Nelson, Mark A. (cover)
2018 (Hardback edition)
2018 (Paperback edition, first printing)
1536200662 / 9781536200669
(Paperback edition, first printing)
1536202436 / 9781536202434 (Hardback edition)
122 pages |
US$8.99 (Paperback edition, first printing)
Dungeons & Dragons gamebooks have intergenerational appeal, and Matt Forbeck's additions to the Endless Quest series beginning in 2018 were of interest to both longtime fans and kids with no experience questing in the fantasy realm of Faerûn. You are a seasoned pickpocket in To Catch a Thief, but the story doesn't start well for you. Caught attempting to rob Laeral Silverhand, the Open Lord of Waterdeep, you face the prospect of being thrown in the dungeon to die. But Lord Silverhand has other ideas. Tonight a prized possession was stolen from her home: a baby griffon. Lord Silverhand's chief suspect is the Xanathar of the Thieves' Guild. The Xanathar wields enormous power in Skullport, where unsavories of all kinds conduct dirty business in the streets. Lord Silverhand has a proposition for you: retrieve her griffon, and your attempted crime will be forgotten. Are you up for a mission in the worst part of Waterdeep?
How you approach the task is up to you. Disguise yourself as Marune the Masked if you wish, a legendary but anonymous thief. Skullport is crawling with villains and only some are connected to the theft of Lord Silverhand's griffon; you can go down a number of rabbit trails that lead you away from your assignment. Freeing child slaves, chasing an eerie luminous skull above the rooftops, and matching wits with a gang of river pirates are a few possibilities. If you earn the ire of the Thieves' Guild or fail in your quest for the griffon, you can skip town rather than face Lord Silverhand. You might have better luck starting a new life in another region.
If you want to directly confront the Xanathar, head either to his house or place of business. You'll need to think fast to get the best of this monster. Absconding with the griffon isn't difficult, but perhaps you'll choose instead to join forces with the Xanathar and double-cross Lord Silverhand. What recourse does she have if the Thieves' Guild backs you? Treachery is rewarded as reliably as honesty in this book, provided you're shrewd enough. In Faerûn, a good thief can rule the underworld.
To Catch a Thief lacks focus, evocative writing, and any deep sense of intrigue, but the illustrations are tremendous. They do more to stimulate one's imagination than any other aspect of the book. I wasn't captivated by the options for adventure in To Catch a Thief, but I like the setting, and I look forward to questing again in the Dungeons & Dragons universe. This series has potential.
So, about 25 years after their last entry and 35 years after the series start, Endless Quest has returned. As this was one of the series that got me into gamebooks, I had to check at least one of them out. So I selected this one as I've enjoyed books with thieves or rogues as they are now called. I'll try to comment on both the story and the new format.
My first thought was, who is this new series aimed at, new readers or nostalgia buffs like me? Doesn't really seem to be the latter. The new books are large and thinner with a much lower page count than the old versions (about 122 vs 155+ in the old versions), meaning you get less story for the price (cover price 9 American dollars). Meaning they fit very awkwardly alongside my other Endless Quests. Also, most pages are filled with glossy, colour illustrations that feel very much like recycled D&D artwork. Overall the presentation feels overly kitsch to my old bones. I miss the pocket size and B&W original artwork.
The writing style is ok. You appear to play a female halfling thief but they never give you a name or background, unlike the old ones where you were playing a developed character. The story itself has you getting caught by a noblewoman and blackmailed into stealing a baby griffon back from the head of the thieves' guild, which is a beholder. That makes it sound a lot more exciting than it turns out to be. The world is only vaguely recognisable to an oldster like me as there are lots of newish creatures like lizardwomen and tieflings, making the town feel more like the Star Wars cafe. Maybe if I was familiar with some of the characters they clearly kind of expect me to know, I'd have enjoyed it more.
And I wonder if it was choppy editing due to cramming in the artwork, but they often offer you choices without having discussed the options. At one point it asked me if I wanted to pursue a crying child but hadn't bothered to mention the child in the text.
Overall it's a not a bad book, I just probably had unrealistic expectations and was hoping for more from such an expensive book.
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Known EditionsHardback edition
Paperback edition, first printing
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