`The Shamutanti Hills' is the opening chapter to Fighting Fantasy's only multi-book series, `Sorcery'. Even sequels to popular books `Deathtrap Dungeon' and `The Warlock of Firetop Mountain' were still essentially standalone adventures.
Apart from being a four book adventure, the Sorcery series' main difference from the main FF range was the intricate magic system that involved the reader having to memorise the spell book in advance and find certain items that were needed for each spell. This adds a whole new and enjoyable level of playability. Of course there is the option to play as a wizard or a warrior. This is somewhat of a misnomer though because it is actually impossible to complete the whole series as a warrior despite what the introduction might say. Besides, if you don't play as a wizard you miss out on much that makes this adventure enjoyable and different.
As the starting episode to this epic series, `The Shamutanti Hills' works very effectively. It is a lot less tense than the three books that follow, forgivingly easing the reader into this epic. Inspired by Steve Jackson's hike through Nepal, there is something of a relaxing trip through exotic territory to this adventure despite its dangers. There is much variety to terrain and encounters and a large array of villains and allies. Jann is certainly one of the more memorable allies of Fighting Fantasy.
This is a fairly easy adventure to complete. However, there is more to it than simply reaching the end. There are multiple levels of playability that are not initially apparent. This is because there is much to do or be collected that is relevant to the later books in the series. You can easily miss something important without realising. This gives the book a lot of scope for replaying and exploring. With more passages than the typical FF adventure as well, this book is well worth the money.
THE SHAMUTANTI HILLS is the first part of Steve Jackson's SORCERY gamebook quartet. It follows the standard Fighting Fantasy rules, with the inclusion of an excellent magic system, allowing you to play as either a warrior or a wizard. Both types of characters can fight monsters as normal, and wizards can use magic to aid them, as they are less proficient fighters than warriors.
You are a hero of Analand, who must reclaim the Crown of Kings, an artefact stolen by the Archmage of far away Mampang, and THE SHAMUTANTI HILLS details the first leg of your journey.
Written for older readers and adults, the text in the SORCERY books is small, but the adventure is exciting and made all the more epic by spanning four books. The magic system works well and is a real treat (the descriptions of what all 48 spells do are listed in the back of each book) and it is nice to use magic rather than simply fighting everything you encounter. John Blanche provides an assortment of interesting illustrations to the book too.
THE SHAMUTANTI HILLS, first published in 1983 really is an excellent gamebook. It is published in a larger format than standard Fighting Fantasy books (despite the smaller text size) and has 456 paragraphs. Two dice, a pencil and an eraser are all that is needed to play through this excellent first book.
I really like this book and the Sorcery series in general. While Steve Jackson may not be the best writer in the world, his books have always outshone Ian Livingstone's when it comes to creativity, variety and, most importantly, fairness in the case of combat. Shamutanti Hills is kind of a test run, and the setting is quite an interesting, well-realised environment; that said, there are still some absurd elements in them thar hills, such as losing a ridiculous amount of Stamina points upon being pelted by acorns of all things, not to mention the overpriced inns and their far from affordable menus. And while I find it far more fun to play as a wizard, I think the rule about not being able to refer to the spellbook for a second time once you have begun your adventure is a bit unfair; while I appreciate you would not have time to stand around reading spells when faced by an opponent, I fail to see why you would not be able to take a quick refresher course when camped out of an evening, or after forking out a fortune in an inn. Not sure I would enjoy the Sorcery series quite so much if a different artist had been involved, as John Blanche's unusual style of illustrations really make the crazy land of Kakhabad come alive. In Kharé - Cityport of Traps there are one or two examples where he comes across as the L. S. Lowry of Fighting Fantasy, although admittedly his art looks as though he was running out of steam by the final book.
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.
Despite the fact I'm now old enough to have children of the age the Sorcery! books are aimed at, re-reading the Shamutanti Hills reveals my happy memories to be more than just nostalgia.
It's surprisingly well written, properly illustrated and most dangers are reasonably clearly signposted - apart from near the end, where your character is unlikely to survive if you were unlucky earlier in the book. In particular, if sensible choices are made, the character plays as a mage and there is a modicum of luck, it's possible to get through the entire book with only one fight.
I'm particularly pleased that it appears possible to get out of almost any adverse situation, if you are lucky, which is not my recollection of the sequels - but it was 20+ years ago, so I can't be certain! Worth a go.
I hadn't read a fighting fantasy book for years, but I remember I really loved the old Steve Jackson stories, particularly House of Hell. So I picked this one up as a treat to remind myself of the old days. Well I'd forgotten how much fun these could be and just how good Steve Jackson is at making them such fun and yet still making them dark tales of the macabre and not too easy either! This was quite a challenge and also a great story.