Sor1-4: Series reviews

Chris Page
Oliver Robertson
Gabriel Seah
David Sutherland
Anthony Whitaker




I can still vividly remember the excitement of finally obtaining all four of these over a decade ago. I was but a boy & loved these books dearly. I still have them (somewhere...). I played them time after time & never tired of them. Ah, back in the day...

I still believe these to be the best in the Fighting Fantasy series. An epic quest set across four (increasingly) substantial volumes & four hostile landscapes, with numerous foes to assail you. The idea is to pick a character type - warrior or wizard & travel across the land of Kakhabad to rescue the Crown of Kings from the evil Archmage. Selecting a wizard increases playing scope since spells must be learned from the Spell Book provided at the rear of each volume. However, beware, once you have set out the Spell Book may not be consulted again & an ingenious system makes life hard for those who don't know their spells or have the right magical item to make them work.

I am just thrilled to see this series republished! In sum, I cannot recommend these books highly enough - essential kit for all budding adventurers.




The first of a quintet of books under the series title "Sorcery", "The Sorcery Spell Book" is an introduction to a highly entertaining fantasy role-playing series. This volume is solely a lexicon of magical spells."Sorcery" takes the fun of D&D type role-playing and combines it with a "Choose Your Own Adventure" style game, allowing the player to select from a multitude of possible scenarios, twists, and endings. Unlike the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, highly simplistic and meant for young children, "Sorcery" is very complex and thoroughly entertaining for children AND adults. This series is also especially convenient to play; it does not require other people, and needs only a pair of six-sided dice, a pen, and a sheet of paper. Additionally, though this book is the last of five, a player can start from any book in the series. Written in the second person, you travel through the land of Kakhabad, fighting monsters and ruffians, encountering curious folk, sometimes helpful, sometimes lethal. As your inventory of magical items and special weapons grows, your challenges increase. Building your skill and strength is imperative should you live to face the evil Archmage of Mampang.The realm in which the RPing takes place is an enthralling one, and with the illustrations of John Blanche, you are eased into an enchantment not easily broken.


[Chris Page]

Overall as a series? Well if they whacked this into one big book it would be the book of the century. 4 seperate plots (at least, considering books like the Crown of Kings have at least 2) and some great ones at that. God knows how long it would take for you to finish the entire series but it would be so worth it. Great writing (Kudos Steve), nice artwork, and a superb system (the spells, the magic, the little pictures of dice at the bottom of each page). Overall, out of ten, how would I score the series?

Rating 10/10 (+)


[Oliver Robertson]

This series is, in my opinion, the best examples of FF in the world. The story lasts over four books, ‘The Shamutani Hills’, ‘Khare - Cityport of Traps’, ‘The Seven Serpents’ and ‘The Crown of Kings’. The plot is that you must find the Crown of Kings, a magical crown with vast powers, which has been taken to Mampang, the fortress of the evil Archmage. You have the oppurtunity to play either as a warrior or as a wizard. I would recommend the wizard. This series has probably the best magic system I have seen. Each time you get to cast a spell, you have a series of three-letter codes, some of which correspond to spells in the back of the book. But, not only do you have to remember what each spell’s code is (there are some other codes which do not correspond to any spell and are put there to test you), some spells require you to use an item as well, or the spell will not work.

There is also some continuity between books. You may be given some information or an item which will help you in later books, or make friends you will meet up with again. The monsters and puzzles become progressively harder to beat, as your character gets access to better weapons and spells.

The illustrations on the books are excellent, as they portray the chaotic nature of Kakhabad (the land where your adventures take place) very well. The covers are also good, the weakest being the cover to ‘The Seven Serpents’, which instead of the elf-sorceress Fenestra, could have shown one of the serpents in its full glory.

Another excellent aspect of the book is the ‘no dice required’ aspect. Why they didn’t introduce this as standard, I do not know. At the bottom of each page, there is a picture of two dice, with a different score on different pages. You simply flick through the book to find your dice score. Simple!

Although there are problems with individual books, there is no flaw with the series as a whole, which should be read by any FF fan.

Rating: 10/10 (or more).


[Gabriel Seah]

Sorcery! was a 4 book series written entirely by Steve Jackson. It had many ways in which it differed from normal Fighting Fantasy. You could choose to be a Wizard or a Warrior. The former could cast spells which were identified by 3 letter codes. Many of the spells needed spell components, which added an interesting flavour to gameplay as you had to look for them to fully utilise your potential. However, you needed to memorise the whole Spell Book - you were not allowed to look at it even once through all the 4 books! (you could check it in a shop in Book 3, but that was an exceptional case).

Jackson had a unique way of writing. For example, it pays to knock before entering a house. Also, the books are linked together not only by plot but by certain things you do (confused? This is hard to phrase). If you met someone in one book, you would benefit in the next book.

There are also assorted ingenious anti-cheating measures. For example, phony spell options are put into the text whcih will drain your STAMINA if you try to cast them. Also, if you try to cast spell without the spell components (which are impossible to have gotten at that point in the text) the spell fizzles, and you lose stamina!


[David Sutherland]


Most fantasy gamebooks like this don't quite reach this level. I wouldn't give most of the Fighting Fantasy series any more than four stars, to tell you the truth. Not because they're poorly written, far from it, but just because they're nowhere near as involving as the other gamebooks. The Lone Wolf series springs to mind.

But still, this series blows the rest right out of the water. Unlike Lone Wolf, and rather more like the Grecian Chronicles, this has a single continual storyline that forms the overall point of the series.

It's very well written. There's an increadable amount of depth to just about everything, you get to find out more about all the characters, locations, and so on. If you like interactive fantasy, give this a shot or you'll be missing out.


[Anthony Whitaker]


This box-set contains all four of the Sorcery! series of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks that Steve Jackson wrote many years ago, this time repackaged with new cover artwork, bigger text (but smaller pages) and the same great story.

Set in Kakhabad, you play a heroic character from Analand who has been sent on a huge quest to reclaim the Crown of Kings that the evil Archmage's minions have stolen from the King and taken it to the far-away Mampang Fortress, where said Archmage resides. This has cursed your hometown and you (i.e. your character) agree to rescue it. Before you start, you must decide whether to play as a warrior or a wizard. If a warrior, anyone who has played FF books before will know the drill and how to determine your character's strengths and weaknesses via rolls of one or two dice (if not, it's dead easy to learn). If you play as a wizard, you will not be as effective a fighter, but will overcome this niggle with magic ability. However, you have to learn spells (or, more precisely, the three-letter code identifying them, together with whether or not you require an artefact to use them) before you start reading, and you may not look at the Spell Book at the back of the book again once your adventure has begun, so you must rely on memory.

Book 1, 'The Shamutanti Hills', sees you pass over from Cantopani Gate and make your journey to Kharé. You'll come across adversaries and get an intro to spells if you're a wizard. It's quite simple, just to get you into the mood.

Book 2, 'Kharé: Cityport of Traps', is completely set within that cityport, and you must make your way from the south gate to the north gate. However, even if you make it that far, will you have the knowledge required to open it?

Book 3, 'The Seven Serpents', is where things really hot up. You receive word that seven evil, powerful and magic serpents are on their way to warn the Archmage of your quest. Will you be able to find them all and stop them?

Book 4, 'The Crown of Kings' is the final chapter, where you must try and make your way to the Archmage himself and get the Crown from him. But things get more complicated still, particularly if you failed to veto the efforts of the Serpents in the previous book!

These books are still classic, and even though I'm now much older than I was when I first played them, I still think they're cool; in fact, at the time they actually got me reading -- something I never really liked as a kid -- which earned the FF books much praise from teachers.

The things I particularly like about the Sorcery! books are the way what happens in one book can directly influence what happens in any of the later ones, such as whether or not you defeat all seven Serpents, or whether you met certain people who gave you artefacts or information that would not come into use until much later on in the journey. Although each book can be played separately, this is not nearly as much fun.

Recommended, for nostalgic people or for new teenagers and older who missed the first run.