The Legion of Shadows (a DestinyQuest book) by Michael J. Ward

May 16, 2015 | By | Reply More

For those new to the ‘DestinyQuest’ books, I should point out that they are what you might call an interactive ‘Dungeons And Dragon’ style novel. Interactive in so much as you the reader are called on to read some text, make decisions based on what you have just read and quite frequently, to simulate combat by rolling some dice. There will also be some recordkeeping to do as your hero wanders around, find things and gets hurt. It might seem like hard work compared to a traditional novel but they are very good fun.

LegionOfShadow

The basic premise of these books is actually very simple. You decide on the name for your hero character and fill out a Hero sheet with the name and the starting values for health, speed, brawn, magic and armour. There are several pre-printed Hero sheets included. although I preferred to download one from www.destiny-quest.com and print off a few copies. You will also need a pencil and two dice. There is a pre-amble describing the rules (mostly relating to combat) and how to maintain your Hero sheet to record your Hero’s progress. Once you are happy with all this then it’s time to start questing.

My previous encounters with fighting fantasy style books have been just over a hundred pages in length and are usually completed in a day. ‘The Legion Of Shadow’ is a different kettle of fish being a large format paperback and 644 pages, 656 if you include the Glossary at the end. It’s a masterpiece of production with striking cover art by Dominic Harman and 8 full colour glossy pages in the centre of the book. The book itself is divided into 3 parts known as Acts and each Act taking place in a different place. There are maps for each of the three Acts on the colour pages in the centre of the book. On each map, there are markers for quests that have been colour coded to signal the relative difficulty. This ranges from easy, average, hard and hardest.

With my Hero sheet completed with suitable name, the initial starting values and 10 gold coins, I venture into the Prolog. This sets the initial context for the adventure giving you the required background information, a letter of introduction and sword, which will no doubt prove useful. From here you are directed to the colour map for Act 1 where you can pick a quest to undertake. I pretended to be a novice and elected one of the mini-quests rated as ‘easy’, which starts at passage number 10.

Did I mention that each passage of text, which may be one or more paragraphs, is numbered? Perhaps I should have, as at the end of the passage you will be directed to another passage that is very unlikely to be the one immediately following. During the quests, you will be asked to choose an option and which will direct you to a different passage. For example, at the end of passage 10, I have the option to agree to help and go to passage 17, ask the man about the woods and go to passage 23 or go back to the Act 1 map and chose another quest. This does result in a lot of page turning but it’s worth the effort.

As your hero travels the land and completes the quests, you will be required to make a decision on what type of career your hero will follow. The choices are warrior, rogue or mage and you can only follow one. For now that decision is in the future as I undertake my first quest which is to locate a mans missing daughter. He thinks she has been waylaid by goblins as she was going to her Grandma’s house. It’s not going to surprise anyone to know that you encounter some goblins and you have no option but to fight. I did defeat the goblins but with only 7 health points remaining from a start of 30, I’m thinking I must have some bewitched dice.

Luckily, after defeating an enemy in combat, your health returns to its starting value so I’m back to 30 to face the next foe. The further you progress by taking other quests, the more health potions and other salves you find to restore your health during combat. Having said that, your beloved hero is quite likely to die and probably more than once. The author has thought about this and provides a tip on how to deal with death so it’s not err…fatal. Each Act has a Boss monster that must be defeated before you can move onto the next Act. To be able to face the Boss monster with any chance of winning. you must have completed most, if not all, of the other quests in the Act. It is also advisable to have defeated one or more legendary monsters that inhabit the lands of each act before going up against the Boss.

It’s easy to focus too much on the mechanics of actually undertaking the quest and neglecting the fact that this would quickly become boring without a decent back-story to bring it all together. This is where I think ‘The Legion Of Shadow’ does excel with the quests interlinked with a good story that builds up to a suitable climatic ending. It’s not all plain sailing, though, as later quests introduce artefacts granting the hero special abilities. This makes combat more complex but not unreasonably so as the deeper you venture into ‘The Legion Of Shadow’, the harder your enemies become.

It’s been an awful long time since I last undertook something like ‘DestinyQuest’ and I had forgotten just how much fun it is. While I have immensely enjoyed my quests, I do wonder if the advent of iPads, tablets and e-book readers have reduced the appeal of it in paperback form. I do hope not as it will still be usable in 10 years’ time when the electronic gadgets will be obsolete and no longer working. On a related point, I’m able to print off and laminate a Hero sheet so it can be re-used lots of times with a suitable pen. I really recommend you do this if you can. Another tip that speeds things up is to have four dice, two of each of different colours. I’m sure there’s an app for that somewhere. One other thing that shouldn’t be overlooked with ‘The Legion Of Shadow’ is that it is very good fun when read (played?) with others, especially older children. It’s a great way to do something together other than watch the TV.

I’m still roaming the lands of Act 3 as there’s a legendary monster I’ve yet to kill. Once that’s out the way. I’d like to do the whole thing again as a Mage. Now where’s my dice?

Andy Whitaker

May 2015

(pub: Gollancz, 2012. 656 page enlarged paperback. Price: £16.99 (UK only). ISBN: 978-0-575-11872-0)

check out website: www.orionbooks.co.uk

Category: Books, Fantasy, MEDIA

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About the Author ()

I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties. My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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