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Item - The Forest of the King

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Series: Escape from the Kingdom of Frome — no. 2
Translated Into: El bosque del rey (Spanish)
Author: Brightfield, Richard
Illustrators: Huerta, Catherine (cover)
Perry, David (interior)
Date: 1987
ISBN: 055326155X / 9780553261554
Length: 131 pages
Number of Endings: 1
User Summary: Having escaped from the King's castle, you find yourself exploring the kingdom of Frome. The entire realm is surrounded by a venomous bush, so you'll have to find a secret path to cross its borders. Can you find the three secret spells which will lead you to freedom?
Guillermo's Thoughts:

(review based on the Spanish translation)

This book is a major step forward from the previous one. It details the countryside of Frome, and does a much better job at developing the kingdom as a memorable setting. There are many interesting fantasy creatures, a huge gameworld to explore, and a clear set of goals to follow. Nonplayer characters are given more detail and depth, and the writing is lively and entertaining. The kingdom of Frome is presented as an unusually complex setting, where the people are presented as suffering a tyrant's oppression, but there are many good, neutral and evil characters which add flavour to the story.

The book does a good job linking its story to the previous volume (in it you encounter several prominent characters from the first book). By introducing the reader to a rebel group and presenting the suffering of the Frome people, it also sets the stage for an overarching story arc which will be resolved in the final book of the series.

Gameplay is quite interesting and challenging, as there is a lot of exploration work to do. One of the required spells I found to be especially tricky to find, and this book may take longer than expected to solve, even for experienced gamebook readers. The main difficulty of the book resides in the many twists and turns that the player must solve before finding each spell.

In my opinion, this is the best book of the series and one of the most important reasons for exploring Frome.

More reviews by Guillermo

Shadeheart's Thoughts:

[Rating: 2/10]
[Recommended? NO]

Based on my pre-existing familiarity with the "Escape From Tenopia" series, and as such the preconceived understandings I had going into those titles as an equivalent sort of spin-off to the popular yet awful"Choose Your Own Adventure" gamebooks, my expectations for the more fantasy-rooted "Escape from the Kingdom of Frome" series were kept well in check before taking on the series' follow-up title, "The Forest of the King". And while the formulaic tendencies and the flaws of its predecessors were definitely the dominant takeaway I had from this sparingly-detailed, underwhelmingly-written adventure, I was nevertheless at least a little relieved to discover how much more comfortable this book was with the format it had than its science fiction counterpart in Tenopia. Sure, the characters are completely threadbare (and are introduced without an ounce of considerable memorability), and yes, there are significant repetitions of what I would call an assault of information for the reader to figure out what to do with (even though it all, in general, doesn't actually mean anything within the reading experience or path-choosing). There's nothing conclusive or climactic with the puzzles - nothing there to put all this information to good use - just as there is little sense of purpose within the escape sequence. And above all else, there's the return of the infinitely striking featrue where the reader is unable to lose - and one must circle around until getting it right - in one long "can you find a way out" structural cycling exercise. But this book (and the series) seems a little more comfortable in its own skin than the other "Escape" stories, and as such this ends up reading just a little more immersively (though due to its many shortcomings, unnecessary difficulty for one's memory and generally short length, this doesn't save the book all that much in the end).

At the end of the day I found this book dissatisfactory and not worthy of recommending in the end; while the book (and series) held legitimate storytelling potential it was wasted due to the stylistic, structural and executive shortcoming of its design and featureless lack of intrinsic atmosphere. This is little more than a shallowly escapist enterprise to encounter - and you're not missing out if you pass on (or, shall I say, escape from) this largely forgettable escape sequence. ^^

(Mysteriously disappears into the shadows.)

More reviews by Shadeheart

Special Thanks:Thanks to Guillermo Paredes for the plot summary.
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