I know from feedback that this book holds a special place in the heart of certain of my readers, but I am duty-bound not to sugar-coat any of my opinions.
Plus, its more fun that way.
This book was like the rhyme about the girl with the curl in the centre of her forehead.
When it was good, it was very, very good. But when it was bad….
The good :
- The opening sequence was excellent. Great atmosphere, high stakes and a breathless continuation from the end of book 4.
- Much of the military sequence was really interesting, and (like the rulership decisions in book 4) it was a welcome change from the ‘hack and slash’ which is prevalent through so many gamebooks.
- As usual, the supporting cast were fleshed out to degree often lacking in the genre. People such as Antocidas, Gwyneth, the ruler of the Spires of Foreshadowing were given some flavour beyond mere enemies / allies.
- If ever a book failed at the last hurdle, it was this one. The book has the same ending, whether or not you actually kill your arch-enemy immediately beforehand!
- Further, if you do, it happens ‘off screen’! You rout his army, and some of your forces just bring his body to you?! No epic battle? No hand-to-hand combat?? Were these the same authors that created the fantastic ninja battle sequence from book 2 and the marvellous duel with the Grandmaster of Shadows from book 4??
- The ‘game’ part of the book seemed neglected. After a fight or two in the first sequence, the only real dice rolling involved the (aborted) fight with Honoric and the Old One. Similiarly, the ninja skills were barely mentioned. For example, I didn’t have Shin-Ren, but there were a number of occasions when I would have thought that the use of that skill would have been crucial.
- You also get the feeling that the authors weren’t sure if this book would be the final instalment of the series. There are no real loose ends left to tie up, given that (maybe) Honoric has been killed and the Rift forces retreated before Avenger’s battle-hardened troops. Books 1-4 had compelling sequel hooks. Here it was more ‘you’ll probably have interesting adventures in the future’…
A lesser Way of the Tiger entry is still pretty darn good. And my desire for a sequel hook may well be satisfied in spades in book 6….
Oh, and by the way :