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Shadow over Nordmaar

Series: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Gamebooks #16
Translated Into: Los páramos de Nordmaar (Spanish)
Author: Despain, Dezra
Illustrators: Caldwell, Clyde (cover)
Nelson, Mark (interior)
Release Date: February, 1988
ISBN: 0880385413 / 9780880385411
Length:192 pages (191 sections)
Number of Endings:26
User Summary: You awaken in the company of a cleric named Lorina and realize that you have no idea who you are. The only clues to your identity are a ring, a feather and a bag of herbs....
Demian's Thoughts: This gamebook, which takes place in the Dragonlance campaign setting, is exceptional. In addition to having a highly original premise (an amnesiac player character), the book contains two complete adventures. Your ultimate identity depends on which direction you set off at the beginning, and each of these paths is completely different from the other. This means the book isn't consistent (a pet peeve of mine), but under the circumstances, that doesn't really matter. The only problem here is that this book is extremely (perhaps excessively) difficult. Not only do you need to regain your memory before key events in the story, you have to do everything within a limited time window. This means that you can get to the end of the book again and again without actually achieving victory. Still, persistence can lead to success... it's just not an easy task.

More reviews by Demian

Guillermo's Thoughts: (review based on the Spanish translation)

According to The Locus Index to Science Fiction, Dezra Despain is a pseudonym used by Dragonlance author Tracy Hickman [Demian's note -- at least one source disputes this statement, instead indicating that Dezra Despain is the wife of Terry Phillips]. As a result, it's not surprising that this Dragonlance-based book features a strong emphasis on colorful writing and characterization. While previous Dragonlance gamebooks were all set in some period either shortly before or during the War of the Lance, this one takes place several years after it, and despite what is seen on the cover, Lord Soth does not appear in this adventure.

The book is noteworthy because the reader plays an amnesiac who must remember his past in order to complete an important mission. While this premise wasn't new at the time (Creature of Havoc came out two years earlier), in this book the idea is executed pretty well nonetheless. At several points during the adventure, the character must succeed at skill checks in order to acquire memory points. If enough of these points are earned, the player character remembers his identity and the adventure can be completed successfully. The story is very well told, keeping the reader intrigued by means of both brief flashbacks at specific times, and by introducing mysterious events and characters, thus keeping the feeling of suspense overall.

A curious aspect of this book is that, depending on a choice made early on in the adventure, the player character will turn out to be one of two different people. This means the book actually contains two separate adventures, each with a different goal to achieve. It works quite well in spite – or maybe because – of this, and its replay value is greatly increased.

Gameplay, on the other hand, is not as well designed: there are more skill checks than choices, and what few choices there are aren't very interesting or well thought-out. Oddly enough, the storyline is so involving that this flaw is hardly noticeable. This may be another case similar to the Lone Wolf series, where the absence of a puzzle-like design in a gamebook is forgiven when good writing and interesting plotlines are present. Another compensating factor may be that there are many tough skill checks needed to complete the adventure successfully, so that the difficulty level is quite high, but not frustrating.

Overall this is an involving and challenging book which I recommend as one of the high points in the series.

(Note regarding Dezra Despain's identity: it seems Demian is right about this one, since book thirteen in this series, Gates of Death - which is written by Terry Phillips -, is dedicated to "Dezra", among other people. Apologies for the error).

More reviews by Guillermo

Errata:Section 163 says to turn to one place if your roll exceeds 8 and to different place if it's less than 10; I'm unsure which of these numbers is correct, but obviously both are not. Section 45 should lead to section 54, not section 189. The character bookmark lists your name as "John," when it should in fact be "Jonn."
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