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Item - Secret of the Knights

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(First printing)
(First printing)
(First printing)
(First printing)
(Second printing)
(Second printing)
(Second printing)
(Second printing)

Combined Summary

Series: Time Machine — no. 1
Platforms: Kindle (Kindle edition)
Microsoft Reader (Microsoft Reader edition)
Contained In: Time Machine Box Set (Collection)
Translated Into: Am Hofe King Edwards (German)
A lovagok titka (Hungarian)
Riddernes hemmelighed (Danish)
Riddernes hemmelighet (Norwegian)
Le Secret des chevaliers (French)
El secreto de los caballeros (Spanish)
O segredo dos cavaleiros (Portuguese)
Skrivnost vitezov (Slovenian)
Tajne vitezova (Serbo-Croatian)
Author: Gasperini, Jim
Illustrator: Hescox, Richard
Dates: February, 1984 (First printing)
2001 (Microsoft Reader edition)
February 9, 2012 (Kindle edition)
ISBNs: 0553236016 / 9780553236019 (First printing, Second printing)
0553253689 / 9780553253689 (Later printing)
Length: 124 pages (plus data bank and data file)
Number of Endings: 1
Cover Price: US$1.95 (First printing, Second printing)
User Summary: You must travel back to 14th century England to become a knight and to discover the secret of the Order of the Garter, a group of outstanding knights with a mysterious symbol and motto.
Demian's Thoughts:

This isn't a terribly challenging book, but it's well-written and interesting.

More reviews by Demian

KenJenningsJeopardy74's Thoughts:

Secret of the Knights is on the higher end of the scale among gamebooks I've read. Time Machine junior novels are different than most gamebooks; because there is only one ending to Secret of the Knights, suspense can't be generated by the threat of death or a failed mission. When the imminence of disaster arises to where it can no longer be averted by natural methods, the worst consequence is that you have to blow your cover as an ordinary person and instantly travel out of the hot spot to a safer time and/or location. But have no fear, you can always then go back slightly further into the past than the moment of crisis you fled, and the slate will have been wiped clean. Since there's no risk of a gruesome end, the story's intrigue derives from the possibility that the bricks you lay so carefully in building toward the solution you seek may all be knocked asunder if you err in choosing the right time to visit, or make decisions based on whim rather than historical fact. Even if you're close to the end of your quest, a blunder or two can knock you pretty far back in the historical narrative, where you'll have to start rebuilding again. This creates suspense with each choice you make, the correct one leading you closer to the end while the wrong move bumps you back aways, so the lack of grisly endings in no way diminishes the import of your decisions. And unlike some Time Machine books, the structure of time loops and occasional backwards inertia is logically linear in Secret of the Knights. If you make what appears to be the right call, it probably is the right one, and won't send you around and around in dizzying circles that make gameplay more an annoyance than a pleasure. Secret of the Knights is all fun, and gamebook fans will delight in romping through its history to the surprisingly satisfactory conclusion.

Your mission: to use the state-of-the-art time machine provided you to travel into the Middle Ages and uncover the secret history behind the origin of the Knights of the Garter and their curious motto, "Honi soit qui mal y pense." Are the Knights an Arthurian creation, or did they come about decades or even centuries following the exploits of the historical man known in legend as King Arthur? With only a few rudimentary guidelines to help your investigation, you must choose where to roam within the expanse of history relevant to your mission. But beware, for awful dangers dot this troubled time in European history. There's the Black Plague of 1348, and if you're not careful, you could end up right in the middle of it, surrounded by anguished Britons dropping like flies from a disease they can't comprehend. There's also the dangers of frequent war to consider, and many in charge who won't think twice about drafting you into sudden conflict with their enemies. Perhaps most deadly of all for you in particular is the superstitious mindset of the era. The smallest idiosyncrasies in individuals under the crown's rule are enough to cast suspicion on them for sorcery or witchcraft, so what are they going to think if they catch a glimpse of your time-travel technology? Surely any peasant or royal in possession of his faculties will immediately denounce you as a witch, and while you do have the luxury of instant time travel to fall back on should your life be jeopardized, bailing out of the investigation is not conducive to your completing the mission, to say the least. It can also cause problems if the information trail you're following leads you back to these same time periods.

As you bounce between certain decades and centuries in the Middle Ages, possibly going as far back as the 400s A.D., your modern perspective doesn't keep you from making friends in the past, even ones who recognize you from multiple years you have visited. Take advantage of the honest people you meet and remain wary of the duplicitous; as in any time, a good turn is often rewarded by the same, but seething resentment can multiply into treachery just as quickly. If you can prove your good intentions to your friends, and act heroically in the face of danger when they need your help most, you may find becoming a knight doesn't necessarily require long years of training and good luck. The answer to your questions about the Knights of the Garter might be closer than you realize, and finding it could be a specially fulfilling experience, even if it doesn't strike you that way at first. "How would you feel," you say, "if you went through all sorts of dangers to find something. Then when you found what you were looking for, it wasn't what you thought it was at all?" But your listener knows exactly how to respond. "That's the way it is with most knightly quests. The knights of the Round Table spent their lives looking for the Holy Grail, but most of them never found it. It doesn't matter so much what you're searching for as much as how you look for it, what you find along the way, and how much you can help the other people searching." The words cap the entire book splendidly, a mark of deeper literary value than all but a few gamebooks I've read. Never let yourself forget that it isn't finding a spectacular answer to your mystery that defines whether or not you've succeeded, but the integrity with which you've conducted yourself while pursuing it, and the lives you've affirmed by your presence, even for such a brief time as you were allowed to stay. Knowing you've succeeded in all that is what makes completing this quest so gratifying, and why Secret of the Knights stands above most other literature of its kind.

The Time Machine series has a lot going for it. Tangibly, this includes the "Four Rules of Time Travel" before each story begins, outlining crucial precepts of minimizing one's "footprints" in the time-space continuum, and the "Data Bank", which provides every historical fact you'll need to make informed decisions during your travels through time. Even if you're a strong student of history, you should probably read the Data Bank before starting at page one. Another good feature of the Time Machine books is the "Data File" at the back, where short clues correlating to specific page numbers offer subtle nudges toward what you should choose to do next. The clues aren't blatantly obvious, and don't reveal anything not already stated in more detail in the Data Bank, so taking a look at the Data File if you're confused may not be a bad idea. I've come to like the Time Machine series, and Secret of the Knights is a solid entry I know I'll want to read again. Nice work, Jim Gasperini.

More reviews by KenJenningsJeopardy74

Nomad's Thoughts:

Time Machine. What can be said about this series that hasn't already been covered by others? An amazingly enjoyable concept in the world of game books -- coupled with a great learning tool for children. As a kid, I couldn't get enough of these books, and sure enough, each week I'd find myself back at the local library to indulge in these as well as as many CYOA entries as I could dive into. Secret of the Knights was a great way to start off this series, as it couples a fascinating topic (what little boy doesn't dream of being a knight in shining armor at some point?) with above-average writing. The story is fascinating, and though the gameplay is a little weak, as most of the choices are fairly obvious, the fun atmosphere this book provides more than makes up for the ease with which this book can be gotten through. Not the book to pick up if you're looking for a serious challenge, but a must have for fans of this series or medieval culture.

More reviews by Nomad

Special Thanks:Thanks to Ryan Lynch for the cover images.
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Known Editions

First printing
Second printing
Later printing
Microsoft Reader edition
Kindle edition

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Related Documents

Structure Diagram

Time Machine # 1 Map
Thanks to Julien Peter Benney for contributing this map of the book's structure.