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Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Drenched in blood

This may be of interest only to the most ardent gamebook collectors or lovers of trivia (hmm, possibly two completely overlapping sets...) but, after all, what's a blog for if not to show off the most obscure of curiosities?

These were the original covers for the Blood Sword gamebooks, which later became the basis for my kids' fantasy series The Chronicles of the Magi. There was a general feeling at the publisher, and Oliver and I agreed, that these covers just didn't have "it". New paintings were duly commissioned. We weren't complaining. It was nice to know our publisher cared.

My only regret: when I had finally been persuaded that the series should be called Blood Sword, I said, "Okay, but what I'd really, really hate is if the logo has blood dripping off it." You see, in the '70s there had been a great little periodical called The Magazine of Horror, which reprinted stories from Weird Tales and other pulps of the '30s and '40s, and the editor, Robert A W Lowndes, and most of his readers were forever lamenting MOH's crass, gore-drenched masthead. Thankfully for Lowndes, he finally managed to get his art director to see sense.

When the new Blood Sword covers arrived, the art director had added a new logo. With, of course, lashings of bright red blood. Arrrrrgh.


  1. No blood in French ! It is "l'Epée de Légende" !


  2. Thank goodness for that! If we ever reissue those books, "The Sword of Legend" would be a much better title.

    My other big regret about titles was on the fourth FL book. It was supposed to be called "Devils and Howling Darkness", from a quote by Marco Polo about what lay beyond the Great Wall. But the publisher and W H Smith were both concerned about that. They seemed to think that religious fundamentalists would boycott the book or something. I can't believe that fundamentalists would be reading FL, and anyway it was "devils" not "the devil". I should have told them I was renaming it "Satan Wants Your Child" but instead, after a 3-hour argument, I gave in and it became the distinctly underwhelming "Plains of Howling Darkness". But only when the Smiths rep said he'd order 3000 fewer copies if it had devil in the title. Money talked :-(

  3. Btw Olivier, which covers were used on the French edition?

  4. Hi

    You can see the French covers for all of the Blood Sword books on

    The cover for the French "The Battlepits of Krarth" used the alternate cover you mention in your post.

    Thanks for this post about the Blood Sword series: they were my favourite gamebooks when I was growing up in faraway South Africa.


  5. (I'm back !)

    Here you can see that the covers of the first English edition were used for the sole French edition:
    Despite their quality, these gamebooks had no second edition, as the decline of this kind of product began and the new leaders of the edition house did not want to take risks anymore.
    The logo of all gamebooks by Folio Junior was a badge on the spine and at the bottom of the cover frontpage. The logo for "les Terres de Légende" and "L'Epée de Légende" was similar: the black shadow of a huge castle with two glowing eyes, and flashes on the sky. But the sky was blue for les Terres de Légende, and red for l'Epée de Légende.
    One of my friend had asked me what this logo represented. I answer to him this was the dragon Helgyrak under the fortress of Rathurbosk in the Gouge...
    I like the cover for the sole edition of "les Treize Mages". At the beginning, I thought the fortress in the background was Krarth, but soon realised there was no bottomless moat around it. And it is too sophisticated to be Kalugen's fortress. It was a good idea to present the four categories of heroes in the foreground, though, in my opinion, they're too scantily clad for the climate of Krarth...
    I had adapted the "trickster" (voleur) into a new category for les "Terres de Légende". He/she had the same values as the assassins of Book 4, but some skills were different, modelled after the ones in "l'Epée de Légende".

  6. @Pete - glad you enjoyed the BS books. I enjoyed writing them; it was at a great time in our role-playing campaign when we could get in at least one game a week (no wives or kids in those days) and a lot of the player-characters had walk-on parts, eg Sir Tobias.

    @Olivier - yep, you do need to wrap up warm if you're spending the winter in Krarth. The girl in the picture there would be freezing. I'm as baffled by the fortress as you are. The artist probably intended it to be Kalugen's Keep but it is far too elegant-looking for that.

  7. I remember recommending the series to a mate and when he heard the name, he said "Blood Sword?!?" with a bit of a sneer!

    Still, if he never read them then he doesn't know what he missed. They were the finest written gamebooks I've ever played (I've just discovered 'Fabled Lands' and FLAPP), even ahead of 'The Way of the Tiger'.

  8. Well, Rob, I'm very flattered that you liked them - although I sympathize a bit with your mate, because I was never happy with the name Blood Sword and would probably have had a bit of a sneer myself, if I were in his shoes.

  9. My eyes, they hurt.

    Magnificent series - the most novelistic gamebooks I ever encountered (bar Life's Lottery). The later volumes (specifically books 4 and 5) seem to be much more linear than the earlier ones - care to comment?

  10. Jon - probably because we were gradually moving away from the Fighting Fantasy type of dungeon bash (where replayability is everything) and towards the idea of "interactive novels". And, as Kim Newman discovered when writing Life's Lottery, delivering a satisfying interactive novel means you need to focus down on fewer paths through the narrative, otherwise you just end up with lots of death paragraphs - or, at any rate, sudden ends that clip off the wayward branches of the narrative tree.