I bought In the Company of Valkyries with no prior knowledge of the other In the Company of … books. Having done a small amount of research now, I see the series focuses mostly on monsters and creatures, and how they can be used in an adventuring party. I went into this looking for ways to help spice up a PC that’s a barbarian. I did not get what I was looking for, but will attempt to be a fair judge of what the book is, and not what I wanted it to be.
In the Company of Valkyries is a 39 page book, with a lovely cover from Tan Hui Tian, a page for credits, a page for OGL, and a back cover; boiling down to 35 pages of content. There’s no table of contents, which I would have liked in a book that’s just big enough that scrolling through the PDF becomes an annoyance when looking for a specific section.
The book starts with a page of in-character fiction of a witness to a woman joining the valkyries upon death. Following that is the Introduction, with 3 pages about valkyrie history, societies, descriptions, etc. Remember, this is a race book, and this section adheres to Paizo’s Advanced Race Guide format well. Next, we have a section on valkyrie racial traits. Valkyries (the race) get bonuses to Strength and Charisma. Charisma kind of surprised me, but becomes much more evident as to why later in the book. Almost all their abilities are based on their Charisma bonus. The valkyries have one racial trait that, initially, I just don’t see a use for: Choose the Slain. This ability works similarly to the spell soul bind and is meant for use with creatures that agree to become bound to the valkyrie. While I can see the spell being used as a trap to keep your opponents from coming back from the dead, I don’t see the racial ability as having any advantage by itself and there aren’t any alternate racial traits that replace it. All of the other racial traits and alternate racial traits seem to fit the theme of “angelic warrior women” well, and are useful too. Some of these racial traits can even be taken as racial feats as well.
The valkyries have 5 racial archetypes for the witch, warpriest, bloodrager, magus, and skald classes. All meet the theme, and look to be mechanically sound. I didn’t see any problems with anything, and found the art to be wonderful here. Remember earlier when I said I couldn’t find a good use for the Choose the Slain racial trait? The Keeper of Souls (bloodrager archetype) makes very good use of this ability. Not enough that I think it should be a racial trait, I would have made it a class ability, but they do make use of the trait.
We have a section on racial feats, which includes the ability to brew magical mead. It’s like brewing a potion, but not. Enhanced Meads are a new type of magic item, and can play a part in the valkyrie paragon class. Most of the racial feats make certain racial traits better. I’ll be perfectly honest; I don’t like “racial” feats. Very rarely do I think it makes sense that only a single race should have a feat. Most of the feats not tied to a racial trait seem perfectly acceptable for any race to learn. That’s just my opinion. The racial feats are another place where the Choose the Slain racial trait comes into play, making it a more useful ability – at the cost of a feat.
Maybe the best part of the book is the Valkyrie Paragon. This is a perfect synergy of what the race is trying to achieve; warrior women who are back from the dead, and ready to kick some ass. They get a wide array of class abilities that feel something like a magus/ paladin/ cavalier blend. If that sounds good to you, you’re going to love this paragon class. You get a mount, some healing, some divination magic, a full BAB, all the best weapon and armor proficiencies, and d8 HD.
Up to this point, the book has been focused entirely around the valkyries as a race. That’s ok, but, hard to shoe-horn into an existing character. The shield maiden is a prestige class that many classes (so long as the PC identifies as female) can work their way into. The shield maiden gains a lot of the race’s traits and capstones with the PC ascending after death into the ranks of the valkyries. They can become the valkyrie race, which in some instances, makes the prestige class abilities redundant.
The book ends with almost 4 pages of magic items and enhanced meads. As noted, the enhanced meads can only be made by the valkyrie race (unless the GM agrees with me that any race could take that feat). The magic items continue fitting the theme well, but, could be used in any setting to good effect.
In the end In the Company of Valkyries, isn’t the book I wanted, but it’s still a good book. If you’re wanting to play a Charisma-based character with some magical or melee talents, I’d give this a read. If you very specifically want to fight with a spear, you’re going to love this book. I think, if you like race books, you’re going to enjoy this book too.