Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Master of Devils by Dave Gross

Master of Devils
Pathfinder Tales
Written by Dave Gross
400 pages
Published by Paizo

Master of Devils is the second book I've read by Dave Gross that takes place in the Pathfinder setting. The Pathfinder setting is high fantasy with a wide array of character types of various nationalities and racial origins. For those not in the know, it's based on a role-playing game with modified Dungeons and Dragons rules.

The heroes of the tale, Count Varian Jeggare and Radovan, tell their tale in first person prose, along with a little help from their dog. Count Varian Jeggare is half-human and half-elf. He has some swordplay skill and a bit of magic on his side, while his bodyguard, Radovan, is half human and half fiend. In game terms, a tiefling. He's a burly sort who goes in with the fists and the swords and the punching and the stabbing.

The fun thing about this novel, is it takes place in Tian Xia. This would be a 'Far East' style setting similiar to that used by the game system Legend of the Five Rings. The Count and his bodyguard are our "eyes" to this exotic local.

Initially, I was worried that Dave Gross was going overboard with the Kung Fu super names. For example, Radovan and his boss, Jeggare, become separated.

Radovan winds up trapped in his "devil" body. Much like Mike Mignola's Hellboy, Radovan has a 'normal' fiendish look and then there's the 'super fiend' look. In this intimidating form, Radovan winds up working with Burning Cloud Devil, who is out to avenge his dead wife, Spring Snow.

While on the opposite end, Jeggare winds up fleeing the Falcon Clan bandits and working with Jade Tiger.

At first, Dave was naming numerous kung fu attacks and stances and other bits common to such lore. But when the characters names themselves are up there with the other super hero sounding names, it can get confusing. Fortunately, most of the other characters have "normal" sounding names so it doesn't become too ridiculous.

In many ways, Master of Devils would make a great limited series anime. Radovan's training under Burning Cloud Devil is much like a "villain of the week" where Radovan continues to gain in knowledge and use his abilities to prepare for a 'boss' attack.

The parts where Jeggare comes in, also include a lot of training and exploration of the exotic, but more so on the subtle side. He trains in a monastery and undergoes numerous trials and tribulation as well as getting a glimpse of court life.

Even the dog and his adventures with Judge Fang and their gathering of animals and kami to fight the upheavals of Heaven itself provide entertainment.

Master of Devils doesn't go into a ton of setting detail. Radovan spends much of his time fighting and Jeggare is confined to his training while the dog is visiting odd spots. But what we do get provides a brief glimpse into things on this far away setting.  I hope that Paizo expands it with a "Tian Xia" anthology or something along those lines.

If you're looking for some light and fun popcorn reading, Master of Devils is fast paced and action packed.