The Eye of Winter’s Fury by Michael J Ward

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The Eye of Winter’s Fury by Michael J Ward

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A sort of Choose Your Own Adventure for adults, The Eye of Winters Fury is a hugely exciting and involving book. The game mechanisms may take some getting used to, but you’ll soon be hooked.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 720 Date: April 2015
Publisher: Gollancz
ISBN: 978-0575095618

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The Cold North awaits you… War is coming to Valeron, where an ill and ineffectual king is beset on all sides by the scheming of ambitious men. His youngest son, Prince Arran is sent on a fool’s errand, with the real threat waiting to be revealed. Your are Prince Arran. The ghost prince, a sickly boy haunts the palace library. As danger threatens, you must finally prove yourself. Will you defy fate and become a great hero of legend? You decide in this epic fantasy adventure. The cold north awaits you… are you ready for the challenge?

As a child I was a huge fan of the Choose Your Own Adventure books, books written from a second person point of view that allowed the reader to take control of their destiny – making decisions that could lead to death, arrest, abandonment, or riches, love and happiness for the main character. They were a fantastic idea for those with developing imaginations, and I reread my favourite one frequently – rather enamoured with the idea of falling back in time and becoming friends with Robin Hood.

The Eye of Winters Fury is a reminder of that wonderful series, as well as the 'Fighting Fantasy' books – books aimed at an older audience that introduce far more complicated game elements. Whilst the rules for The Eye of Winters Fury stretch over thirteen pages, they are fairly easy to master – although perhaps the large amount of time I spend playing board games have got me used to the 'Roll a dice to pass this guard', 'You pick up a knife that gives you +5 Dexterity'... style of play. Those not used to it will need some practice, and probably a note book in order to keep track of what your character has and what is happening to him – you’ll pick items up, loose them, change jobs, die, be reborn and much more. Don’t be put off though – this is terrific fun. I had a massive grin on my face when I was playing this, and there is something very appealing about being in charge of a character's fate. In addition, there is the ability to join up with other players, either working in a team or fighting against each other, which could prove great fun. My only real issue with the book was the main character – these books normally provide the reader with few details for the lead character, enabling them to build one of their own. Here, the character is named as Prince Arran, leaving opportunities for that severely limited, and I found that a slight disappointment.

Game mechanics aside, this is a well written fantasy novel. I struggle to comprehend just how difficult these things must be to write, what with the hundreds of different directions the character is allowed to take – no reading of this could ever be the same. Michael J Ward has done a cracking job, building a tale that engages no matter where you choose to take your character and ensures that there are no truly bad options – your character may be torn apart by wolves, may be locked in a dungeon for eternity, or may end up ruling the Kingdom, but it’ll always be an enjoyable read. It’s all part of a very traditional fantasy tale, in a world beautifully portrayed on the inside of the cover. There are no genre defying moments or pieces of particular storytelling brilliance – but an extremely solid story in which you are the star. Well worth a read for those who enjoy fantasy, game playing, or merely have a nostalgia for the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books.

Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.

For further reading, I would recommend The Dagger and Coin: The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham – a book that takes traditional fantasy and goes to intriguing and original new places with great writing and superb characterisation.

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