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Exalted: Tales From the Age of Sorrows $2.99 $1.79
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Ellen S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/05/2022 11:54:12

For $3 I don't regret buying this book, but overall it needed much, much better editing and creative control. Typos abound. Multiple authors forgot some character’s name and changed it randomly mid-story. Many stories are drastically out of step with the Exalted setting, which is not what I want from tie-in fiction. Almost every story has multiple errors, which always jar me out of the fiction. 1/5 for the editing. However I did enjoy some of them. If you only want stories loosely inspired by Exalted, you may like it more.

Credits: Richard Dansky actually wrote the Trilogy of the Second Age. There's no Trilogy of the Third Age.

Maiden’s Kiss (4/5) - A good story, a look at mortals interacting with magical beings who can casually turn their lives around. But the gold coins are weird and out of place in Creation.

Bronze and Bisque (4.25/5) - A mostly good, believable Solar story focused on character development, with a side of action. Not amazing, but has very few typos and no setting errors. The Solars are unusually knowledgeable about their Exaltation, though.

The Circle Will Be Broken (2.5/5) - A mostly decent, non-faction Sidereal story and mostly plausible within the setting IMO – including the bizarre black flag and the bureaucracy. But when the Imperial City is under attack, why hasn't even a single Dragon-Blood showed up to defend their capital?? This is why Sidereals manipulate the Dragon-Blooded, so they don't have to do these dangerous missions themselves. I also had a hard time following the witty reparte dialogue because these characters all have quite similar names and no descriptions.

Death of a Solar (3/5) - Has lots of little departures from the setting that added up to breaking me out of the story. The Wyld Hunt describe a known Solar as a criminal who broke a law instead of a soul-eating demon (but we never learn what law). The word Anathema is never uttered. It takes place in an anachronistic coal-mining town. The Solar goes years without spending a single mote of Essence, not even reflexively or by accident, even though anyone who could be willing to live like that could never Exalt in the first place; this is a theme of the setting. Despite serious flaws, the underlying plot is a good concept.

Exalted Among Us (4/5) - It’s not actually bad but somehow rubbed me the wrong way. Personally I prefer sympathetic protagonists. The author named a small town after a major city 1770 miles away, but perhaps wasn't told where Zoatham is. Rice and ships (not sandships) are apparently common in the desert. The main character oddly credits Exaltation to the gods and stars instead of the Dragons, but then he's kinda weird.

Secrets in My Waters Still (5/5) - An odd tale, it feels very original to me. I’m not quite sure what the protagonist is, but it's believable and doesn’t feel out of place in the setting like most of the other short stories. This tale also has fewer typos than most. It's an excellent example of innovation and weirdness without trashing the setting.

What You Do Not Understand (4/5) - A good, interesting story except for the typos. It's an unusual use of second person narration, but it works well. It depicts encounters with the gods from a mortal perspective, but confusingly refers to the goddess Shalrina as Exalted.

When the Moon is Dark (2/5) - I was warned not to read this story in which a Dragon-Blood nonsensically becomes a Solar and falls in love with the Lunar she was Wyld Hunting. She never suspects what happened despite ample evidence, perhaps because it violates the most basic parts of canon. These two types of Exalted are designed and written for quite different mythic archetypes. That's not the only problem – caste marks are on chests instead of heads and the Wyld Hunters never once recogize the marks they're trained to look for, but also ignore all their training to believe Lunars are Exalted. The DB Dynast has implausibly little training and experience (like, none). Weirdly helpless DBs are as easily captured as mortals. Lunars lose their powers on the new moon. On the other hand, the quality of the writing itself is actually very good. If this wasn’t supposed to be about Exalted, it could have been genuinely good.

For Love of Heaven (3/5) - In some ways this is a good story, describing a complex sorcerous working in rather interesting detail ... but what is going on? Is Fidelis a Lunar? He’s several hundred years old and his entire life is obsessed with finding his Solar ?Mate? (which would paint Lunars as mopey sidekicks instead of independent heroes). He’s clearly an advanced sorcerer but he has no Charms, can’t shapeshift, and can’t even use his sorcery when in danger. So he’s actually mortal? Also, several terms used incorrectly kept jarring me out of the story.

The Herald of Glorious Death (2.5/5) - Warning: mutilation & lots of gore. A quite thematic Abyssal story about why the Exalted can’t just solve every problem with violence. If not for the excessive gory details it could have been good, merely not to my taste. But the author also decided to misuse nonbinary gender identity as a shorthand for eeeeeevul perversion – derogatory and completely unnecessarily since the plot already revolves around human sacrifice and cruelty. Abyssals are also shapeshifters like Lunars, solely to make them nonbinary. If you don’t like Abyssals or splatter horror, it’s not worth reading.

A Resting Place at the Heart of the Mountain (2/5) - Very inconsistent with the setting, and the plot makes no sense. The hated mortal Regent Fokuf nonsensically becomes “Emperor” and sends an incompetent mortal “Cathak Creos of House Iselsi” on a mission that required an experienced Exalt. Anyone who knows Exalted knows nobody could belong to two Great Houses and nobody would admit to being an Iselsi. Cathak Creos is also named Rhey, switching names about every 2nd paragraph. Maybe he’s also an Outcaste raised by peasants because he doesn’t know the basic rules of courtly manners all Dynasts are trained in. “The Hundred Kingdoms seethe with revolt” against an empire that never ruled them in the first place. I could go on.

The Kingdom of Honey (4.5/5) - This is very well-written with evocative language, fewer typos than most, and quite an interesting plot and character. It would be 5/5 if it didn’t break the rules of Solar Exaltation. The protagonist would make more sense as a Sidereal or god-blood daughter of the Bee Empress. I would like to see a sequel; perhaps that would provide an explanation for the protagonist’s unusual destiny at birth to become a Solar?

A Singular Justice (0/5) - I was warned away but read a few paragraphs out of morbid curiosity. The author has less understanding of the setting than one could learn from TV Tropes. This “First Age” story is actually set in some D&D world, where dozens of “Solar Exalted” Journeyman D&D wizards all attend not!Hogwarts. Despite the god-king students (who should be extremely wealthy), the school is explicitly broke and treats them like lowly apprentices. “Adventurers” come and go just like in D&D. Someone beats up Cathak Creos, who is already a character in another short story (see above). The Empress is mentioned so it might be the Second Age, when the Solars definitely don’t exist in such enormous numbers, let alone all in one place living openly as Solars! If it's the Second Age why are there so many books of sorcery and why haven't several dozen Wyld Hunts and Imperial Legions attacked this Anathema school?? The author even misunderstands caste marks.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
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Exalted: Tales From the Age of Sorrows
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