This pdf is 130 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 125 pages of content, so let's check this out!
Necromancers of the Northwest-products tend to be hit and miss for, but you may say about the crew whatever you want, there simply is no touching their Advanced Arcana-series. Both Vol I and II belong to the very best spell-books released for any iteration of d20, now can part II keep up wth their quality?
Starting off with aptly-written flavor-ext, we are off to the new concepts - taking a cue from Advanced Arcana II, the book first introduces us to the ideas behind the new spells herein, before providing ample of different options to handle the integration of new spells into an existing campaign and handling spells from a wide array of sources. Multiple way to restrict access to spells are provided, ranging from requiring feats to research and including variant rules that make rare spells harder to counterspell.
Now what made the advanced arcana-series always stand out from its competitors is how the series tends to challenge the boundaries of what spells do: Whether it's the segmented spells or those dependant on the caster's age, the ideas have always hit home for me. Now this pdf also has new concepts of spells - Take Arcane Well-spells.
These spells grant the caster benefits while they have them prepared - spontaneous casters must prepare them as regular non-spontaneous spellcasters in order to gain their benefits. To give you an example, when you have prepared the 2nd level spell "Ardesalf's Identifying Touch", you may detect magic at will as long as you haven't cast the spell. When casting the spell, you get +20 to identifying checks regarding a touched item. A more powerful example would be Coma Veil, which lets you put to sleep foes as a standard action in a 60 ft. radius while prepared, while its cast does much the same, but on an area, making this spell more powerful than the witch's dreaded sleep-hex. Now I can see spells like that work in a high fantasy setting and I really like the notion behind these spells, i.e. rewarding the conservation of arcane resources. BUT. Granting spell-like abilities that duplicate other spells and essentially further conserve spells (no more casting detect magic - yay!) go too far for my conservative tastes. Worse yet, Options like the massive array of sleep-abilities AT WILL are many things, but balanced are they surely not. To ct a long ramble short: I appreciate the idea of Arcane Well-spells, but not their execution in the book - and if "True Strike" at will doesn't raise all balance-bells in your DM-head, I don't know what will... All in all - unfortunately broken.
There are other kinds of new spells in here, though: Metamagic spells that enhance magics you cast via similar ways that metamagic feats do: Call Paragon, for example, enhances the next creature you call to add +8 to all attributes and +4 natural armor, unless its int is >2, in which case Int is not enhanced. bilious invocation also adds a fog cloud that deals con damage to a spell. This type of new spells actually works much better imho and allows for some interesting combinations of arcane prowess. Another new class of spells would be the opportune spells, which can be considered an expansion of the "Quick Spells" from Advanced Arcana II. Essentially, these spells have a primary effect, but also come with the option to be cast as free, swift or immediate actions, with diminished or different effects, for example counterspelling an incoming spell. Some of these spells may be cast when you e.g. deal 10 points of elemental damage, allowing for spell combos. Lethal, yes, but if you e.g. didn't fulfill the reuquirement (dealing e.g. not enough damage), your spell fizzles. I really like this idea and the execution is actually rather apt. I'd love to see more of the like.
The final new type of spell is so-called "Ascension Magic" - i.e. magic you can cast on different levels. Contact the Celestial Hierarchy, for example, can be cast as a spell of any level you have access to and yields different results, improving over the spell levels. Not all of these spells cover all levels, though, some of them actually coming in at e.g. a 2nd level and a 5th level-version, making them essentially multiple spells rolled up into one. Good idea per se to handle spell groups like summon monster etc. and implemented logically. The massive spell-lists cover all the Paizo-classes, including antipaladins.
Regarding the appendices, we get also quite a bit of content: We get multiple variations to be applied to potions,making them e.g. unstable, random, have multiple effects via layered potions etc. The scrolls also get some cool options - devouring scrolls, for example, which allow you to create a blank devouring scroll. Now, when you successfully counterspell a spell and use the scroll, it transforms into a scroll of the countered spell. VERY Cool! Spontaneous casters may now temporarily add spells via Knowledge Scrolls to their spell-lists, while metamagic scrolls add metamagic feats to your casts. Sealing scrolls are also interesting, in that their mere presence foils the inscribed spell(s), making for a cool line of defense in overtly magical settings. We also get a bunch of variant wand-types.
Speaking of magic-heavy settings - we also get sorceror bloodlines of "noble birth", which make sense to me - the power and charisma lend themselves well to becoming leaders of men. A total of 5 such sorceror bloodlines are provided, all with extensive information on the respective families and interesting abilities. Witches may now serve an undead dragon overlord, the avatar of the very Tree of Life, the Leanan sidhe (don't let Dresden know!) or a hedonistic devil. Again, these patrons are cool!
The pdf concludes with full stats of the magic practitioners that contributed to this tome, ranging from CR 10 to 20 - a nice bonus that adds further identity to the spells.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to NNW's 2-column parchment-covered background and the pdf comes with nice full-color stock art. The pdf also comes with a printer-friendly version and excessive bookmarks for ease of navigation.
I love the Advanced Arcana-series, I really do. And much like its predecessor volumes, this book is actually quite innovative and hefty in size, providing a neat bang-for-buck ratio. HOWEVER: In contrast to its predecessors, I can't all-out recommend this book. The mostly terribly broken Arcane Well-spells and e.g. wands that prevent spell-consumption just scream "UNBALANCED" to me and could be considered game-breakers if not handled with the utmost care by the DM. Unfortunately, these gripes bring down what would otherwise be atruly stellar supplement. Mind you, there is still content galore of top quality herein, but you'll have to sift the bad apples out so they won't spoil the bunch. It is only due to the top quality AND quantity of the good pieces of content that I feel still justified in rating this as a good pdf - 4 stars. Just beware of the broken bits! If you're unwilling to do the sifting, detract 1 or even 2 stars.
[4 of 5 Stars!]