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The Forgotten Spell

Series: Spellcaster Gamebooks #1
Adapted Into: The Forgotten Spell (Digital Gamebook)
Author: Dent Pearce, Louisa
Illustrator: McKenna, Martin
Release Dates: March, 2006
2013 (reissue)
ISBN: 1840467312 / 9781840467314
Length:370 sections
User Summary: The King of the Elder Fey has been betrayed by his own brother, who plots to take over his throne. As the legitimate heir, you must search the city of Suidemor for the fabled Forgotten Spell, which will set the King free.
Guillermo's Thoughts: Female authors are rare in the case of those gamebooks published in Great Britain (in some other countries it has been fairly common for women to write gamebooks). I had somewhat high expectations for this book, hoping that the female New Zealander who wrote it would become a new, fresh voice in a medium desperately in need of new ideas. Unfortunately, while not a complete disaster, the book falls short of its potential in several respects.

Part of Icon Books' effort to revive gamebooks in the first decade of this century, it's fairly clear that the book's intention was to appeal to Harry Potter-loving kids. This is to be praised, as trying to attract new audiences to the hobby using creative formulas from the eighties is a complete waste of time. Many of the basic tenets of the plot are the same as in the popular Potter book series: young protagonist who one day receives the revelation of her/his origin in a magical world, a mission to learn magic, a conspiracy to kill the player character, etc. What I found missing was the lively writing and the variety in characterization. Even the efforts to make the setting's language resemble English of the Middle Ages - mostly by inserting 'e's' in the middle or at the end of almost every word - don't serve to add that much flavour when the writing is only slightly more descriptive than the usual Fighting Fantasy fare. The plain style would not be much of a problem if the book weren't somewhat lacking in almost all other areas.

The book was clearly planned as the beginning of a series. Since the publisher terminated its relationship with the storyline after this book, we cannot know at this time how much we missed. One thing that is clear to me, at least, is that the narrative is painfully slow, and the space in this book could have been used to reveal more plot details and to introduce more interesting characters. Joe Dever, for example, did this in his own series and achieved more success. Nonetheless, after reading this book, I feel it's a shame that the projected series was cancelled. The setting, which is more fairy-tale fantasy (with a bit of steampunk thrown in) than sword and sorcery, seems to have more potential than what was used up in this installment, with its variety of inhabitants.

There is no game system to speak of. The player only has to keep track of items, spells and clues. The design is nothing extraordinary. While not devoid of exploration, all the paths eventually lead to the same places (talk about 'railroading'). What I found ingenious is that every time the player character dies s/he comes back to life, and the reader is instructed to open the book at random. If s/he has been in that paragraph before, the quest carries on from there. Clearly, this is a book to be finished in one sitting. The main challenge and draw of the book involves solving a number of visual puzzles which are quite ingenious (and I'm not saying this just because I suck at solving them).

I would suggest that the author do not be afraid of including more intense and challenging choices in her later designs, and to develop a meaningful variety of paths. After all, we readers like being able to make wrong choices and fail. The setting and the puzzles were O. K., but in several other areas the book needed more development to become a success.

As a final note, the author has announced on her website that the second book in this series is completely written, and is asking readers for help in getting it published. Let's hope it sees the light of day someday, and that it constitutes an improvement over its predecessor.

More reviews by Guillermo

Special Thanks:Thanks to Guillermo Paredes for the plot summary and scans.
Users Who Own This Item: dArtagnan, Ed, juski, kinderstef, knginatl, Malthus Dire, mir1812, mlvoss, qazplm, Sir Olli, sireeyore, Stargazer
Users Who Want This Item: Gartax, Pseudo_Intellectual

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