Well that only took me six months to finish!
Blimey, what a ride. I’ll start off with looking at book four I suppose. The Crown of Kings was a very hard book indeed, there was a lot that went wrong there and running into obstacles, mainly in the form of the hardwood spear, forced me to do a lot of exploration to find out where I’d gone wrong, as you might expect from an 800 page title. I take a step back though and remind you that my failings began in the previous book, The Seven Serpents, where I failed to prevent all the serpents from arriving ahead of my in Mampang and telling all and sundry who to be looking out for. Had all seven died then I would have begun The Crown of Kings on page 237 and been given the information that anytime I am referred to as ‘the Analander’ I could deduct 40 from the reference and be sent to a version of events where you are not recognised. This would have saved many, many headaches along the way!
Despite being so tough though I really enjoyed this book, the epic scope just made it a fitting conclusion to this very epic series, this was the huge dungeon crawl that we hadn’t seen much of so far. It was more than just tricks and traps too, I particularly liked the kitchen encounter, the range of mutations was a real creative treat! My only real criticism I think would be the Archmage encounter, I loved how you are tricked into imprisoning yourself in the 2nd tower, but the actual fight itself was a little short. I remember the magic to-and-fro with Balthus Dire in The Citadel of Chaos and it would have been nice to see a more extended fight here as well. Having said that though, there were certain spell options I didn’t take, one of which accompanied by a rather cool illustration where the Archmage annihilates a wood golem you summon to fight for you.
Something else I missed, but not from this book, was a locket. I was captured by Captain Cartoum during my infiltration of Mampang and was told to look for visual clues on his illustration. Well the clue went over my head, but it was the picture of the young lady on his wall I was supposed to be looking out for as way back in The Shamutanti Hills I could have found a locket bearing her image that if given to Captain Cartoum, he would have been so grateful to get a memento of his sweetheart he’d have sent me on my way with the key!
When going back and forth through the book, one image continually caught my eye and made me wonder what it was about, but I never did land on it. It was this one –
This was a simplistic version of darts, white numbers increasing your score, black numbers decreasing it. Winning the game was achieved by the first person to hit 10 or -10. Playing the game was as simple as ‘keeping a tight grip on your pencil, and keeping your elbow firmly in place, stab your book with your pencil!‘. Of all the bizarre mini-games in the Sorcery books, that’s clearly the most mental. All the poor books out there destroyed by over-enthusiastic 10 year-olds, all the thighs punctured by wayward ‘dart throws’.
And despite this awesome stabbing game, it has to be said that the encounter I regret missing the most was the devastating, the dreaded, the… cabbage-sized, Jib-Jib!!
I already said in my read-through that the nether world demon was my favourite illustration from the book, but I am rather partial to a busy crown scene, and Mr. Blanche came up with another good one that passed me by. Some sort of mutant party I believe!
And as much as I love reading toilet graffiti, I’m not sure I’d have enjoyed being in this particular latrine, and before you check, none of the scrawl mentions ‘cake’ or ‘lies’.
I certainly didn’t expect this one to take up six parts, but to go into full detail as I always try to, I really did need the space to tell the experience as it happened as best I could. My map did sprawl out a bit as a consequence. Still don’t think it’s as bad as my House of Hell map though!
As a whole the Sorcery series took my by surprise a bit, I really had no expectations as to what the books would be like and I had been sitting on them for months before I started reading them. When I started doing this blog it was about nostalgia and a means to make myself accountable in collecting the books and actually reading them again, I never really thought I would enjoy reading them as much as I have, but if I take only one positive thing away from the experience of blogging Fighting Fantasy it’s that I got to read the Sorcery books. They’ve been an absolute pleasure to read through and now I’m all done, I find it difficult to actually say which one I enjoyed the most! I loved the relaxing beauty of The Shamutanti Hills, the dirty urban sprawl of Khare, the desperation of hunting The Seven Serpents and the sheer tour-de-force scale of the final battle through Mampang, but if I have to go for one… I think it would be The Seven Serpents. I was so enthralled I did it in single sitting, there were so many elements I liked about the books central theme of a race against time and the discovery of the serpents weaknesses made it feel more exciting than the other, slower-paced books.
In general the Sorcery series really lives up to its name of Advanced Fighting Fantasy. The use of so many little tricks such as puzzles in illustrations, continuity between books, the rest and food mechanic, and the fact I actually had to make notes of clues and hints to be able to progress, it constantly kept the experience fresh and lively and took the medium about as far as I can imagine it going. If I had one criticism it would be that sometimes the spell casting didn’t really fit as I could only cast the spells offered to me when I was told I could use them, obviously this is a restriction based on how the book is written, but it is annoying when you just want to use that DOP spell to get a lock open, but you aren’t allowed because the puzzle doesn’t work that way, but that is a minor gripe at best.
All in all, it has been said that Steve Jackson’s favourite Fighting Fantasy book is the whole Sorcery epic, and now I know why.