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Choose Your Own Adventure (1979-1998)
Wing, Ron (interior)
0553566199 / 9780553566192
Shadow of the Swastika by Doug Wilhelm is the second Choose Your Own Adventure book I have read by the same author, and it includes similar positives and negatives as the last one I read, The Gold Medal Secret. Shadow of the Swastika is actually set before World War II (not during) and takes place on the Night of Broken Glass; the fateful evening where the Nazis encouraged German citizens to run rampant, destroying shops and houses belonging to Jews. The reader takes on the role of a young man who isn't Jewish, but who works in a bakery owned by a Jewish man who raised him when his own parents had died. You must help your friends survive the night while also looking for opportunities to aid complete strangers in either getting out of the country or somehow continuing living within it.
Doug Wilhelm's contributions to the Choose Your Own Adventure series are usually quite serious affairs, given the subject matter of both this book and the other work of his I have read (The Gold Medal Secret, about doping in the Olympics). He doesn't pull any punches here, either, and doesn't spare the reader witnessing a few gruesome deaths or becoming the victim of one. I'm glad Wilhelm decided not to 'kidify' the material too much, though it does pose the question of how Bantam allowed the book to be greenlit. I for one am glad they did, though, because it's a cracking read.
In fact, it would almost be a perfect CYOA book if not for the same issues that plagued The Gold Medal Secret. That is, the book lacks interaction. There are only 8 decisions in the entire book for the reader to influence the story, whereas the rest are just singular routes throwing you from one page to another willy nilly for no reason other than to make the book seem more interactive than it actually is. However, I am a bit more willing to forgive this book for this shortcoming because the content was so thrilling.
I can definitely agree that Doug Wilhelm certainly knows how to write a gripping yarn, I just wish he'd do so with more interaction for the reader. After all, that's what CYOA is all about!
Most children's books about the Holocaust tend to be rather heavy-handed with their morality - the Nazis are evil and those fighting them are good. Even though the world just doesn't work that way in real life, this book falls into that seemingly impossible-to-avoid trap. But what more can you expect from a CYOA book?
Your character is a German orphan who was taken in by a Jewish baker in Vienna. The year is 1938 and the Germans have just annexed Austria. Jewish-owned shops and businesses are being looted and burned. Of course you must do something to stop the chaos and save the world or there wouldn't be a story at all.
Doug Wilhelm is actually an OK writer and he does a better job with this plot than I expected. Although it doesn't have many choices or endings and the story has been done countless times before, this is not by any means a bad book.
I guess it's just about average. It doesn't have any spectacularly bad pratfalls but it doesn't manage to transcend its top-heavy plot, either.
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newt3425 - Sundance Shadow of Evil #25 release. Good condition slight dog ear.
stevesterling - This copy is in very good condition.