Ex3 is probably the thing I would see in the mirror of erised. For my 18th birthday, I backed for the Deluxe Orichalcum edition (I recently turned 20...). Exalted is my passion, and therefore this review will be biased. This is also my first review, perhaps of many? (depends how well received it is).
____Eyes to the future see nothing new__
Getting a sneak peek at the world of Ex3 should have been something amazing, something that many have been waiting for, myself obviously among them. This is all good and well, but the stories, I feel, don't really show me anything new, or unknown. There was one story mentioning the Exigents, and a few stories in which the type of Exalt is left ambiguous. So although the fiction collection was not in any way meant to be a preview or 'spoiler' of the new edition, that little tidbit still stung of disappointment.
____Art and Layout__
The cover art is very nice and well done. A recognizable character, cool scene and all. not much to add on that front, except to hope that all art in the book is on par with it. The layout is nothing remarkable, which again makes you wonder why they re taking so much time on it. Not to say it isn't very pleasing and fitting, but the last two months of weekly updates have been 'layout and devs'. (Oh god my bitterness is seeping through...).
____Style, Editing, and Prose__
The stories are written in a very diverse manner, and for the most part well edited. There are those which I liked more and those I liked less, but that has much less to do with the quality of the writing (in my opinion), than with my personal stylistic preferences. I can say with much certainty though, that I would much rather see many different styles of prose, half of which I don't enjoy much, than one or two styles, of which I am fond. There were very few errors, maybe a couple of typos, but nothing memorable enough for me to even jot it down for later.
One thing that brings the style down from a four-and-a-half, and by a lot, is the authors knowledge about the world. More will be said in the next segment, but seeing expressions like 'even Twilight charms couldn't...', 'renewing the guardian charms...', and 'activating a charm centered between its shoulders' irks me. I know that some charms have yet to be named, but i would seriously have preferred a generic catchall 'charms' for them all, or a different noun for each depending on use (I.e guardian charms == defenses). It did take me out of the moment, as it might have well read [TBD] instead.
The part we were all waiting for! The stories touched mainly Solars (as expected), second to them were Lunars and DragonBlooded, with Abyssals and Sidereals each starring in one story. Exigents were mentioned, and maybe implied, but nothing very explicit except once as an antagonist.
The first qualm I have with the stories, mainly the ones about the Solars, is the apparent ease of society to accept there existence, not as Anathema, but as Exalted. Most, if not all characters new what exaltation was, and acted in reverence towards exalted. While I can find explanations for this, such as cultural difference and the existence of Exigents giving new perspectives on Exalted as a whole from humanities point of view, it was a little hard to accept.
Especially harsh was 'A singular hate', in which a twilight caste Solar is still a journeyman at a 'collegium', while her compatriot, also a twilight was elevated to master. Now, it is not implied that the other masters are Exalted, nor the other scholars in general, and from this i can deduce one of two things: A twilight caste sorcerer is beneath the likes of several mortal scholars, or more blunlty, THERE ARE A BUTT-LOAD OF HUMANS ON PAR OR ABOVE THE ABILITIES OF THE SOLAR. If this is not the case and they are mostly or all exalted, we encounter a case in which THERE ARE A BUTT-LOAD OF TWILIGHTS IN THE SAME PLACE. Like, seriously, at least a dozen... where the heck do they com from? (No, it's not a first age piece, they specifically reference the first age). By god I hope that this will be explained, or at least erratad out, because I am going insane.
This story was not the only one to give rise to questions about exaltation, for instance; Can DragonBlooded get Solar Exaltations now; Can it be known that a child will exalt as a Solar from birth;Can spirits materialize permanently; And a few more that are less critical.
I don't think that these questions are negative, I don't think it would be bad if some or all of them are true (except the thing about 'A singular hate' I can't seem to get over that). In fact, I think it's nice to shake up our foundations and beliefs. Just not without warning or word after. (To be fair, a warning was given, but more on the subject of specific charms and mechanical effects being altered, for which I care not).
____OVER ALL SCORE__
3.4. Sadly rounded down.