Macmillan, £5.99, ISBN 0-330-34431-5
The Court of Hidden Faces is the fifth 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.
In The Court of Hidden Faces, you venture into the lands of Uttaku and Old Harkuna, where influences from feudal Europe dominate in the setting. Uttaku is clearly influenced by the Byzantine empire while Old Harkuna is an Arthurian-type of place, complete with a dead king that can be revived for the good of the land. Of course, you can always try to rule your own territory, heh. However, most of the quests here are fairly impossible for people who are just starting out, so this is not a recommended entry point for newcomers. Newcomers should opt for the simpler earlier gamebooks in this series, because the quests here are tough and challenging even for mid-level adventurers.
As an open-ended gamebook, there are also many options that will take you to other gamebooks in this series, so having them by your side is always a good idea. 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. There is probably nothing much here to wow someone who prefers the effervescence afforded by World Of Warcraft, but gamebook enthusiasts may find ample novelty value in this experiment to savor.