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Talisman of Death (Fighting Fantasy) Paperback – 6 Apr 2006

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840465662
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840465662
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 1.8 x 17.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 381,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Format: Paperback
Written by Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson in 1984, TALISMAN OF DEATH is set in the world of Orb, the setting of their own WAY OF THE TIGER gamebooks.

Drawn from Earth to Orb by the Gods, you are entrusted with the TALISMAN OF DEATH, a powerful artefact required by the Fleshless King and his undead army to slay all true life on Orb and thus rule supreme. You are charged with finding a portal back to your own world and taking the Talisman back with you, so it will be out of the Fleshless King's reach forever. The Undead, Dark Elves, Orcs and the evil priestess Hawkana are also after the Talisman, so a lot of the book involves keeping the Talisman safe and avoiding or fighting parties interested in taking it from you.

This is a first rate gamebook, particularly for fans of the authors' other work. Bob Harvey provides some great illustrations, and various characters from THE WAY OF THE TIGER series make it into this gamebook, which will be a pleasure for fans. THE TALISMAN OF DEATH is very much a Fighting Fantasy gamebook though, using the standard Fighting Fantasy rules and having 400 paragraphs. It is also one of the best books in the entire series, and as such comes highly recommended.
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Format: Unknown Binding
Almost three decades ago, when Talisman of Death was published, it felt like the beginning of a new era to my younger self. Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, who had been struggling to keep up with the demand for FF books, were given the go ahead to bring in new authors for the range, effectively making them script editors. Although Scorpion Swamp had previously been penned by another author, Talisman of Death was really the beginning of this new regime and a flood of varied adventures from many authors followed. It is for this reason that I regard Talisman of Death quite highly in my memory. Unfortunately it doesn't really live up to this memory.

Reading it again many years later, and of course as an adult, I find it a little bit basic. I struggle with the premise that you play a character taken from our world of Earth to engage in a quest in the fantasy world of Orb. It feels a bit like the plot to a children's film or cartoon (but I suppose this book is aimed at children). The adventure is also far too easy, even without the inclusion of the ability to be brought back from the dead rather than starting the book again (an original idea but quite pointless, hence it was never repeated in any other FF books).

Where Talisman really comes to life is in its variety of interesting, well thought out characters (even though there is a sense that this is used as a jumping point to promote Jamie Thomson and Mark Smiths' own series of adventure gamebooks). Hawkana and Thaum are both fully rounded enough in their own right to be the major villains of an FF adventure. But perhaps the most enjoyable characterisation is that of the Red Dragon. This dragon is no slavering beast but an intellectual and devious opponent whose guile is as much of a weapon as his jaws or talons.
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Format: Paperback
"Talisman of Death" co-written by Jamie Thomson and Mark Smith was my introduction to the wider range (and range of style) of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks not to be written by founders Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. One of the simpler adventures, what makes "Talisman of Death" such a success is the genuine fun contained in its simplicity. You are the Chosen One, the Champion from Earth, transported from contemporary Earth to a weird and wonderful realm, populated by colourful peoples, by the Gods of Time and Fate of the otherworld of Orb. You awaken in the beautiful and mysterious Garden of the Gods, suddenly trained in the ways of swordsmanship and survival in a fantastical world, your memories of Earth fading, only dimly able to recall your origins. You are appointed by the Gods to retrieve the ominous-sounding Talisman of Death before the minions of Death recover it and summon the Fleshless One to devastate the world of Orb, and bring it back to Earth where it will have no power.

One of the notable features of the gamebook are the "checkpoints" throughout, meaning that if you take the wrong path or make the wrong decision, you will be resurrected to resume at a certain point, with any advantages or items you may have collected since then lost. Fortunately, you are able to re-attain them, as if nothing had happened. This is a good feature to incorporate, as it makes the narrative itself more interesting to follow, and ingeniously ties into the Decide-your-Destiny, interactive nature of Fighting Fantasy as you are able to change the way past events played out. It does, however, make it less challenging when playing for the first time.

The gameplay is linear, yet never feels restrictive, dull, or repetitive.
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Format: Paperback
Although like all of the series credited to the series creators Jackson and Livingstone, this book was actually authored by Mark Smith and Jamie Thompson, better known for the Way of the Tiger, Duel Master, Falcon and (in Thompson's case) Fabled Lands gamebook series. The title and cover are slightly misleading - this is a high fantasy FF, not a horror title like "Return of the Vampire" or "Beneath Nightmare Castle". It's not especially spooky and the monsters/NPCs include things like trolls, dark elves, orcs, a dragon, griffon, roc, wolf, ninja, chaos god, etc, as well as various undead. The story I found less believable than most FF's, partly because of its reliance on a "transported from your own world" scenario reminiscent of the Dungeons and Dragons TV series, rather than actually placing the character in a fantasy world. This said, it has a good mix of options and elements, and holds together fairly well as a fantasy scenario.

It is not particularly difficult in terms of the plot structure, but it's hard at a statistical level - the player will have to beat several Skill 12 adversaries to succeed, so a high-stats character is a must. This aside, one of my criticisms is that it is too easy in gaming terms, with the "good" choices being fairly obvious in most cases and the actual path through being fairly short - too much text volume is spent on lengthy sidetracks a player will only enter as a result of taking a wrong choice they are unlikely either to make or to repeat. It is therefore only likely to take a few reads to reach the end. Another problem is that it is fairly linear - though branches split within various sections, it splits too easily into three mini-adventures (before, during and after Greyfriars) which are self-contained in relation to each other.
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