first thing i have to say about this: why is this book out now? i mean, how is this the first new dungeons & dragons supplement? in a few years, when people are tired of every warlock having a pact blade, of every defender class having tombforged armor, then you come out with this book, & let everyone lose their minds over the coffers being thrown open. now? now we're flush with magic items. heroic, paragon, & epic, we've still got plenty of items in there for plenty of games. i guess maybe this is a lot easier to publish than new classes or races? less playtesting required, or rather, easier playtesting ("hey frank, your guy has displacer armor this session-- here is how it works..."). you can just through all the carrots & parsnips & other odds & ends into the soup. still-- i think publishing this right off is a bad sales move.
i like some of the art, other stuff i'm less crazy about. the eladrin on the back? i've had an intention of making someone wear a crown of ioun stones for a long time. i'm glad to see other's share my vision (i wondered if that was what was up with the high level mialee from 3.0...). the art is grab bag otherwise-- some is evocative & good, some evocative &...less good. some is bland & some is gross. over-all it is about what you'd expect, & i will say i'm very glad they didn't let the text overwhelm the book; there is enough art to break it up & make it readable.
i am excited about alchemy. i haven't bought this book, but if i do, it will be because of alchemy. alchemy is a replacement feat for rituals. that is, if you were a wizard & a cleric who wanted alchemy, you could swap them. they are balanced off each other. a ritual-user could still take the "alchemist" feat, & so could anybody else. basically, alchemy takes the widgets & potions of yesteryear & throws them together into a more reasonable framework. i don't know how well it plays, but it seems like an interesting addition to the game.
mounts & vehicles are also really great to have. i am sort of bummed whenever i see mounts without powers for their riders, but i understand it; how many pcs will have the mounted combat feat? & even then, it makes sense that a plain old horse wouldn't have a mount power, while a warhorse would, making their virtue obvious with mechanics. alright, okay. as for vehicles; again, i'd have to playtest it to see how the rules actually work, but they seem simple enough to be really useful at the table. my favorite thing about this book is in the vehicles, actually: an apparatus of kwalish is only 5,000 gold. besides that the book has airships & ornithopters, the latter of which mike has worked into his gremlin race interestingly. my only complaint here is that maybe this information should have been in the dungeonmaster's guide instead of a couple of essays, but i'm not sweating that; spread the sale-able material around, i get it.
in terms of mundane items? either i don't get how masterwork armor works, or there are two pages used up just coming up with different names for things. oh, wait, looking at it again, i get it. these armors are adding to your save, not increasing your ac as much. i take it back. alright, that is kind of interesting, isn't it. the layout should have put that "special" column next to the armor bonus column, but now i'm just picking. still, it stumped me until a second ago. as for the new weapons, all seems fine except "brutal." i'm not saying brutal is broken-- i don't know about that. it does seem to me that it might take up too much time at the table; part of the 4e mantra was eliminating all those little tiny timekillers, i thought?
a few last notes. really? a pact sword is only usable by eladrin warlocks? you are killing me here, guys. can't you make items a little more specific? like, eladrin starpact warlocks with the eladrin soldier feat named charlemagne? on a higher note, this book is compatible with products-yet-to-come: there are items for your ranger's animal companion. wait, so rangers will get animal companions?! the real crime is that this book lacks any discussion on "tweaking" magic items. lets say i want to apply the pact dagger abilities to a bastard sword, or the tombforged ability to a suit of hide. the dungeonmaster has a great idea about why (it is the "unholy revenger!" or "the hide is based around a scale found at the deathsite of an avatar of bahamut!"). should there be level adjustments? what about more subtle or profound changes? can we get some kind of guidelines? a dungeonmaster can always make a call, but it would be nice to have some information on how to make the call, or what the repercussions might be.