Friday, November 12, 2010
Endless Quest #2: Mountain of Mirrors
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.