In an inexcusable oversight, I managed to run a 4 month FATE game using this setting and book without posting a review. Spoiler alert, if I start a review with "I ran a months-long campaign with this book", I'm going to give it high marks.
Victorian-era roleplaying has fascinated gamers for years. The values and points of view of 19th century heroes and adventurers are interesting to us, and many of our modern genres such as science fiction and weird fantasy have their roots in the time period. Yet many Victorian games never get beyond the confines of England. ("Why ya think we call it Victorian, Jason? Sheesh!") As a long-time Francophile, I found myself fascinated from the start by Forbidden Kingdoms' choice to focus instead on Paris.
It's a Paris that has been inextricably shaped by a mysterious shroud of supernatural darkness that has covered the city and coaxed ghosts into visibility and even, at times, solidity. The cosmopolitan City of Lights has become more cosmopolitan as spiritualists, pilgrims and scientists have flocked to Paris from all over the world, and of course, it has become a literal City of Lights as illumination beneath the dark skies has become a 24-hour a day proposition.
Along with the intrigues and adventures of 1889 Paris, then, comes the strangeness and the supernatural, and a vivid, memorable setting for pulp adventure is born, with catacombs, and opium dens, and cafe society, and the cathedral of Notre Dame, the Seine winding through it all...I can barely even bring myself to describe what a delight this book is on every page.
I wish I could give this my highest score. I really do, I even clicked on the 5-star button twice while writing this. But in the end, technical problems mar the presentation. It's simply a scan of a book. You are basically getting PDF pictures of each page. It's a good scan, but that's all it is. You can't even copy and paste text - normally such a dealbreaker for me I wouldn't consider putting it in a Featured Review. That should tell you how much I adore the text itself, the ideas and atmosphere presented in this most unique of settings, it's so good that I even set aside my firmest, most objective principles to give this work a high rating.
Just paging through it makes me want to go back to that game and dust it off again. Alas, many have moved on. Perhaps, like Proust, one evening when sitting down to game I will smell a Dorito and be transported back to the memory of times past...
[4 of 5 Stars!]