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City of Thieves (Fighting Fantasy) Paperback – 4 Feb 2010
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`Absoltuely ideal as a gift for the nines-plus, these are books the keen reader/adventurer will enjoy.' -- Caroline Franklin, n2 Going Out the Arts
About the Author
Ian Livingstone is, with Steve Jackson, the originator of the Fighting Fantasy series. Since Fighting Fantasy's huge success, he has become a major figure in world of computer games, and is currently Creative Director of Eidos, the name behind Tomb Raider. He was recently made an OBE.
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However, the new editions, leave a lot to desire. At least, they are being printed again and for that I am grateful.
If only the new illustrations were better...
Great fun and cheap immersive entertainment for the proto-geeks in your life.
BUT new covers are ARRRRGGGHHHH awful. My 5 yr nephew could do better! Why change from the McCaig classic?! As if the artist not even bothered to read the book?!
There is no doubt that Port Blacksand is one of Ian Livingstone's most successful creations in the Fighting Fantasy range. The cultural and historical aspects of the city work well. It is highly atmospheric and has a sense that this is a living, working community (albeit of many dubious practices). It's problem is that it is a little too linear. There is no chance to backtrack or revisit areas you have previously visited and what you do in one area has little bearing or effect on another. These issues can make the adventure frustrating as it means vital items and information are easily missed by opting to turn left instead of right (the sun tattoo is a good example of this). Some of these flaws have been addressed by later Fighting Fantasy adventures that have contained a strong urban element, the best examples being 'Master of Chaos' and 'Moonrunner'.
The black tower of Zanbar Bone works as an excellent contrast to the city. It is eerie and claustrophobic with a real sense of dread. Whereas much of the city , despite the dangers, has the illusion of being somewhat pleasant as you walk around shopping and interacting with various characters. As you head to the black tower the difficulty level increases. There are some strong opponents and you will need to have found the right equipment in Port Blacksand to face them and ultimately Zanbar Bone. The hardest part of the book is preparing for Zanbar Bone.
Zanbar Bone, himself, is an accomplished creation but a little under-utilised. He could do with a larger appearance and needs to be more interactive with the reader. The book also fails to explain exactly what he is. He is clearly some formed undead but other than that... It also isn't really explained what his Moon Dogs are. Zanbar Bone looks fantastic though and the artist, Iain McCaig, has done a stirling job realising him (there are even rumours that Bone inspired the appearance of Darth Maul).
Some of your other opponents also contain a lot of character. Sourbelly and Fatnose are quite amusing whereas the hag and the serpent queen permeate evil. You will get to interact with urchins, merchants, drunks, shopkeepers, city guards and market street traders; anyone you might expect to find in a city. Unfortunately Lord Azzur, despite re-occurring mentions, never makes an appearance.
Nicodemus is another fascinating character that could have benefitted from a longer appearance. It is a shame he doesn't reappear in later FF adventures as Yaztromo does. But then he is a little similar to Yaztromo.
'City of Thieves' greatest strength is probably its influence on the FF range and the legacy it leaves behind. Port Blacksand clearly captured the imagination of many readers in the eighties. The city gets a few more mentions and appearances in other FF books, most notably 'Temple of Terror', the later adventure 'Midnight Rogue is also set there and it spawned its own spin-off with the Dungeoneer book 'Port Blacksand'. This is yet another strong adventure that helped to establish the series.
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