You see - being honest now - Oliver is not great on rules. Unlike me, he won't do a detailed map and intricate flowcharts. Having a background in English literature, he doesn't share my scientist's delight at probabilities, patterns and problem-solving. And he doesn't write as fast, while I can churn this stuff out by the yard.
I'm not saying my writing is bad, mind you. People have been complimentary about lines like this:
By day you sail on lavender waves under a vault of azure and gold. By night the sails gleam dazzlingly white in the rays of the moon, and each star finds its twin in the dark ocean depths.So there's some poetry in my soul too. It's not all equations and graphs. But literary talent has never been about pretty writing - it's about that and much more. It's the ability to convey a palpable atmosphere, a resonance of theme, to vividly evoke character, and to give the sense of the author's personal presence through the voice of their writing.
So if I had written Shadow Keep - or co-written it, as originally intended - you would have got an adventure with some clever puzzles, a map that made sense, encounters that were balanced according to the statistics of 2d6 rolls. Even nice writing. But you wouldn't have got that strange, Gothic-drenched, opiated dream quality that Oliver does as naturally as breathing, because it's something he absorbed into his pores while studying Byron and Shelley and those other poetical fellows. The only recent example of such exquisite pre-Victorian Gothic Romanticism to match it is in Fumito Ueda's Ico and Shadow of the Colossus games. Watch for that same flavour in Oliver's forthcoming fantasy series The Knight of the Fields.
The Shadow Keep cover painting by Bruno Elletori (or Elettori, or Ellitori, depending on how long the cover designer spent at lunch that day) is not really ideal. The illustrations should have been by a Victorian artist thoroughly steeped in Gothic. For the interiors on this new edition, we've used Irish artist Harry Clarke, best known for his Edgar Allen Poe illustrations. I know purists will grumble. We'll get some withering reviews on Amazon for changing things around. But you can still get the original version for a penny, so no harm done.
If you want to see the Gothic design for the new edition, it's out now from Fabled Lands Publishing. At a cost of more than a penny, I'm afraid, but we'll be sure to spend the profits on laudanum, quills and parchment for the next great Johnson opus.