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Conquest of the Barbarians

Series: Wizards, Warriors & You #17
Authors: Stine, Megan
Stine, H. William
Illustrator: Norem, Earl
Release Date: 1986
ISBN: 0380750465 / 9780380750467
Length:104 pages
User Summary: While away on a mission of mercy, King Henry and his knights discover their kingdom has been overrun by the fearsome Barbarian tribe known as the Dundals. With the king locked out of his own castle it falls on the Wizard, Warrior (and of course you) to find a means of infiltrating castle Silvergate and defeating the barbarian horde and their mysterious leader, Goldenhair.
Nomad's Thoughts: This series, and this book in particular, are something I looked forward to reviewing for a few reasons. As a child I stumbled on this book in the public library and brought him home as quick as I could to pore over it. The first book in this series I was exposed to (though not my first gamebook in general), I quickly found myself turned into a fan of this series and tried for years to get my hands on as many of them as I could. Years later I rediscovered my love of this series and decided to do a review for the book that started it all off for me, Conquest of the Barbarians. Reading this story again -- while perhaps not maintaining the same magic it once held for me as a child, was nonetheless a fun and satisfying read. While still presented with a few annoying choices at times, in general this book held a clear and concise goal and motivation for the reader which managed to be upheld regardless of whether they choose to take on the role of the Wizard or the Warrior (always my personal favorite).

While this book certainly had its share of flaws, some of the endings and choices far too abrupt for my liking, the story had me intrigued enough to overlook them for the most part and even after all these years it still holds a special place in my heart, as well as a lot of happy memories for me, and remains my favorite book in the series (albeit that might be based on a biased opinion). Particularly interesting to me was the books antagonist's (yup, that would be Goldenhair) practice of renewing his powers and the method by which he did so. As a kid I found it dark and eerie, years later I can still appreciate the morbid aspect of it all. Definitely a fun read.

More reviews by Nomad

Paul T's Thoughts: At the risk of getting a reputation as this site's crank, I hated this book.

I agree with Nomad's comments about there being a clear goal and the villain's method of restoring his powers being quite interesting (though I think other books have had as good or better a story without the issues of this book), but that is where my praise for this book ends.

Most of the book is made of stupid, arbitrary choices, and worse, ones that more often than not punish for picking the normally LOGICAL option.

As in many other books in the series, you often get a choice in an encounter that would result in guaranteed success, or a 50/50 chance of success. The obnoxious thing about this book is that picking the option that ensures you success (choosing a reliable spell rather than one of those flip a coin or the spell backfires and kills you type spells. How has the wizard survived 16 adventures when most of his spells kill him or his friend half the time?!) will let you succeed at the encounter, then a contrived event will kill you immediately after! Which also means the "optimal" path of success will have several unavoidable 50/50 instant death chances! It also means the good path has less sections in it.

Oh, and a new unwanted feature of the books is that often rather than a wrong choice quickly killing you, choosing the wrong (and often logical) choice will continue the adventure on for often several more pages... where you will then meet an unavoidable instant death instead of the of a luck-based instant death. Gah.

Oh, and if you choose a wrong choice early or in the middle of the Wizard path, you will die 5-6 paragraphs later unless your birthday happens to be a lucky date. And if you survive this far, you will still die later if you used the spell half size against a bat, rather than trying to cast a darkness spell AGAINST A BAT (stupidity that normally results in an instant death and the book chewing you out for it).

This book also has several stupid plot holes/contrivances, which I just could not ignore. Its not abnormal for a Wizard and Warrior book to stretch willing suspension of disbelief, but this one goes too far. Success on the warrior path depends on someone who has tried to trick and kill you twice for their own amusement suddenly coming in to help you and save your life, having had a change of heart for no reason. At the start of the wizard's path the Great Wizard shows up telling the Wizard that if he uses the same spell twice he cannot succeed against Goldenhair. Why? No reason whatsoever! It's not even that Goldenhair will anticipate the spell if cast a second time and counter it, it just magically will not work the second time.

The warrior now has a shield that can instantly turn evil people good and good people evil, though conveniently the first barbarian you run across is actually a really good guy who will go crazy evil if you use the shield on him. Ermm... one also wonders why any author thought giving the warrior an I Win button that should turn any big bad guy good (but the warrior will never think to use it that way) would be a good idea. Conceivably a weapon like this could only be a game breaker held in check with bad writing and plot contrivances.

At one point, King Henry will beat up Goldenhair and all his troops, making you wonder why the wizard and warrior were really needed, but because Goldenhair (the guy trying to kill King Henry) said the Wizard and Warrior are evil and betrayed him, King Henry will automatically believe him and banish the people who saved his kingdom and life 16 odd times. *head desk*

Oh and the wizard's new spells replacing old ones are insanely unreliable and situational, being obviously weaker and less interesting the ones traded out.

I could go on, but overall, a stupid and bad book, only worth considering if you've read many other wizard and warrior books and are desperate for a fix.

More reviews by Paul T

Special Thanks:Thanks to Nomad for the plot summary.
Users Who Own This Item: Ardennes, bookwormjeff, dave2002a, exaquint (isbn on cover), Ffghtermedic, Fireguard, hoops4ever, horrorbusiness, katzcollection, Khellendros, knginatl, le maudit, mattender, mlvoss, Nomad, ntar, spragmatic, ThaRid, Tremendez, twar, Virtua Sinner, zat
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Nomad

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