Macmillan, £5.99, ISBN 0-330-34172-3
Over the Blood-Dark Sea is the third book in an ambitious gamebook series called Fabled Lands. Designed to be similar in many ways to an MMORPG game, you will “live” out your adventures in a world of fantasy and magic. Instead of an overlying mission arc, you will, like ordinary folks too, take up mini-quests, get a job, buy a house, and even obtain a ship to sail off to faraway lands and trade. Basically, you can do a lot of mundane things here except making whoopee and doing other naughty things not sanctioned in a PG-rated gamebook. Therefore, you can easily start off in this gamebook and make your way back or forth to other gamebooks in this series. Things are flexible like that in Fabled Lands.
Over the Blood-Dark Sea is not recommended as a starting point for players because this one comprises tough and even confusing missions that will take place in the islands both charted and uncharted in the Violet Ocean. From the mysterious academia of Sorcerers’ Isle to the dangerous trading post of Smogmaw in the Feathered Lands, you will be sailing and getting into trouble as if you are the new Sinbad the Sailor. Take note that there is a very strong chance that you will only spend a short time here before being asked to proceed to another gamebook in this series, so make sure you have the other gamebooks close at hand.
Like everything else about Fabled Lands, this one will be fun if you don’t mind the constant note-taking and the lack of overlying plot line. You are, after all, living out a campaign here and you are pretty much playing a written version of an MMORPG game. For Over the Blood-Dark Sea, though, it comes off as slightly lacking compared to the previous gamebooks in this series due to its lack of a singular cohesive interesting setting and the fact that this gamebook serves more as an intermediary between the other gamebooks than anything else. While experienced adventurers in this series can find plenty of do here, novices are advised to start with any of the previous two gamebooks. This one doesn’t have much room for mistakes.