Friday, November 12, 2010

Endless Quest #2: Mountain of Mirrors

"You are Landon, a brave elf on your first mission into the land of frost giants and ogres.  Will you be able to stop the evil that controls the Mountain of Mirrors?"  --from the back cover.

As the cover blurb says, you're a young Elf named Landon in the second Endless Quest book.  Written by Rose Estes, as were the other original batch of EQ books, this one starts out with a decent premise, but there's very flawed execution.

Basically, your village has been cut off, as anyone traveling the mountain pass is now being captured by the monsters in the Mountain of Mirrors.  You've been sent out on a mission to see if you can get through, and armed with a magical blade, the Sword of the Magus (unknown plusses, enemy detection, light on command).  Sounds good, right?

Unfortunately, the major flaw of this book is that it reads like it was written as a novella first, with some choices here and there thrown in after the fact.  Maybe that was the case.  This is just hearsay, but I think I remember reading from Frank Mentzer in his mammoth Q&A thread on Dragonsfoot that Ms. Estes had approached TSR with an idea to write some fantasy books for young adults, and they became the EQ series.  This story might have been written before hand, and adapted.  I'm speculating wildly here, but compared to most EQ books, this one is LINEAR!!!

First off, you don't get any choices at all for the first 22 pages (including standard intro page and 3 full page illustrations), and then that choice is one of those lame "Do you want to give up and go home, or adventure?" choices with obvious results.  Dungeon of Dread and Pillars of Pentagarn both take their time getting started, but this is a bit much.  Then you've got another 10 pages (1 illustration) before the first real interesting choice, and it's a "Try a (which will fail and send you to b), try b (which will work), or try c (which is again giving up)" kind of choice. 

That choice is related to a fairly interesting encounter, though, with a smart-ass talking door made of ice.  Once you're past that, you've given three choices: fight some monsters, run away down some steps, or run down a side corridor.  If you don't go down the steps, you get into a big run-around sort of section where you can get into an endless loop of the same rooms if you just happen to make the same choices over and over again.  There are also about ten or so ways to get to the same 'escape and vow to return with reinforcements' ending (I kept referring to it in my mind as the 'dreaded 75' because of the page it's on). 

In other words, you just run around, facing some monsters (usually ending up dead/captured or at 75 if you face them), seeing a few oddities, and eventually go down those stairs to the second part of the book.  It's reminiscent of the Water Weird room in Dungeon of Dread, in that the one encounter really separates the book into two sections.

In that second section, you manage to meet the natives of the mountain (some sort of earth elemental beings called Guardians) who tell you how to beat the monsters and give you the McGuffin, then rescue some recent captured prisoners (human, elf and halfling), meet a 'blink linx' who comes along but doesn't really do much to help, and then have some choices about what to do next (yeah, it's another long section with no choice...not gonna count the pages this time).  A couple of choices later, and you're fulfilling the mission.  There are a couple good choices at the end finally, which can determine if you get a good ending or just an okay one.

But really, this book, aside from keeping sending you in circles in the first section, doesn't really have that many choices.  Very disappointing.

Now, some of the encounters and monsters in the book are interesting.  There's definitely some good bits of inspiration that could be used in a game.  It's just a rather tedious read.

The cover is a nice Elmore (again with Frost Giant and White Dragon, but this time they're integral to the plot).  The interiors are Jim Holloway.  I like Holloway's style--nicely detailed and expressive.  But something about these pictures sometimes bugs me.  Mainly, the depiction of Landon, who's according to the text a 'teen' elf (120 years) and 5'5", looks like a stubby little Halfling in most of the pictures.  There is a nice cameo by Laurus of Dungeon of Dread among the rescuees, though, in a picture on page 61). 

Overall, this is a fairly forgettable book.  I definitely don't remember reading it when I was young.  So either I didn't read it (doubtful, as my local library had all the early EQ books) or I really did completely forget it. 

Protagonist: Elf with magic sword on first adventure.
Sidekick: a vain talking blink-linx, who doesn't show up until halfway through.
Endings: a decent mix, but too few overall (75 is overused).
Adventure: some decent ideas, but not enough real choice.
Art: Nice cover (Elmore), decent interiors (Holloway).
Overall: Mediocre to poor.


  1. Despite it being mediocre it does sound kind of interesting.

  2. That was a good review, honest and in depth.
    Nice to meet you, and I have to say I love your blog name. I loved those books a kid, still do now. Although Gurgi did drive me crazy, what a nut he was.

  3. Its interesting to see all the different pots TSR had their fingers in; it seemed like they would try pretty much anything to raise awareness of D&D.

  4. This is the second of the two EQ books I had a child (along with Dungeon of Dread), so I find it quite memorable. There are some good ideas in here (the ice door for one), but I recall reading it several times and never being able to make it into the "second half" of the book, as you touched upon, which made it annoying.

    One day while reading it at school I made it into the new areas and I can remember how exciting it was to finally get to see some of the later scenes in context. I liked the big finale, too, with the gem and... I won't spoil it, but it's kinda' spectacular.

    Yes, the opening is really linear for too long, and Landon looks like a halfling. But there are some cool things in here, no pun intended, and the overall concept of entering an ice mountain is pretty unique as an adventure setting. An average book, but certainly not bad.

  5. I touched on it above, but there ARE a lot of cool encounters/characters in the book. A grumpy ogre with an elf-slaying blade, the ice door, the frost giant and pet white dragon, the zombie-fied but not dead slaves...

    I just found it rather poorly designed as a choose-your-own-adventure type book. Hence a 'mediocre to poor' rating in my opinion. Great ideas, crap execution.

  6. Welcome, Lydia! It was the Prydain Chronicles which got me into fantasy, and my first D&D character that survived was named Gwydion after the character in them. Glad you liked the review.

  7. I read about half of your review and then stopped. I remember this book being one of my favorites, though that was thirty years ago. Not that your comments aren't valid, as I'm sure they are. I just didn't want to kill a good memory. The deciding factor to me commenting on your blog? The "Porkins is my Co-Pilot" bit on the side. I blurted out a laugh immediately. Funny, funny, funny. I will share with my all my fans. :)

  8. Sorry to disappoint. I'm looking back on these and I've found a few that seemed really cool when I was young don't hold up so well. Some do, though.

    You didn't read the whole review, so to encapsulate: as a fantasy adventure, there's lots of good stuff (and good inspiration for a D&D game). The structure just fails as a decent "game book."

    And glad you like Porkins!

  9. Really enjoying your overviews of these old Endless Quest books. They were some of my favorites when I was a kid. I remember reading and rereading this one, because I had such a hard time getting to the second half of the book. I remember it being pretty difficult to do that. But as much as I did read it, it was more out of determination to find the good ending, not that I was super compelled by the story.

    Still I did end up using a few ideas in some campaigns later down the road. Keep up the great work on the blog. Love to read your thoughts on "Revenge of the Rainbow Dragons" if you get a chance.