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. This is how a dragon should be portrayed. Even though the adventure is easily completed, overcoming such an opponent ends the book with a sense of satisfaction.
Even though this is far from one of the greats of the series it has many enjoyable elements and perhaps its lack of difficulty would make it one of the better books to start with if you were new to the series.