Sor3: The Seven Serpents

Ty Bannerman
Mark Jeays
Robert O'Driscoll
Chris Page
Oliver Robertson




This book was the first of the sorcery books that I bought and read. Unfortunately, I collected them in the wrong order as a result of various book shops not stocking all of them at the same time and one had to be ordered too.

There are four in all, but I got the third, The Seven Serpents, first followed by the second, Khaire - Cityport of Traps, then the fourth, The Crown of Kings, ending with the FIRST, The Shamutanti Hills. All in the wrong order!

The Seven Serpents is set in the wilderness, rather than a city of undergroun cave, as you travel to seek out the castle of your enemy and reclaim an important crown that he stole.

As you travel, you learn that your mission has been discovered and that seven messagers, the seven serpents of the title, are taking the news ahead of you to forwarn the bad guy; some wizard creep in his fortrss in the hills. Therefore, your task is to kill the seven serpents and keep your mission secret.

The seven serpents each have their own particular powers as a result of them being unique. There's the Moon Serpent, Fire Serpent, Sun Serpent, Earth Serpent and another three, but I can't remember them at the moment. Still, you must catch and kill all seven if you are to win the book.

A favourite of mine, but I don't think it's the best overall of the sorcery books. That's not to say that it's a good read and that newcomers to fighting fantasy won't love it. I found it to be a good adventure as you get to travel around and encounter different stuf in you crusade to kill the villain's snake servents. It's totally original.

Eash serpent has it's own strengths and weaknesses, depending upon which one you're facing and it's up to you to use your intelligence and skill to find it out and exploit it to the full. If you don't get them then you get penalised in the next book, The Crown of Kings, that makes it harder to win.

The cover and pictures are quite impressive, I thought. The pictures inside have a certain chaotic quality to them that adds to the book I think. I think that this is a great adventure and should be bought as it's worth it.

It's harder to beat than The Shamutanti Hills, about the same level of hardness as Khaire - Cityport of Traps, and easier that the last one, The Crown of Kings.

I'd advise you to get all four if you're into these books and stuff as they can be played on their own but form episodes of one giant four-book adventure when read together!


[Ty Bannerman]

This one's a small let down after the brilliant Kharé - Cityport of Traps. Like Kharé, The Seven Serpents features a mini-quest that has you gathering up MacGuffin's throughout the book. This time you're searching for the titular Seven Serpents, couriers for the Archmage of Mampang who are racing back to the Mampang Fortress with news of your quest.

Interestingly, you can fail, or only partially succeed, at this quest and still progress to the next book, albeit with a heavy penalty. If you manage to round up the Seven Serpents and give them a good squishing, you proceed with a considerable reward, although it should be noted that the task is quite difficult.

It all sounds great, and certainly the idea of actions in one book having over-arching impact on the story in the next is very compelling, but somehow it is lacking in the execution. For one thing, the nature of the MacGuffin is a little odd. These Serpents are supposedly racing back to the Fortress, all of them can fly, and several have powers that could undoubtedly ensure that they stay well out of your reach (for instance, one is a Serpent of Air, another has the power to alter the speed of time itself), and yet one plodding adventurer taking an extremely elliptical tour of the desert can manage to find them all lounging around and looking the other way. The other problem is that, unlike Kharé's gate poem, there aren't really much in the way of clues to lead the attentive adventurer to the various serpent lairs. Essentially, the only way a player will find them all is through repeated play and trial and error, which was probably Jackson's way of ensuring replay value, but it seems like a tremendous opportunity was missed to reward observant and careful players.

That being said, there are many good points in this book. The Baklands feel appropriately blasted and empty, and encounters offer a nice variety of interesting monsters to fight, encampments of elves to negotiate with, sub-humans to escape and plagues to catch, all of it qualitatively different from the first two books. Also, the Serpents themselves are quite fun to deal with, each of them representing a different element (or something, does "Sun" count as an element?) and possessing appropriate powers. One very nice touch is that each Serpent has a vulnerability that a clever/lucky player can exploit to conquer the beasts without fighting them.

All in all, this is a solid, if somewhat middling, entry in the series. It's better than The Shamutanti Hills, but not as well thought out as Kharé - Cityport of Traps or the exquisite Crown of Kings. A lot of fun to be had though, and the vast Baklands offers a considerable amount of replay value.


[Mark Jeays]

I don't know if I'm qualified to pass judgement on "The Seven Serpents" since I haven't read any of the other Sorcery books, although I have played at least a dozen Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. I found TSS to be a fairly mediocre gamebook. The objective is to kill seven serpents and walk between the city of Khare and the Fortress of Mampang. The solution is fairly difficult, not because of clever traps or puzzles, but simply because there are so many objectives to fulfill. You are required to kill 6 of the 7 serpents (the Sun Serpent is trapped so you do not actually need to kill it) and gather several items along the way (not even counting items that may be useful in "The Crown of Kings", of which I am unaware -- possibly spell artefacts or other items). In fact there is a depressing lack of puzzles to work out -- the only real "puzzle" is deciphering LIX ... not exactly tough going. There are a few helpful hints sprinkled through the book, specifically, strategies for defeating most of the serpents. There appear to be several references in which items from other Sorcery books would be useful, although not necessary. The art is mediocre, a bit inconsistent in style and a bit cheezy (check out the expression of the Giant, facing 362). Other illustrations strike me as ambiguous (Fenestra looking at the Sun Serpent, facing 190) and useless (the rocks, facing 300). However there are a few redeeming drawings, including Oolooh's wares (facing 315), and the Death Wraith (facing 12). One complaint that I had with the book is that there are are too many references with only one choice -- one wonders if they split up longer references to increase the total number, but then, there are a total of 498 references, so that would make no sense. Overall, I wouldn't skip this gamebook if I were doing the entire Sorcery Epic, but then, I wouldn't necessarily pick this one up to play it on its own. Readable, but not great.

Rating: 6.0/10


[Robert O'Driscoll]

This is the third book in the Sorcery epic, and these are the only adventure gamebooks, that you can use magic spells in. For example you could use the spell GOB but this spell requires a number of goblin's teeth, and when cast, it will create however many goblins, as there are teeth. There is a plot to the gamebook, and the plot of this gamebook, is to stop the Archmage's servants getting to him, but his servants are the seven serpents, and unfortunately, you have to destroy at least six of them. Here is a list of all the serpents you have to destroy: Air serpent, Fire serpent, Sun serpent, Water serpent, Moon serpent, Earth serpent and the most powerful serpent, The serpent of Time. Well, you don't have to destroy the sun serpent, because there is a Elven witch, and she will trap the Sun serpent for you. This is a really good book, and that is why it is my book.


[Chris Page]

Next up comes my personal favourite The Seven Serpents. Why do I prefer it over Khare? Just because you've got 4 pieces of text to find in Khare and 7 in the Serpents, thus in theory making this book harder. It took me longer at least. Now you go out and try and complete this book on its own. And good luck because this would surely take you forever. Just a few problems - the hints given to you in relation to helping defeat the serpents - useless. You don't need them. A second point is that while there are dozens of paths to choose, there is next to nothing in the way of puzzles. Them aside, it's a great read, and really a big addition to the series. The plot - who cares.

Rating: 9.0/10


[Oliver Robertson]

This, the third book in the Sorcery! Series, is my third favourite. This is because it is far more linear than the previous two - there is very little room for discovering new places and situations if you want to defeat all the Seven Serpents (messengers for the Archmage, your nemesis, who are carrying news of your quest back to him). There are also very few difficult monsters to defeat, apart from the Serpents. The Serpents are very nasty, with Skill scores averaging 12, unless you can find their weaknesses. Each Serpent has a power attributed to one of the Archmage’s foul Gods - there are Serpents of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Sun, Moon and Time. However, as with all the best bad guys, they have a weakness, something which will damage its powers and render it effectively harmless (it will have Skill of about 5 instead).

There are a few instant death situations in the Badlands, where this book takes place, but most of them can be avoided if you think carefully. If you have completed the previous book in the series, you will have a bit of extra help that you found in Khare, but I’ll leave it to you to find out what. My largest complaint with this book is that it is too linear and not as much fun as the previous two, but this does keep in with the overall story - now you have to prevent the Seven Serpents from getting word of your quest to the Archmage, not just cross the Badlands. One other thing that annoyed me was that when the Moon Serpent dies, it leaves a crystal orb behind (something that can be used in spells), but the other Serpents leave nothing. I would have liked some material reward for killing the Serpents, but the bonus to your initial skill at the end of the book is very nice.

Despite these problems with the book, it is still very good and part of the best FF series ever. I recommend it, but the earlier parts of the series are (in my opinion) better.

Rating: 9.0/10