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Book Review

Book Cover

Fighting Fantasy
Book 4 - Stormslayer


Author: Jonathan Green
Wizard Books
RRP: £5.99, US $9.99, Cdn $12.00
ISBN: 978 184831078 0
Available 03 September 2009

There are dark powers at work in the kingdom of Femphrey. Magic more fearsome than you have ever seen has somehow harnessed the destructive might of Nature. While time is running out, you must uncover the oldest truths about the lore of the elements - only then can you command earth, wind, fire and water and venture into the terrifying eye of the storm...

The fourth title in the first batch of the re-launched Fighting Fantasy series from Wizard Books is, heartwarmingly, a brand new adventure.

As much as I love playing the classic books, there’s surely only so many times that Wizard are going to be able to re-package 25-year old material without some fans beginning to lose interest - so the arrival of Stormslayer by Jonathan Green in this first batch of releases is very encouraging, and will hopefully ensure a promising future for the Fighting Fantasy range, looking forward to all-new adventures as well as looking back to the vintage titles.

Jonathan Green is already something of a veteran in the Fighting Fantasy world, and now seems to be Wizard’s preferred choice of writer for all-new adventures. His first title was released way back in 1993, during the dying days of the original Puffin series, and indeed Green went on to write the very last book in that original and incredible 13-year run.

Since then, he has already contributed two new titles for Wizard, back when they first acquired the range, including the almost mythical ‘lost’ adventure Bloodbones. This was originally planned as the 60th Puffin book back in 1995 but was shelved when the series was prematurely curtailed, and was subsequently spoken of only in hushed circles for years, until Wizard finally released this legendary lost work as part of their range, some ten years later.

There were actually a whole bunch of talented writers contributing to the Fighting Fantasy series back in the old days, but you would have been hard pushed to realize this at the time.

If a book was ever penned by a writer other than the creators of the series Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, then the author would be denied a credit anywhere on the cover. Jackson and Livingstone would still get their names boldly displayed on the front cover and the spine, but the real author of the work would simply get a small credit at the bottom of the third page.

This always seemed incredibly arrogant and unfair, and it’s disappointing to see that the practice is still carried out today. At best, it casts the founders of the series in rather a bad light; at worst, it’s completely misleading the buyer.

As a youngster, I was convinced that these titles had actually been written by Jackson and Livingstone, and actually felt a bit conned afterwards. It would be nice to see if Wizard can rectify this one day - for goodness sake, let the author have a credit somewhere on the cover and spine of his own work.

Enough moaning then, onto Stormslayer.

I have to confess that I have so far missed out on the couple of new titles that Wizard published a few years back, so for me, this was the first new Fighting Fantasy book I have picked up in at least fifteen years, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

I was pretty much blown away. Stormslayer snatches many of the rich ingredients from the original Fighting Fantasy titles, but bravely pushes the classic series into the next generation.

The sheer size of the book was the first thing that surprised me - it’s noticeably thicker than its predecessors. We still have the usual 400 numbered paragraphs as is the tradition, but we’re now treated to a vastly more intricate and detailed adventure.

Gone are the days when something rising out of a coffin would just be a VAMPIRE, when some thin ill-looking creature lumbering towards you would just be a ZOMBIE, when a really big man with his face covered in spiders would just be, erm, A REALLY BIG MAN WITH HIS FACE ALL COVERED IN SPIDERS.

Jonathan Green instead populates this intriguing adventure with a wealth of lively and engaging characters, all of whom seem to effortlessly spring to life from the page.

The paragraphs are much more verbose, descriptive, and witty than any of the early classics, and the general level of effort and dedication required to complete the quest has been raised by several notches. In short, this is very, very good stuff and infinitely better than I had ever dared hope.

An honourable nod must also go the fabulous illustrations by Stephen Player. Now this is one area where I would have happily bet my house, my goldfish, and my inflatable Elf-Maid that the new artwork could never possibly match the adventurous and nightmarish imagery of the original classic books. I was wrong. Stephen Player has produced a stunning set of illustrations which perfectly set the tone for a whole new style of Fighting Fantasy, and I genuinely hope that he will return to the range in the future.

These days, there seems to be a lot of dumbing down for the younger audience, and I was initially concerned that Wizard may have gone down this well-trodden path, spitting on the memory of the original classics that made this series so great in the first place.

I’m happy to announce that there’s no fear of that. Jonathan Green has grasped the basics of Fighting Fantasy and taken it to a whole new level of sophistication that is surely more likely to entice the modern kids than endless re-prints of stuff from 1982.

The future seems safe for now... but let’s have more of this.


Daniel Salter

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