Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Shadows of Pnath [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Josh Reynolds, cover Daniel Strange, part of the Arkham Horror series.
“The City of Lights was nice and all, but Arkham was Arkham. Her father had told her that once you were in Arkham’s shadow, you couldn’t escape it” (40-1). Although Shadows of Pnath is set in the Arkham Horror game milieu, none of it takes place in the Massachusetts city of Arkham, only in “Arkham’s shadow” at various locations around France. This second novel written by Josh Reynolds for the Aconyte Books series continues the adventures of his elite thief character Countess Alessandra Zorzi and her apprentice Pepper Kelly. It furthermore introduces the involvement of Arkham Files investigator Trish Scarborough, a spy for the US “Black Chamber” Cipher Bureau.
While Shadows of Pnath is most overtly a sequel to Reynolds’ previous book Wrath of N’kai, it also draws on threads begun by Reynolds with his contributions to the recent Arkham Horror anthology volumes The Devourer Below (“The Hounds Below”) and Secrets in Scarlet (“The Red and the Black”). The initial arc of the novel is focused on the recovery of a copy of Cultes des Goules, and it bears a certain resemblance to The Club Dumas–or more precisely to its cinematic version The Ninth Gate. This plot also brings into play Zorzi’s peer “acquisitionist” Chauncey Swann, an American connected with the Silver Twilight Lodge.
The titular Pnath is a reference to the Vale of Pnath in the Lovecraftian Dreamlands, which also featured in Brian Lumley’s Ship of Dreams. In a piece of weird horror set in interwar France, it is not surprising to encounter a few traces of jauniste mythemes regarding the “pallid mask” and ominous glimpses of yellow. These are undeveloped and may be seeds sown for a further sequel.
Alessandra and Pepper are separated early in the course of the story, and most of it consists of short, fast-moving chapters alternating between their two viewpoints. Reynolds has succeeded in cultivating my affection for his heroine to the point that I hope game publisher Fantasy Flight will eventually issue a set of Countess Zorzi investigator cards for Arkham Horror: The Card Game.