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Circus of Fear (1983)

Circus of Fear, the tenth Endless Quest (and eighth by Rose Estes) brings us back to Dungeons & Dragons. Greyhawk, to be specific. In this one, the protagonist is a girl, which I think is a first. Usually, the protagonist is written as gender neutral but portrayed in the art as a boy, so getting not only a named girl character but also girl illustrations feels like a big deal.  

So, I like this one, even though it is a bit odd. It is another Rose Estes book, so it comes with the same relatively low stakes adventure. Also, because the character is a girl and this is the 80s, Laela spends a lot of time making sure everyone knows how helpless she is. Which I guess is fair, since shes been captured and imprisoned in the titular circus. Which brings me to said circus. I love the idea of a D&D circus. I am not sure I buy the idea of an evil circus plotting to take over the world, nor do I really see townsfolk clamoring to see a circus full of monsters. Some of the monsters choices are curious – a kamadan? Crabmen? All is forgiven though, since an owlbear figures prominently in the story. Always loved the idea of an owlbear at the circus (I don’t know if it was from the Deck of Encounters or my own fevered imagination, but one of my all time favorite random encounters I used in Planescape’s Sigil involved a gnomish circus, a broken down circus wagon and an owlbear). The presence and use of doppelgangers is also surprisingly creepy for a book for this age level.

Anyway, a perfectly fine Endless Quest, which is kind of saying a lot!

Sweet Parkinson cover. Interiors are OK, by Kevin Nichols, who I don’t really know.

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