Cover Image: The Devil's Pawn

The Devil's Pawn

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It can be said that Oliver Pötzsch is one of my favorite authors. I have read almost everything he has ever written and never once disappointed with one of his tales. The second book in the Faust series, THE DEVIL's PAWN blends the lines between a good fantasy and a strong historical fiction novel.
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I appreciate the publisher allowing me to read this book. An enjoyable read that made me think. I like the writers style and want to read more.
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received a free copy of the “ Devil’s Pawn” through Net Galley . My thanks to Net Galley, the author and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review the book.

To begin with, I recommend that the reader read the first book in the duology “ The Master’s Apprentice” to better enjoy the sequel. “  Devil’s Pawn” is a large, sprawling historical fiction, or maybe I should term it historical/ occult fantasy fiction? The  story picks up after the end of book one, when the hero, or more exactly anti-hero, Johann Faustus has made his pact with the devil by drinking a potion given to him by the Devil incarnate,  Tonio . When he awakes, Faustus is no longer just a traveling huckster, magician and cure-all tonic salesman. He now has arcane knowledge to supplement his own genius in pursuit  the new sciences . Of course, the price to be paid is his soul.
 Most of the ensuing novel is of Faust’s’ travels over most of medieval Europe doing the former , studying ,while avoiding paying  Tonio’s curse. Accompanied by his apprentice, Karl and   by  Greta, his own ,secret daughter, ( see book one)  whom he rescues from a dungeon where she awaited  the inquisitor’s tortures, the three wayfarers perform  as a sort of carnival act.   The author knows the tale of Faust and the history and geography of the mid 16 th century. The story seems, at times, a travelogue and a history lesson as the descriptions fill pages.  The pace slows as we travel along  with  the the three main characters. All the while, Tonio  has his minions searching for Faust. 
  Despite the occasional  slow pages, the story has many exciting moments  when the group find their lives imperiled. Action sequences are well formed and described. Chased by a veritable giant of a Swiss Guard  from  the Pope’s army, led by the Pope’s master of agents, our heroes scale a castle wall, flee through fetid sewers, and stay at the home of Leonardo DaVinci, who plays an important role in the outcome of the book. The climax brings to mind Dan Brown’s occult novels , but is much better written.
  Give yourself time to read these  two novels and enjoy a walk on the very scary wild side.
 Note: close to four stars and a good read despite some slow spots.
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It’s 1518 Europe when kings are made, and the church yielded spiritual as well as economic power. Johann Faust is a renowned magician, alchemist, astrologer, necromancer, and scholar, who became the best and achieved fame because of a pact made with the devil, his former master, Tonio del Moravia. But all pacts made with the devil are paid with one’s soul and Faust’s time to pay up may be approaching. Faust suffers from incurable seizures and paralyses but isn’t ready to pay his debt. Thus, he begins his journey for the cure by visiting powerful friends, including Leonardo Da Vinci. However, his journey is thwarted by those who need him for their own gain. By Pope Leo X, who needs him in Rome to use alchemy to turn the church’s drained coffers to gold; by his faithful servant Karl and his daughter Greta, who have reservations and thwart him; and, more importantly, by the devil, who appears in many shapes along with his various loyal subjects.

The Devil’s Pawn is, as the subtitle states, book two of the retelling of the Faust legend. It is dark and chilling and made me squeamish. Kudos to Oliver Potzsch, who unflinchingly conveyed the gruesome tale while delivering a work steeped in history and rich in description. I was given a colorful history lesson and had no problem envisioning the time and the conditions. The novel’s structure is also reminisced of the epic journey of heroes, who go in search of redemption, are confronted by one conflict after another over a long period of time and may or may not find their ultimate goal. 
Reviewed for the Historical Novel Society
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This is a sequel.  You don't HAVE to read the first book, but it's going to help.  This is the based on the Faustus story, and so the devil comes into it, but it also tells a story about Faust's mysterious illness, issues with the pope, Leonardo DiVinci, and all kinds of shenanigans.  It's not a fast read, but it's good.
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The author did a good job on the characters, weaving the tale  to keep the reader entertained. The story does get into a lull but it soon picks up and takes off.
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Oliver Pötzsch can WRITE! I fell in love with The Hangman's Daughter series, and he does not disappoint with The Devil's Pawn. The level of historical fiction and action...the book just kept moving! That's what makes for a really great book, when you can actually lose yourself in the story, but don't want to leave it.
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Oliver Pötzsch never disappoints. His second book of the Faustus series is a fun and dark ride with great characters. 
IF you read Goethe's Faust this might be a more enjoyable read. But you'll enjoy and understand everything even if you have no idea and know nothing about the original play.

The novel follows Faustus who travels through Germany and France as a magician with his two assistants Greta (my favorite) and Kar. As he gets more and more famous even kings and the Pope himself wants to use his powers but Faustus worries that his deal with the devil could hurt not only him but the people around him.

The writing style is beautiful, the world-building is immersive and the story is a classic that proved to be a thrilling subject for centuries.  Can't wait to read Mr. Pötzsch' next novel.

* I received this book as an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. Thank you! =)
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The Devil's Pawn is the second installment of the Faust series. It follows a few months from where the first book left off. I have not read the first book, but felt that there were enough references to the major points of the backstory not to have to. The magician Faust continues his journeys through Europe with his two assistants while watching over his shoulder for signs of the blowback from the deal he made with the devil in the first book. In the meantime, the Pope and the King of France are after him. The book takes place during a time in Europe when Martin Luther published his theses, triggering the start of the Reformation. Faust visits familiar faces from history to include Leonardo da Vinci who would have been at the end of his life during this time in history. It's a very unsettling time and the added layer of Faust's deal with the devil only adds to the stress. The plot was very slow for me, especially in the first half, and I found myself having to put the book down for a few days and pick it back up again and skimming over sections without any real dialogue.
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The Devil's Pawn by Oliver Pötzsch is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early April.

These are events that occur six or seven years after the previous book (with lead Faustus heading a kind of mystical medicine show) at somewhat the same time of the rule of Pope Leo X and the Inquisition. With ew supporting players in Greta, Agrippa, and Karl (plus another wild card character who helps him with a mutually shared chronic sickness), the return of former adversaries and newly minted ones intend to show Faustus for who he really is and enact his end of a cursed bargain.
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What was I thinking?  It's not it, it's me.  I wanted to like it but I found myself unable to engage and I DNF.  I know there's an audience for this which will really enjoy it.  Thanks to netgalley for the ARC.
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Book Review: "Faust" (Two volumes) by Oliver Pötzsch, Lisa Reinhardt (Translator)

(Review based on "Book 2, The Devil's Pawn", an ARC from Amazon Crossing and NetGalley, published on April 13, 2021; and, "Book 1, The Master's Apprentice", English version published in 2020 by Amazon Crossing and owned by the reviewer.)

4.0 Stars.

The two-volume tome is author Oliver Pötzsch's remarkably creative, and carefully researched five-year endeavor, loosely based on the medieval legend of Johann Georg Faust, circa 1480-1541, a real person and historical figure, a German alchemist, astrologer and magician who is said to have sold his soul to the demon, Mephistopheles, and who, in Goethe's poem, transforms from an old man to a handsome young man and falls in love with a maiden named Gretchen, short for Margarete.

The author joins a century's old parade of illustrious creators of poems, musical works, plays and novels inspired by the legend of Faust, notably including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in his crowning work, and works by Christopher Marlowe, Hector Berlioz, Franz Lizt, Thomas Mann and German cinematographer Gustaf Gründgens.

Translator Lisa Reinhardt does a rather commendable job on the combined thousand page magnus opus by Pötzsch.


Book 1, The Master's Apprentice. Late 15th and early 16th century. 4.0 Stars.

Knittlingen, a small village in Germany north of the Black Forest. Tonio del Moravia, itinerant alchemist, fortune teller and magician recruits as his new apprentice young Johann Georg Gerlach who is banished from the village, blamed for the descent into insanity of his girlfriend Margarethe, daughter of the area's powerful prefect.

Nicknamed "Faustus" by his mother, who considers him her "lucky child", Johann is the second son of a farmer. He was born on the day "...prophets are born, when the sun and Jupiter are in alignment", the same day the comet "Larua" visits the earth - every seventeen years.

"Homo Deus est." (Man is God.) 

It is a phrase Tonio always recites. Johann feels "black magic" is part of it, as he develops clairvoyance and extraordinary sleight of hand and scientific skills under the tutelage of his master. Their travels along with a band of jugglers and performers take them far and wide, to places including Vienna and Nuremberg, even as fate, fortune and tragedy serve as their constant companions.

In the course of affairs, Johann discovers a little girl named Greta, who turns out to be the daughter of Margarethe, born right after his banishment and hidden from him for years. Margarethe, the woman he still loves. Johann is a father.

Then comes the time for the comet to return to earth, seventeen years after his birth.

And Johann finds himself in a dark ritual in the "awakening of the beast".

With him, as the sacrifice, along with Greta.


Book 2, The Devil's Pawn. 1518-1521. 4.25 Stars.

The creative juices flow tied in closely with some well-researched historical accuracy, as Author Oliver Pötzsch delves into the power struggles and changes in the structure of European polity, religion and intellectual temperament of the Late Middle Ages, all while building up to a crescendo in the Faust legend, and Faust's battle against evil personified.

Through the Valley of the Kings on the Loire, summer residence of Francis I, to the royal chateaux at Nance and Brittany, and through the final showdown, "Dante's Inferno" at, of all places, the seat of the papacy in Rome prior to the completion of St. Peter's Basilica.

He covers the fight for the succession of the Hapsburg monarch, Maximilian I, and the rebellion of Martin Luther as he publishes his 1517 "95 Theses", attacking papal abuses and the sale of indulgences - the medieval pay-to-play for the soul (my words), promised remission from punishments for sin and a free pass from purgatory, in exchange for gold, land and power.

He covers the alchemists' dream of the Philosophers' Stone, the inner knowledge of transforming base metal into gold, along with the promise of eternal youth and freedom from death, purportedly coveted by the Pope, Kings and the devil.

He puts Faust at the deathbed of the Renaissance polymath Leonardo Da Vinci, as the genius is given a lead role for his anatomical and engineering schematics, both public and forbidden.

In the novel, Da Vinci would provide the final twist, an extraordinarily creative depiction by the author of what would become the "Devil's Pawn".

He includes a fictionalize version of historical figure, Gilles de Rais, lord from Brittany, historically condemned as a bloodthirsty child serial killer, ironically a French war hero of the Hundred Years War, along with co-warrior Saint Jeanne d'Arc, the Maid of Orléans.

He creates a strong female protagonist in the indomitable spirit of Faust's daughter, Greta.

Even as he unabashedly promotes sodomy and homosexual themes at almost every turn, succumbing to the "woke" tendencies of late: Faust's fictional assistant, a sodomite; Da Vinci, an aging sodomite; various administrative and royal characters, all sodomites; Pope Leo X, a vicious sodomite; and even the devil, portrayed with desires of sodomy. Unfortunately, so cliqued, so tabloid.

Further wielding the power of literary license to the max, Pötzsch concocts a seriously deranged, impossibly cruel, utterly slanderous version of the character - and death of Pope Leo X, born Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici, admittedly one of the Medici-financed popes, and one of those historically acknowledged as "bad" popes; Leo X, in particular, cited for his material extravagance and covetousness.

Overall, a considerably long read by today's standards - and yet fairly rewarding.

Review based, in part, on an ARC (Book 2, The Devil's Pawn) from Amazon Crossing and NetGalley.
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Faust II by Goethe was a complete flop. Thankfully, The Devil's Pawn, which loosely follows the events of Faust II was well-written and enjoyable.

Continuing a few years after the events of "The Devil's Apprentice," Faustus, Greta, and Karl are traveling performers that are on the run from influential leaders and their hired mercenaries. As with the first book, there are a lot of stops along the way on their journey. Through it all, Faustus continues to single-mindedly tries to find a way to cheat the devil and find a way out of the pact he made when he was a child.

To be honest, my only real knowledge of the story of Faust is through wiki articles and an episode of Wishbone I watched religiously in 1995. XD I have to admit that I was disappointed that the ending of this book wasn't exactly the same as the one I watched so long ago haha. That being said, Potzsch's version is mostly a satisfying conclusion to the Faustus saga. The writing style seamlessly continues from the first book- if you enjoyed the first book, you will likely enjoy this as well.

Thank you Netgalley and AmazonCrossing for an advanced reader's copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Release date is 04/13/2021 and well worth the read.
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3.5 stars rounded down. This is book 2 in the Faust series. It is based on the lesser known play Faustus II by Goethe. The play was very long, and so is the book, as the author tried to include all the main elements from the play. I have not read book 1 nor have I read the play Faust II. I did read Faust I about 50 years ago and remember the basics of the plot--Faust sells his soul to the devil for money and fame.
This book has Faustus traveling throughout Germany and France as a magician with 2 assistants, Karl and Greta. Faustus periodically mentions his deal with the devil; and worries that it threatens Karl and Greta. He is being sought after by the Pope and the King of France, because there is a rumor that he has a mythical recipe to make gold. This book is set in the time of the beginnings of the reformation, with Luther having published his theses.
Pros: the characters were believable and the plot, which developed too slow in the first half, did resolve with an ending that I liked. The translation was excellent.
Cons: The book, at 528 pages, was too long. It took me 10 days to read it. The paranormal aspects, with the devil using crows and ravens as eyes, ears and messengers, were not in my comfort zone, as I don't generally read paranormal books anymore.
One quote on a woman accused of being a witch: "The suspect is a woman from Woippy, a village not far from here. Apparently the neighbors have an eye on her property and decided to accuse her of witchcraft." #TheDevilsPawn #NetGalley
Thanks to AmazonCrossing for sending me this eARC through NetGalley.
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A good historical novel, well researched and engrossing.
I was expecting something like a historical mystery but I enjoyed this mix of historical and fictional characters and the story.
It's recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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I was lucky enough to have received the first book as ARC and enjoying it. At that point of time I wasn't sure about continuing, but then I read the blurb and saw that gorgeous cover.

I'm not gonna lie, this book was too long (800 pages!). I feel this could have been wrapped up nicer with 200 less pages. There was lots of running around, chasing and searching all over Europe and by the third city with hardly any new clues it got tedious, but I really wanted to know what would happen in the end. 
I mostly enjoyed the characters except Karl as a love-sick puppy wasn't entirely believable to me. The author told me many times, but didn't show me enough why.
The part with Leonardo da Vinci is quite cool, but the ending disappointed me a bit. There was just this huge build up over 750 pages and then it kind of was just meh. 
The big "reveal" also didn't feel like a big reveal and *SPOILER* the part about how Faust tricked the devil irked me a bit. You give the devil the empty necklace-thingy and now the pact doesn't work because you didn't give him the actual paper, followed by a suicidal jump into hell so he cannot get the paper and yourself. 
That was just not satisfying for me as a reader.
Still all in all it was an good read and I can see people enjoying this if they're willing to get through all the chasing and running around.

Thank you Netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I received an advance reading copy (arc) of this book from in return for a fair review. I requested this book because I am a big fan of author Oliver Potzsch. After realizing that this was the second book in a set, I read the first one, which did not care for--not because it wasn't well-written, but the genre was just not for me. The second book definitely held my interest, but again the subject matter was not a good fit for my tastes. We get to know Johann Faustus's daughter, Greta, and his ever-loyal assistant, Karl, even better. All the while, Faustus is haunted by the evil Tony del Moravia who is constantly stalking him. It is a game of cat and mouse that includes some very gory details. Faustus is sometimes likeable and sometimes not, but you had to admire his devotion to Greta and her son, Sebastian. Potzsch does a good job with his research and gives a good amount of background information. We even get to meet Leonardo da Vinci during his final days. Much of the story is set in Rome during the 1500s and Potzsch does a good job bringing this time period to life. Even though this wasn't one of my favorite Potzsch novels, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to give it a whirl.
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Another wonderful Oliver Pötzsch novel of a magician and a young assistant, Greta in a tale set in 1518.  Having enjoyed the Hangman’s Daughter series, I was anticipating another interesting saga and Pötzsch delivered.  Inspired by the Faust legend the magician fate is left to the devil.  A delightful tale as they outrun henchman, the Devil and societal disgrace.
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It's the early 1500's and Johann Faustus, magician and astrologer to the elite, together with  his assistants Karl and Greta are travelling the cities of Germany. But  an unholy pact made years ago catches up with them and they have to flee. The journey takes them all over Europe, covering historic events of the time.

The Devil's Pawn balances magic and goth in a wonderful way and kept me glued to the pages. There are many interesting characters and attractive scenery.
Bit by bit the plot thickens and I'm curious to see how the curse will be broken.
Unfortunately after all the excitement the story just evaporates. Disappointing.

Thank you Netgalley and Amazon Crossing for the ARC.
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This was a fabulous sequel to the first Faust book. Pötzsch is an amazing writer and never ceases to amaze with his descriptive and thorough writing. Even though this book is *hefty* it did not feel like a burdensome read (thought it might have if I hadn't read it on Kindle!). 

As with the first book, The Devil's Pawn follows Faust on his many adventures, with this book set several years after the first. Faust is older and his demons haunt him, I do not want to give any spoilers, but he spends much of the book trying to make amends for the many mistakes he's made throughout his life, with several surprises along the way. 

This is an incredibly compelling read and engaging addition retelling of the Faust legend.
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