FF2 2

Citadel of Chaos (1983)

First off, this cover for Citadel of Chaos (1983), doofy as it is, is maybe my favorite of the whole Fighting Fantasy line. Can’t quite put my finger on why.

Anyway, this is the second Fighting Fantasy book and a solo outing by Steve Jackson (the Brit). It feels far more consistent in tone than the previous book and is largely non-linear, which is Jackson’s hallmark. Plot-wise, it isn’t all too different from the Firetop Mountain – you’re an adventurer infiltrating the fortress of an evil sorcerer – Balthus Dire – with the express purpose of assassinating him before he can lead his army across the land.

Dire is one of my favorite villains in Fighting Fantasy (I was kind of obsessed with the Trolltooth Wars novel at one point as a kid, and he figures prominently in it). His keep is a strange, almost hallucinogenic place (which makes sense, since he’s a bit of a drug fiend in Trolltooth Wars). The confrontation with him at the end of the book is pretty great, too. Rather than just a regular fight, Jackson’s magic system (his first, which is far more rudimentary than the one in Sorcery) allows for a dramatic back and forth of spells before physical combat and there a couple ways to undo the sorcerer without drawing your sword. It is a satisfying climax.

The art here by Russ Nicholson a little hit or miss for me – I suspect there was a bit of a deadline crunch as you can see a clear difference in the level of detail between some of the illustrations. Which is not to say they are bad, they just have an usual spareness for the often noodly Nicholson.

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