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The Lord of Shadow Keep

(British cover)
(American cover)
Series: Golden Dragon Fantasy Gamebooks #3
Contained In: Golden Dragon Fantasy Gamebooks Box Set (Collection)
Translated Into: Le Seigneur de l'ombre (French)
Shadou toride no maou [シャドー砦の魔王] (Japanese)
Il signore dell'ombra (Italian)
Skyggernes hersker (Danish)
El torreon de las tinieblas (Spanish)
Author: Johnson, Oliver
Illustrators: Elettori, Bruno (original cover)
Warhola, James (American cover)
Hartas, Leo (interior)
Release Dates: February 14, 1985 (original)
May, 1986 (American edition)
August 11, 2013
ISBNs: 0425088618 / 9780425088616 (American edition)
0583307604 / 9780583307604 (original)
1491021411 / 9781491021415
Length:300 sections
User Summary: While the king was away on a crusade, the provisional ruler was turned into a vampire and enslaved by the evil wizard Arkayn Darkrobe. Weakened by Darkrobe's sorcery, the king turns to you for help. Can you reach the wizard's castle, brave its many dangers and slay him?
Fireguard's Thoughts: On the surface, Lord of Shadow Keep isn't much to write home about. The set-up is rather weak--we're in a kingdom called Lalassa. Lalassa?? The villain is Arkayn Darkrobe. Come on. There's also something about an undead usurper to the throne who'll crumble to dust at the instant of Darkrobe's death. All of which has practically nothing to do with events in the book itself. One gets the feeling the writer was trying a little too hard to be epic.

Things get a little better once the actual adventure starts and we can start forgetting about the overwrought story. The general tone of things is dark and spooky, at which it succeeds decently well, but this is certainly not the next Beneath Nightmare Castle. Ultimately though, the book only manages to hit "acceptable" as quality goes. Most of the adventure involves bopping around a castle collecting a series of bizarre items and sometimes using a random item to resolve a problem. There's little rhyme or reason to any of it.

There a few highlights throughout the book, like the bowling ball, troll grammar and the lizardman swordsman, but in the end I can't say there'd be a gaping hole in my collection if I were to lose my copy.

More reviews by Fireguard

Gartax's Thoughts: This book's story seems to be influenced by Arthurian myth, especially the legend of the Fisher King. It's highly atmospheric and has a unique flavour, with text and illustrations that straddle the line between creepiness and hilarity. Although I realize it's not the best book in the series by any stretch of the imagination, it's my personal favourite.

More reviews by Gartax

Guillermo's Thoughts: This book is not set on Legend, but on a fantasy realm called Lalassa. Unfortunately, Oliver Johnson's solo debut as gamebook writer does not live up to the standards set by the earlier two volumes. It's for the most part an Ian Livingstone-style quest-to-kill-the-evil-wizard (with a rather short wilderness journey and the majority of it taking place inside the castle), and it's also pretty generic. As in many Livingstone books, the writing is mostly dry and unengaging. The design also resembles those of that famous Fighting Fantasy author, in that it consists of lengthy sequences of encounters (the vast majority involving monsters lifted straight from D & D monster compendiums) which branch apart and at some points rejoin. The encounters are, in my opinion, rather uncreatively devised: there are seldom more than two alternatives given to resolve them and way too many of them will require the use of brawn or skill checks, instead of careful choices and quick wits (there are some exceptions, but they aren't that frequent).

Not only are combats way too frequent, but they are also tough; even a lowly orc will have a 50 percent chance of hitting the player character in a combat round. Several opponents are also given the chance to deal very powerful blows or even to kill the player character outright in a single round. The player character's vigour score is usually depleted pretty quickly and opportunities for replenishing it are quite scarce. As a result of all this, the adventure's difficulty is quite high. By the way, did I mention that this adventure includes a laboratory with an assortment of potions, some of which are helpful and one that causes instant death when drunk? Grrr.

Overall, this adventure may prove to be entertaining to people who are not too choosy, who like dying many times before reaching the final goal, or who feel they need one more generic fantasy quest. When taken in context with the rest of this series, however, it is almost hopelessly average.

More reviews by Guillermo

utfanatic's Thoughts: This is an excellent gamebook. While this series offers stand-alone books, initial characterization is decent and the writing is superb. This book offers wonderful flavor and you really feel like you are there in a creepy Keep the whole time. The interior illustrations match this flavor well, but as the strange cover illustrations on the American series continues, illustrating you as a small, relatively androgenous child, belying your description on the first interior page.

Featuring riddles, a number of cool items to find which prove both handy and/or crucial to completing the quest, and a number of memorable encounters, this adventure delivers. Choices center on much more than battle or simply picking a path, and replayability is quite high. The authors also do an excellent job of offering you choices you would actually have, and letting you backtrack to choose an option you had previously dismissed.

This book is not as difficult as book 2, which was nearly impossible, yet is still above average in difficulty. Most fights are quite reasonable though, and this time, the PSI and agility tests are mostly against 2 dice rolls instead of the 3 which frequently occurred in book 2. I was able to find one central opportunity to heal, which came just in the nick of time.

All in all, excellent gamebook with wonderful writing featuring an interesting adventure, great memorable encounters, and tough fights which aren't impossible.

The only thing missing, in my mind, is the context, continuity, emotional attachment, characterization, and history offered by a build-upon series where each book builds upon the one before.

As a stand-alone gamebook, this is superb and should be a must read for any gamebook fan.

Rating 1-10: 9

More reviews by utfanatic

Special Thanks:Thanks to Guillermo Paredes for the plot summary.
Users Who Own This Item: aehalpin, andyr, Aniline, Ardennes (US), B0N0V0X, BarefootJimmy (reissue), Belgarath, bigcobra, bookwormjeff (US & UK), convict7421, crazydave, Crazyscotsman, CSquared, dArtagnan, dave2002a, domj29, Dronak (reissue), Ed, edwebb, egokun, firefoxpdm, Fireguard, Gamebook, Gartax (Gartax), greyarea13, hoops4ever, iguanaditty, juski, katzcollection, killagarilla, killagirilla, kinderstef, knginatl (US), le maudit, LordJR, Malthus Dire, marnaudo, mlvoss, nelsondesign, NEMO (US), nerelax, Nich, outspaced, Pessimeister, peterm2, Pirrakas, Pseudo_Intellectual, Robert Mammone, Sabreman, Sir Olli, sireeyore, SojourningScribbler, spragmatic (US), StagQuests (UK), Tamerlane1396, ThisIslandEarth, Tremendez, truce57, twar (UK), Twoflower, Uraniborg (USA), utfanatic, Vampireman (reissue), waktool (UK), Yalius, Zolika
Users Who Want This Item: dblizzard72, Ffghtermedic, horrorbusiness, khaxzan, NEMO (UK), Nomad, odo_ital, sebastian, Von Scotty, waktool (US), wildtiger_aakash, zat
Users with Extra Copies: dave2002a
kinderstef - x 2
Sir Olli
twar - American edition. Has several small creases on covers and spine. Store stamp on first page. No pencil markings. Good playing copy.

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