The Devil’s Pay is great fun, an action-packed romp through the Iron Kingdoms centred around Sam MacHorne and her Devil Dogs. It is very much what I expect a “typical” Warmachine story to be like. The Devil’s Pay is more comical and light-hearted than Instruments of War, features lots of “guest appearances” from known Warmachine characters and just about every stereotype imaginable of for a “Mercenary Company novel”, though certainly not any less fun for that.
Quite the opposite actually. The Devil’s Pay has a great “good B-movie” vibe to it.
Sam MacHorne and her Devil Dogs need a contract, and when one comes in that leads to the haunted Wythmoor Forest, the company moves out with warjacks and slug guns at the ready…
#1 – The Format
As with Instruments of War, the Amazon-description claims it is an estimated 100 pages or thereabout. Subtracting artwork, maps, blank pages, an Iron Kingdoms index and ads (10 pages or so), I would argue The Devil’s Pay is closer to a ~50 page if you only look at the story.
#2 – The Story
The story is told through Private Dawson, a new and green recruit to the Devil Dogs mercenaries led by Captain Samantha “Sam” MacHorne, who receive a lucrative contract to go hunting for a “mystery ‘Jack” in the haunted (and Cryx-infested) Wythmoor Forest.
As the Devil Dogs, along with two mercs warjacks, move out to find their quarry, Dawson gets to know the motley crew of mercenaries, befriend the inevitable “red shirt” fellow-rookie, pick up news on the competition (such as Stannis Brocker), general Iron Kingdoms politics, and more.
It’s a simple and effective set-up for a story to introduce people to the Warmachine universe. It allows the reader to learn about all the odd things along with Dawson, who will obviously have to prove his worth to the veteran mercenaries before the end of the tale.
Obviously, a lot of the appeal of the book are the rough-but-loveable characters of the Devil Dogs mercenary company. Every stereotype you’d expect is here: the brilliant Wildcard-Captain with a deep sense of honour, the cigar-stump chewing second-in-command, the “red-shirt” other-rookie with a valuable medallion for his daughter far away, etc.. .
In comparison, the characters in Instruments of War felt a lot more “real”, their motivations more complex (for a ~50-page story) and believable. That said, The Devil’s Pay is clearly a different kind of book, going for a different, more light-hearted style, which it does with great success.
Reading The Devil’s Pay is a bit like watching a this-is-better-than-I-thought-it-would-be B-action movie. All the clichés are there, the one-liners and predictable plot-twists, etc.. ..
Yet for some reason they just work for this story. Truth be told, this slightly more comical, “B-movie” approach is how I originally expected a Warmachine story to be like.
Oh… if you haven’t guessed it from the cover, the “mystery ‘jack” the Devil Dogs are hunting turns out to be from the new Convergence of Cyriss faction for Warmachine, ending the book with mercs fighting Clockwork Angels (and setting the whole thing up for sequels).
#3 – Verdict
I don’t think I will be able to find a better analogy than the (by now overused) B-movie comparison.
If there ever was a “B-Action-Movie book” The Devil’s Pay is it, intentionally so, and it adds plenty of cinematic action to prove the point (and not only against the Convergence of Cyriss).
If that sounds like something you’d enjoy, you should definitely give The Devil’s Pay a try.
As a Warmachine-newb, I also felt The Devil’s Pay made it easier to get into the Iron Kingdoms setting than Instruments of War. The reason for this, however, may well that this is now my second Skull Island X novel. Moreover, the rough-and-tumble mercenary company of the Devil Dogs is clearly easier to convey and relate to than the complexities of Skorne culture.
It’s a very different book than Instruments of War, but in its own way just as good and a lot of fun to read. I am really liking the Skull Island Expedition launch releases so far.