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The Seven Serpents

(reissue cover)
Series: Fighting Fantasy Reissues (Series 1) #13
Sorcery! #3
Contained In: Sorcery! Box Set (Collection)
Translated Into: FBET HNXFIM [שבעת הנחשים] (Hebrew)
Hét sárkánykígyó (Hungarian)
Sedemte drakona [Седемте дракона] (Bulgarian)
Sedm mystických Hadů (Czech)
Les Sept serpents (French)
As sete serpentes (Portuguese)
I sette serpenti (Italian)
Sichi-hiki no daija [七匹の大蛇] (Japanese)
Die sieben Schlangen (German)
Las siete serpientes (Spanish)
Las siete serpientes (Spanish)
De syv slanger (Danish)
Adapted Into: Crown of Kings: A Campaign for Advanced Fighting Fantasy (Role-Playing Material)
Sorcery 3: The Seven Serpents (Role-Playing Material)
Sorcery! 3 (Digital Gamebook)
Author: Jackson, Steve (United Kingdom)
Illustrators: Blanche, John (original artwork)
Grant, Melvyn (Mel) (reissue cover)
Release Dates: August, 1984 (original)
November, 1984 (American edition)
June 2, 2003 (reissue)
ISBNs: 014007208X / 9780140072082 (American edition)
0140318097 / 9780140318098 (original)
1840464356 / 9781840464351 (reissue)
Length:498 sections
Inevitable's Thoughts: This one's a small let down after the brilliant Kharé - Cityport of Traps. Like Kharé, The Seven Serpents features a mini-quest that has you gathering up MacGuffin's throughout the book. This time you're searching for the titular Seven Serpents, couriers for the Archmage of Mampang who are racing back to the Mampang Fortress with news of your quest.

Interestingly, you can fail, or only partially succeed, at this quest and still progress to the next book, albeit with a heavy penalty. If you manage to round up the Seven Serpents and give them a good squishing, you proceed with a considerable reward, although it should be noted that the task is quite difficult.

It all sounds great, and certainly the idea of actions in one book having over-arching impact on the story in the next is very compelling, but somehow it is lacking in the execution. For one thing, the nature of the MacGuffin is a little odd. These Serpents are supposedly racing back to the Fortress, all of them can fly, and several have powers that could undoubtedly ensure that they stay well out of your reach (for instance, one is a Serpent of Air, another has the power to alter the speed of time itself), and yet one plodding adventurer taking an extremely elliptical tour of the desert can manage to find them all lounging around and looking the other way. The other problem is that, unlike Kharé's gate poem, there aren't really much in the way of clues to lead the attentive adventurer to the various serpent lairs. Essentially, the only way a player will find them all is through repeated play and trial and error, which was probably Jackson's way of ensuring replay value, but it seems like a tremendous opportunity was missed to reward observant and careful players.

That being said, there are many good points in this book. The Baklands feel appropriately blasted and empty, and encounters offer a nice variety of interesting monsters to fight, encampments of elves to negotiate with, sub-humans to escape and plagues to catch, all of it qualitatively different from the first two books. Also, the Serpents themselves are quite fun to deal with, each of them representing a different element (or something, does "Sun" count as an element?) and possessing appropriate powers. One very nice touch is that each Serpent has a vulnerability that a clever/lucky player can exploit to conquer the beasts without fighting them.

All in all, this is a solid, if somewhat middling, entry in the series. It's better than The Shamutanti Hills, but not as well thought out as Kharé - Cityport of Traps or the exquisite Crown of Kings. A lot of fun to be had though, and the vast Baklands offers a considerable amount of replay value.

More reviews by Inevitable

Special Thanks:Thanks to the Ben Nelson for the jagged logo cover scan.
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