Opening as usual with a note to a student working his way through the Aubergrave Academy of Magecraft (how long is the course? He's been there six years now, maybe he's doing a PhD!), apparently the poor lad lost his mentor in rather tragic (if unspecified) circumstances and has had to apprentice to somebody else. It also appears that he now has to start assisting with teaching more junior students (all the more likely that he's doing a PhD as you often get a teaching assistant role at that point). Mention is also made of a new area of study, psychic magic, which is touched on within this tome. In a rare formatting error, the two pages of the letter are superimposed on what appears to be the Credits and Table of Contents pages, which fortunately appear in their own right, the Credits before the letter and the Table of Contents on the following page, so you do get to read them!
Next comes the Foreword by the compiler of the tome, Kabaz Anvitz, who is full of excitement at the discovery of an entire new branch of magic, the psychic magic mentioned in the letter. In previous volumes he's explored and questioned conventional magic, and here the study of psychic magic has led him on to examine spell components in detail. The theme of Advanced Arcana I was the 'cost' of a spell, so returning to that approach, can material components - and indeed the caster's gestures and words - also form part of the 'cost' of casting a spell? An interesting thought that leads him to the concept that it might be possible to cast a spell without the required material components by casting it at a higher level (i.e. using up more magical energy) than normal. Or increase the spell's effects by adding extra components... exciting stuff indeed!
We then move on to more detailed game mechanics to support these ideas. Psychic magic was introduced in Paizo Publishing's Occult Adventures rulebook for the Pathfinder RPG, where the concept of thought and emotion components joined the familiar verbal, somatic and material ones. It's all about the drama and excitement of spell-casting, words and gestures and other elements combining to bring about the effect the caster intends. So here we have intricate components - words or gestures so complex that skill checks are needed to get them right - and other components based on energy, alignment, sacrifice or even terrain. There's a lot to play with here! Detailed game mechanics are provided to help you get to grips with the ideas presented here and translate them into spellcasting within your game.
The actual spells themselves are presented first as spell lists by caster type and level, and then in an alphabetical collection of full descriptions of each one. Read, enjoy, imagine... some of these spells, however, are quite dark, evil even - after all, sacrifice of a sentient being merely to power a spell is rightly deemed an evil act, most of the time.
The appendices present new feats designed to aid interaction with the new game mechanics introduced in this book, new archetypes which mix up the way in which different types of spellcaster engage with their magic, a collection of new (sometimes bizarre) familiars, and finally biographic notes and game statistics of some of the legendary spellcasters who aided Kabaz Anvitz in researching this book - along with a further note from him about the process.
What can I say? These books just get better and better, casting new and interesting light on the study and practice of magic. Particularly appealing if you like to take an academic approach to magic, there is plenty for the more practical spellcaster too.
[5 of 5 Stars!]