One need not be a fan of the popular Pathfinder Role playing Game to enjoy the many books spun off from the game and this title set in the dark, nearly colorless realm of Nidal is no exception. At thirteen years old, Isiem and three other children from the tiny community where they were born were selected by the frightening and powerful magicians known as Shadowcallers for training. From the time the children entered Pangolaisís Dusk Hall, their lives were a torment of harsh discipline, torturous lessons and a life dedicated to the dark God Zon-Kuthon. Mutilation, torture and pain form the backbone of the shadowcallers magic and as Isiem grows, he continually struggles to maintain some semblance of a moral compass. Surviving his training, Isiem is sent out on a diplomatic mission that offers him the long desired chance of escaping Nidal but quickly learns how difficult staying alive can be while living alone and in hiding.
Isiem is captured by the savage Strix, a monstrous winged race of creatures with no great love of humans or those they consider half humans. Despite his role in torturing a captive strix, Isiem is allowed to freely roam their kingdom while his fate is decided. As Isiem and his canine companion work to stay alive, he is befriended by a young strix who provides much needed additional supplies in return for information. During their discourse, Isiem tells what he knows about the Chelaxianís who seek to destroy the strix and take over their lands in order to obtain the rich silver ore contained in the mountains of Devilís Perch. After the first major settlement is utterly destroyed by the strix, it is only a matter of time before the empire returns in force and unless Isiem can think of a plan, the strix are doomed.
Opening with a small band of explorers entering the woods of Nidal, the story which is divided into two major parts, first follows Isiem through his training and then as an adult when he undergoes a transformation into a separate identity. The secondary characters including the three children selected from his village, add considerable depth to the depressingly dark world of a shadowcaller trainee. A fully developed setting strengthens the storyline to the extent that none gamers can jump in and enjoy the Pathfinder tales.