David Gross’s tale of a wizard past his prime and a prickly half-devil takes the reader to Tian Xia, an empire far from the center of Golarion. Drawing on Japanese mythology, classic samurai films, and Mortal Kombat style fighting tournaments, Master of Devils is a twisting adventure told partially from the point of view of a dog.
After being dispatched to Tian Xia, Radovan, the half-devil, is separated from his master, the aristocratic wizard Count Varian Jeggare. Successive battles test Radovan’s warrior strength in unexpected ways, and he advances through fights like a video game ladder tournament. The names of his opponents are memorable but their characters, unfortunately, are not. A powerful entity named Burning Cloud Devil tutors Radovan in the use of his fiendish powers, however Radovan resists. The only thing that seems to motivate Radovan is getting punched in the face. And that happens. A lot.
Meanwhile. Count Varian Jeggare is saved from bandits by brothers of the Dragon Temple. Having nowhere to turn, Jeggare joins the Dragon Temple and trains with them in their martial arts. He is ranked lowest among the brothers, igoring his aristocratic heritage. This leads to numerous conflicts, none more dangerous than his use of magic. An unlikely ally aids him in his mystic pursuits. Jeggare must trust in this comrade to help in his escape, but something else complicates his plans. The beautiful Jade Tiger catches the eye of the aging wizard, and her love too becomes a source of determination.
Pathfinder Tales are perfect for casual readers of fantasy or Pathfinder RPG players. The casual reader will be struck by the stylistic twists in Master of Devils. Some chapters are written from the perspective of a dog, which of course includes fine descriptions of smells! The dog is in fact a Kami named Judge Fang, but appears as a dog nonetheless. The Mortal Kombat ladder is a pretty cool premise despite its linearity.
For the Pathfinder player, these novels can help round out your knowledge of Golarion. Reading through the handbooks sometimes amounts to encyclopedic tedium, while the novels have the opportunity create the world in three dimensions. Also for your game master, the elemental and animalistic Kamis make provoking NPCs, riddle-givers, or plot devices.
I think Paizo could stand out by giving the current or potential Pathfinder player something game-related for buying the book. For example they could include a PDF download code for something thematically related to the book like a player character or NPC, a printable map, or a monster in PDF. This would be would be highly motivating for the buyer [They do offer a downloadable sheet of boons or items from the novels for use in Paizo’s Pathfinder Society Organized Play. However, this isn’t as useful for home games, and not as cool as what Joe describes. –Ed.]