Midnight Rogue (1987)

So, for a long time, Midnight Rogue (1987) was my favorite Fighting Fantasy book. I like thieves. This book is about an elaborate test of thieving skills to gain entrance into Blacksands’ thieves guild, by stealing a massive gem. You get thieving skills in addition to the regular FF rules (you only get three, though, so make sure one of them is lockpicking or you’re going to be frustrated). Then you go about the city, shaking people down for clues and generally being a menace to polite society. Stu circa 1990 ate this up.

2023 Stu, fresh off a recent re-read, is a little grumbly. Those things above are true, but here are some more facts. The whole thing is shockingly linear. Like, nearly straight as an arrow if you’re not picking the daftest options. There are also a fair number of errors in the book, which is not a thing I usually notice or care overmuch about with gamebooks, which means these must be rather glaring. And the ending, dear god, talk about a St. Elsewhere-level betrayal of a twist. I legit did not remember this from back in the day, to the point I genuinely wonder if I ever finished the damn book as a kid. All the aggravating things about this book smack harder because the core concept is such a good one, and for the most part the book carries it off. Perfection was so close!

Ah, but this is why you should sometimes be content to experience a thing once. At the very least, I got to appreciate the John Sibbick art with newly adoring eyes, now that I have a better understanding of his place in the UK fantasy art traditions. Cover and interiors are both him. I particularly like the first-person views of thieving maneuvers going wrong. Fun stuff.

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