This book is an introduction for new players and while it's not a replacement for the core book in that it doesn't cover all of the rules, it is a really nice walkthrough of how a Pathfinder game works.
- There's a quiz to determine what kind of character you might like to play that leads to a Theme.
- Each of the 26 themes has a half-page description of what they are like, how they operate, and some racial considerations. They made me think of the Warhammer occupations in some ways though they are not quite the same. It's much more of a "concept" presentation than a mechanical presentation.
- The bulk of the book is spent on the class guides. This covers each of the classes in the core book, discussing abilities, skills, feats, class benefits in general, and then goes into a section with a short table for each level covering the mechanical changes, some good ideas for feats, spells, and any class options at that level. While the book is aimed at the new player, this section is pretty slick and can be helpful even for a veteran player picking up a new class. The themes are referenced here as well discussing choices for each one at each level as needed.
- The final third of the book is all about playing the game and that's what really makes the book nice - it's not just a guide to building a character that is then put aside. It's useful once play begins as well. A lot of time is spent on combat, but it's broken into separate sections on things like actions, then another section on spellcasting, one on maneuvers, and a really nice one on "Understanding your square" that is the single best explanation of occupied squares, threatened squares, reach, and attacks of opportunity that I have seen in a long time. There;s a section on how to sneak. There's a section on talking to people. There's a section on how dungeons work. There's even a section on making the transition to GM and running your first game.
I think it's a much better book than I expected and while the class information is limited to the core book and mainly useful for the new player, the in-play section is a handy reference even for a veteran.
The only downside to the book is the price - with a $30 cover price it's not cheap. If someone already bought the Beginner Box or the Core Rules, telling them that "hey this other book is an awesome way to get started" may be a step too far.