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Item - Sword and Flame: The English Civil War

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Series: Real Life Gamebooks — no. 3
Translated Into: A feu et à sang (French)
Authors: Farrell, Simon
Sutherland, Jon(athan)
Illustrators: Wood, Cathy (cover)
Houston, Bill (interior)
Date: 1986
Length: 300 sections
Number of Endings: 42
Kveto's Thoughts:

I keep reading this series, in the forlorn hope that it will get better by making the most of its premise, but I think the biggest limitation is the authors' bland writing style.

The English Civil War is not a particularly interesting topic but it does fit in with the authors' "pick a side" mentality. Of course, you can do naught to alter the course of history, but you can see the authors have a definite preference for the snooty royalists over the commoner Roundheads, fitting in line with previous biases.

I still think it would have been better for the authors to have chosen eras rather than battles/wars because you really have a sense of impotence when it comes to the history.

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Malthus Dire's Thoughts:

The third book in the Real Life series is, for me, easily the best so far, although it is conceptually more complex than the previous two, which could be off-putting for some people. Following the usual "pick a side and see what happens" approach of this series, you are regularly presented with choices of whether to side with Parliament or the Royalists as the English Civil War plays out and the mixture of battle and politics that went together during the era is very well portrayed. At times you must command armies, at other times you find yourself involved in parliamentary debates and votes, and the meticulous detail that has gone into accurately portraying the Civil War is commendable, even if some might find voting and getting involved in debating rather unexciting material for a gamebook. Indeed, there is no doubt that this is not for everyone, but it certainly reflects the era well and the mix of combat, politics, and your own human interest aspects do make it all very varied. There is a slight bias in the text in favour of the Royalists (the Roundheads are portrayed as rather thuggish compared to the dignified Royalists, but that is probably pretty accurate!) and you definitely feel more roguish by siding with Parliament, but the plot is so dense and you get so involved that either approach is equally satisfying. As is often the case with the Real Life series, the final act is an awkward coda where you get bogged-down trying to save your family which does affect the pacing somewhat but is also quite historically accurate as the Civil War affected everybody so this is a nice historical inclusion, even if it does make the ending seem rather less exciting than the bulk of the adventure. Highly recommended for those interested in the period, but it might be a bit much for the casual player.

More reviews by Malthus Dire

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