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The Gateway of Doom

(British cover)
(American cover)
Series: Grailquest #3
Contained In: Grailquest Boxed Set (Collection)
Translated Into: Brána zkázy (Czech)
Dødninge-porten (Danish)
Makai no chika meiro [魔界の地下迷宮] (Japanese)
Nel regno dei morti (Italian)
Les Portes de l'au-delà (French)
La puerta de la perdición (Spanish)
Author: Brennan, J. H. (Herbie)
Illustrator: Higgins, John
Release Date: 1984
yermither's Thoughts: Grailquest #3 - The Gateway of Doom - was the first gamebook that I ever picked up, and I sure did pick a winner.

In a word... genius. The gamebook starts by talking to you... yes, you, in a manner reminiscent of Italo Calvino's famous novel. The Gateway of Doom has you - in your guise as Pip, Wizard Basher and DragonSlayer - heading off to close the Gateway to the Kingdom of the Dead. On the way one meets all manner of creatures... talking snakes, hungry coins, gorillas, a nerd, and even an old friend or two. I'm referring of course to the Poetic Fiend, who pops up in this book and he does in every other, and from whom you can get some good loot if you whisper sweet nothings into his ear. One of the things I loved about this series of books was the series of jokes that ran through it... the Poetic Fiend, the Black Knight, Merlin's houses, go to 14... fab.

This, the third book in series, is one of the stronger entries. The puzzles are quite fair (although I can remember one as being particularly difficult to my ten year old mind... dwarf counting as I remember). There aren't that many instant death entries, and the ending doesn't see you having all your loot stolen by a village lout. Sweet!

A lot of the gamebooks that I subsequently read were a bit po-faced, and took themselves quite seriously (the Lone Wolf series springs to mind in this regard). Grailquest was a refreshing change of pace and tone from a lot of the stuff that was out there at the time, and I personally have not seen another series attempt to emulate the style of these books. I'm in two minds as to whether the fact that the series ended after only eight books was a good or a bad thing. The artwork by John Higgins was looking a tad rushed by the eighth and final book, and the final book even repeated a puzzle from book five of the series which was a shame. All in all, this was a great series that ended on a high note (rescuing Merlin from the Legion of the Dead!) and didn't leave any loose threads hanging (ala the Fabled Lands series).

The books themselves aren't rare at all... I managed to get all eight books in the series off of eBay over a period of, oh, four or five months. I paid ~3-5 pounds for each of them, and certainly no more than £7. All of the books that I bought are in excellent condition, so there are no excuses for grabbing these beauties while you can.

The Home of the UnderDogs website has a number of PDF scans of gamebooks, and for a while all eight books in the Grailquest series were available too. It seems J. H. Brennan got wind of this, and now all one gets is a link to his homepage. Bah! Maybe this means that the books will be in print again?

More reviews by yermither

Special Thanks:Thanks to David Malone for the British cover scan.
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