Posts Tagged ‘ James M. Ward ’

Paths of Doom Books

The Lost Sword coverSete-Ka's Dream Quest coverRealm of the Enchanter cover

Coincidentally, after writing about Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) stories, I happened to find three “Paths of Doom” books that I’d been given and stashed away years ago. They didn’t look like something I’d normally pay much attention to, but it was a perfect time to check them out.

For the most part, this line of books doesn’t stray too far from the classic CYOA formula. The simple journeyman writing leads to choices with often arbitrary consequences, the only real innovation being that the reader must find the single happy ending. I also found it interesting that these books are written in the third person, though most CYOAs are about the adventures that “you” have. The settings are consistently high fantasy, and are probably best for slightly higher age levels than the original CYOAs, due to the larger word count and frequent deaths.

Overall, I thought that these minor tweaks worked well. By featuring protagonists who were not supposed to be me, the books were able to offer a little more variety than I expected. The single ideal ending also gave them a puzzle-like quality, which should work well for anyone who carefully bookmarks the branching points and tries to read it all. It would probably be more frustrating for people who just want to read through a few times from the beginning. And while the writing certainly isn’t very good by the standards of standard linear stories, these do read more coherently than most branching plot books. However, the final result is still a little too silly and similar to the gimmicky 80’s books for me to truly recommend them, either.

It’s also worth noting how inconsistent the formats of these different books are. Two feature storytelling text in the bold sentences that offer choices, while one simply says “If the hero does this, turn to page XX.” One fits the instructions about how to use the book on the same page that the story opens, while the others separate those two parts. One uses a different font size than the others. And all three take a different structural approach to how the stories branch and whether two different threads can rejoin each other. While those don’t necessarily make the books worse, they do make me doubt that there was any real planning or long-term support for this line. It’s not surprising that, as far as I can tell, it went out of print almost immediately.

Here are my impressions of the books that I read.

Continue reading