kind of people who buy rare occult tomes in the Cthulhu Mythos are far more dangerous than crime bosses or arms trafficker.

I think the book suffers a bit for the fact that Pepper and Alessandra are parted for too long of the story. Much of the series’ success depends on their chemistry between the American working class Pepper and the European aristocrat (fraudulent as she may be). Still, both characters have a lot of good scenes with them. I also appreciated the motivation of the Comte as he isn’t the typical madman trying to summon an Elder God to destroy the world.

We also get the introduction of another secret society in the Red Coterie. These aren’t quite a “good” counterpart to the Silver Twilight Lodge but perhaps a more morally neutral one. I’m not a huge fan of them but I appreciate every entry into the Arkham Horror universe that incorporates new organizations. I hope we see the Brotherhood of the Beast and other classic Chaosium groups get included in future novels.

In conclusion, Shadows of Pnath is a solid sequel to the Wrath of N’Kai. While I enjoyed the previous book more, I think this is entertaining and another good example of Josh Reynolds’ writing style. The books introduce new elements as well as incorporate traditional Lovecraftian ones. I love the Contessa and Pepper so much that I’d read a dozen novels starring them.

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CT Phipps

CT Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He's the author of Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, Straight Outta Fangton, and The Supervillainy Saga. He is also a frequent contributor to Grimdark Magazine.

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