I heard of Master of Devils from an article at Tor.com that referred to the characters Varian Jeggare and Radovan Virholt as the new Fafhrd and Gray Mouser. In the article, it mentioned some of the novels that included Jeggare and Radovan, including one novel that used the tropes of kung fu to tell a Pathfinder story – Master of Devils.
Wait a second, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in a Shaw Brothers movie? Yeah, count me in.
And I have not been disappointed. Fair warning, I have not yet finished the novel, however I was so excited about it, I wanted to get the review done while I still have that glow.
Here’s the blurb:
On a mysterious errand for the Pathfinder Society, Count Varian Jeggare and his hellspawn bodyguard Radovan journey to the distant land of Tian Xia, on the far side of the world. When disaster forces him to take shelter in a warrior monastery, “Brother” Jeggare finds himself competing with the disciples of Dragon Temple as he unravels a royal mystery. Meanwhile, Radovan—trapped in the body of a devil and held hostage by the legendary Quivering Palm attack—must serve a twisted master by defeating the land’s deadliest champions and learning the secret of slaying an immortal foe. Together with an unlikely army of beasts and spirits, the two companions must take the lead in an ancient conflict that will carry them through an exotic land, all the way to the Gates of Heaven and Hell and a final confrontation with the nefarious Master of Devils!
Is this a classic of Western (or Eastern) literature that will change how you view fantasy fiction? Absolutely not. Is this a quick, fun read that does a really good job of translating the amusing eccentricities of 1970s and 80s kung fu movies for a fantasy gaming audience? Absolutely.
The rub is that like much other gaming fiction, it seems like the plot exists to get the characters from one fight to the next. Now, generally, that is something that turns me off. It turned me off from some rather ‘acclaimed’ gaming fiction by best-selling authors. It doesn’t bother me in Master of Devils because Dave Gross has done a fantastic job of creating strong characters, and also because it mirrors those kung fu movie of which it is a kind of homage or pastiche.
I will be buying Prince of Wolves by Dave Gross once I’m done Master of Devils. Prince of Wolves, according to the article I read, does for Hammer films what Master of Devils did for Shaw Brothers. That sounds pretty tasty to me.
I’d recommend this book as a light read for those who enjoy generic fantasy fiction and old time, eccentric kung fu cinema. As a light, fun read, I’m giving this 4 chi strikes out of 5.
You can purchase Master of Devils from Paizo here.
You can read the Tor article here.