Sor1: The Shamutanti Hills

Ty Bannerman
Demian Katz
P. Kay
Chris Page
Oliver Robertson
Phil Sadler
Aaron Thorne


[Ty Bannerman]

A pleasant introduction to the series, heavy on the Sorcery! atmosphere, if not otherwise notable in its gameplay. Consider it a tutorial, where the new player becomes acquainted with the Sorcery! rules, learns about the importance of provisions and camping the hard way, tries out a few spells, etc. Compared to the later books, this one is quite a pleasant stroll through the country-side, with only a few battles and hardly any of the puzzles and overall goals that the later series is known for. There are a few sticky areas, however - in particular, the Manticore cave at the end can be trying, especially if you're stuck with Jan, an annoying little fairy that makes your spells fizzle.

Oh, and this book has one of the most egregious "instant death" entries of any gamebook I've encountered: you're required to test your luck to avoid a pit trap, but if you're "lucky" and keep from falling in you are immediately killed by a spring-loaded spike, whereas an "unlucky" roll causes you to fall unconscious, but gives you a fighting chance to defeat your captors. Where's the luck in that?


[Demian Katz]

Plot Summary: You set off on a mission to recover the Crown of Kings, a vitally important magic item which has been stolen by an evil Archmage.

This is an excellent gamebook. It's a nice level of difficulty; it may take many tries to get through, but there are enough areas to explore that on each try you're likely to discover something new. As a result, the book is very successful in preventing its reader from getting bored. The sections of the book are extremely short, a fact which may be viewed as a flaw. This brevity is what allows the book to have such a diversity of paths, however, so I can't criticize it on those grounds.


[P. Kay]


Despite the fact I'm now old enough to have children of the age the Sorcery! books are aimed at, re-reading the Shamutanti Hills reveals my happy memories to be more than just nostalgia.

It's surprisingly well written, properly illustrated and most dangers are reasonably clearly signposted - apart from near the end, where your character is unlikely to survive if you were unlucky earlier in the book. In particular, if sensible choices are made, the character plays as a mage and there is a modicum of luck, it's possible to get through the entire book with only one fight.

I'm particularly pleased that it appears possible to get out of almost any adverse situation, if you are lucky, which is not my recollection of the sequels - but it was 20+ years ago, so I can't be certain! Worth a go.


[Chris Page]

First in the series, is the Shamutanti Hills. Well let's be honest, and how to keep this clean - it's easy. The only things that provide any sort of challenge are the sprite which takes away your ability to cast magic, and the Manticore at the end, which provides quite a large challenge to say the least. I'm not going to whine about the lack of complexity about this book though because let's face it - the series is hard enough, and this is a nice way to ease your way into the series. No specific paths are required, and you get to grab some objects which will help you in future books. However unless you intend to get the entire series ( which I'm presuming you would, why else would you be reading the book?) then I wouldn't bother - too easy and wouldn't keep you occupied that long.

Rating: 6.0/10


[Oliver Robertson]

This is my second favourite in the Sorcery! Series. It is undoubtedly the easiest to complete as it is the only book in the series without a subplot (the others, as well as reaching your final destination, require you to do something on the way there such as find the lines of a magic spell). There are also multiple ways of reaching the conclusion and lots of items and helpful friends to discover along the way. The only real challenge here is the manticore at the end, which is the only full-strength example of the species (according to Out of the Pit) anywhere in FF. I think Steve did this to ease us into the series before coming up with really vicious puzzles in the other books.

Having said that, the book is great fun to play. Because there are so many different paths to the end, there is a gentle nature to the story which is not spoilt by having to worry about whether you are taking the right path - so long as you can survive, you should get there. One of the biggest problems is finding enough food or the money to buy it, as the inns charge prices of up to 4 gold pieces for a meal. The illustration is very appropriate for the chaotic nature of the book, with the pictures seeming quite unnatural and twisted. The cover is also a good example of this style of illustration, the background in particular, which shows hills without a centre and strangely disfigured trees.

Overall, this is a fun but easy book, which should be completed within a couple of goes, but it loses none of its charm for that. You should read it first in the Sorcery! Series, as the feeling of completion is much greater if you manage to struggle through all four books.

Rating: 9.5/10


[Phil Sadler]

I don't believe it... I have, at last long last, found a book even easier than Forest of Doom! That is to say, that FOD took me 3 or 4 attempts and a bit of mapping, where as this adventure took 2 attempts and no mapping at all! I completed the whole thing in a couple of hours.

The book's still good fun though, not least because of its excellent spell system, which never seems to get old. The adventure is pretty well written too, and gives you the genuine feeling that you really are journeying through a lush countryside and friendly villages.

Doesn't stop it from being easy though, and short, oh so very short! There's only one powerful foe you have top deal with, and even he's dealt with fairly easily if you're playing as a Wizard (God knows how you'd handle him if your were a Warrior). There are a few items you may want to collect, but none of them are really essential.

All in all, this quest just doesn't have any sense of danger or urgency, nor is it remotely complex.

A pretty good read then, but far, far to easy :(

Overall grade: 5 (out of 10)


[Aaron Thorne]


This book is the first part of a four-part quest for the Crown of Kings, stolen from your kingdom by evil creatures from Kakhabad. It is imperative that the crown be recovered, but it is felt that where an army would fail, one man or woman may succeed. Thus, you are sent out to recover the Crown from Mampang Fortress. But the Fortress is one the far side of Kakhabad, making your journey long. The first section has you travelling across the Shamutanti Hills to Khare, a port city on the edge of the Baklands.

There are some really good things about this book, and some not so good things. The good things first. On the time that I succeeded and reached the end of the third book, I fought a total of 2 combats, both of which were somewhat challenging. This is the result of two separate design items. First, there aren't as many encounters as many other gamebooks I've played. Second, a number of those encounters can be dealt with through stealth, guile, and diplomacy, rather than violence. This is a nice touch, and adds to the entertainment of the book.

Now, for the bad things. It took me less than an hour to get through the book on the time I succeeded. This is just too short. I know that other books in the series are longer, so this can be put down to "teething problems" with the first book in the series, but it's annoying anyway. Second, it's too easy. I completed the book the second time I read it. A good chunk of the reason it's too easy is that it's too short, but that's not the whole thing. A few more "trap sections" would have been a good addition to make things a little harder. Your character is pushed along by the book toward the climax, rather than the book forcing you to get there on your own. Lastly, the book, as all books in the series are, is illustrated by John Blanche. I don't like Blanche's work. There's nothing inherently wrong with it, I just don't like it. This detracted a little bit from my enjoyment of the book.

I realize that I listed more negatives than positives about the book, but I do think that the book's pretty good. If I gave out half-stars (which I don't), then this book would get three-and-a-half stars, rather than just three. Hopefully the other books in the series will do better.