Shadow on the Sand

Shadow on the Sand – Conclusion

Before I start on my thoughts regarding Shadow on the Sand, I will just mention that I have, as with my Way of the Tiger page, placed a PayPal donation button on the right-hand side of the home page of this playthrough.  These posts will always remain available to all free of charge.  However, for those who wish to make a voluntary contribution to express their enjoyment of this series, there is now a convenient way to do so.

I deliberately didn’t put the button up when I first started the page, because I wanted to have a body of work actually present before asking for any sort of acknowledgement from anyone.

I’ve also added ‘shortcut’ tabs at the bottom of each post so that, if you wish, you can ‘share’ my posts on Facebook, Twitter or WordPress.

So – Shadow on the Sand.


Let’s be honest.  There is a a LOT to be impressed by when it comes to this book.  In terms of the world-building and writing, involving the creation of an entirely new country / capital, with its rulership, customs and geography, it is impressive.

Although certain cliches and shortcuts regarding so-called ‘Arab culture’ are utilised, it is notable that many different locations and environments are believably integrated into the one adventure.  Even with only two attempts, my character :

  1. Swam through the harbour;
  2. Ran through the market of the capital;
  3. Held my nose as I stumbled (literally) through the sewers.
  4. Skulked through the palace, including towers, throne rooms, dungeons and gardens.
  5. Explored the desert, including oases, regional towns and forests.
  6. Rode on the back of a flying creature, including airborne battles.
  7. Finished with a (brief) old-style dungeon-crawl, complete with final boss.

Oh, and did I mention the FLYING SHIP??

Image result for lone wolf shadow on the sand

The re-appearance of Banedon is a nice nod to continuity.  However, I imagine that Joe Dever wishes he had constructed Flight From the Dark so as to make a meeting with Banedon more inevitable, given that it is very very possible to complete that entire (first) book without the (retrospectively) momentous meeting even taking place!

As I mentioned at the time, the fact that there is a ‘new sheriff in town’ was pretty clearly telegraphed near the start of the adventure.  It may have added to the intrigue if the true nature of the new Zakhan was more of a mystery, with Lone Wolf having the (seemingly valid) option of accompanying the escort back to the palace, with the nature of the trap only becoming gradually apparent.

The possibility of catching ‘Limbdeath’ was a fascinating sub-quest within the early third of the adventure.  Although the mechanism of ensuring that Lone Wolf caught the disease was clumsy and hamhanded (tripping over? really?), the effect of the disease was suitably ominous and fear-inducing.  Also, I liked the mechanism whereby if you did endure the disease (and then found the cure) you were ‘rewarded’ with the extra dose of Oede which was useful for the rest of the adventure.


Shadow on the Sand (Lone Wolf #5) - Joe Dever

The breaking of the adventure into two ‘parts’ didn’t really seem to serve any practical purpose, apart from emphasising that every path through the adventure had to take you past the conversation between Kimah and Haakon, with the corresponding revelation regarding the Book of the Magnakai.  I support it could be argued that paragraph 200 is where the adventure changes from a mere attempt to escape the Zakhan’s trap to a quest to recover the Book of the Magnakai.  It is also certainly true that the extra 50 paragraphs to the book (400 rather than 350) was a welcome addition that added to the ‘epic feel’ of the adventure.

In terms of difficulty, this is an adventure where the possession of 9 Kai Disciplines (rather than 5) makes a massive difference.  Until the final confrontation, there were no particularly difficult fights, but the ability to pass every Kai Discipline check (since Weaponskill was never called upon) certainly negated the effect of any possible missteps during the adventure.


Image result for lone wolf shadow on the sand

In terms of faults, the book wasn’t always well-constructed.  In particular, the logic around the escape from the palace into the guard tower was flawed, and was one of the example of the weakness in the gamebook format, as Lone Wolf was fairly unceremoniously shuffled in a particular direction, notwithstanding the clearly more appropriate choices which were obviously available to him.

Image result for lone wolf shadow on the sand

I’ve mentioned the difficulty with the famous ‘map’ puzzle.  Loyal reader Fenrir has pointed out that the solution to the “How many cities….” question was in fact contained in a posted notice briefly sighted by Lone Wolf if he followed one particular path early in the adventure.  However,  the directions for the puzzle could (in my opinion) have been improved with an exhortation to, say “Check the map, and also any other information which you may have gained on your adventure so far.”  I have always considered that the book pretty explicitly leads you to believe that all necessary information to solve the puzzle is contained within the map.

Image result for ombre sulla sabbia lone wolf

Aside : How good is the above picture??  Expand to get a proper look.

In terms of combat difficulty, Joe Dever starts here to explicitly differentiate between adventurers who have the Sommerswerd and those who don’t.  Incarnations of Lone Wolf who have the Sommerswerd have to make a couple of correct choices and win fights again Combat Skill 24 and 28 enemies in rapid succession.  By contrast, non-Sommerswerd adventurers only have to defeat a Combat Skill 20 enemy before being able to ‘insta-kill’ Haakon.  While I understand that Mr Dever didn’t want to make the book too easy for Sommerswerd wielders, it seems counter-productive to actually make it harder to complete the book with the Sommerswerd than without it.

Generally, this is a rightly beloved gamebook, and a fine capstone to the Kai ‘series’.  The lack of an overall ‘arc’ for books 3-5 was slightly damaging, as I think the whole ‘get summoned from the Kai Monastery to help the King with a tasks suitable for no-one else’ thing gets a little old after a while.

Next : The Magnakai series, with some huge power-ups for Lone Wolf!


8 thoughts on “Shadow on the Sand – Conclusion

  1. Regarding the final confrontation with Haakon, you could have chosen to not retrieve the Sommerswerd once you dropped it. That would have made the final sequence easier, especially since you had the Jewelled Mace. I think Joe was actually trying to get us to think strategically here; going for the ‘swerd causes you to lose valuable time and thus be forced into a tougher battle. In later books it becomes simply a matter of being required to face a tougher combat with the ‘swerd which I agree is a bit illogical.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for that. I didn’t check all permutations although (as you see) I quickly looked after the fact to see what hurdles existed if you didn’t have the Sommerswerd. I also couldn’t clarify whether Darklords qualify as ‘undead’ for the purposes of 2x Sommerswerd damage.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not retrieving the Sommerswerd however causes Haakon to send a blast of lightning on the pillar, causing you to “Erase the Sommerswerd from your Action Chart”. It’s true that you can win the book with more ease if you don’t retrieve it, I don’t think it’s worth losing the megasword for good… I am not sure you get the opportunity to do some archelogical digging of your own at the end of the book to unearth it again…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A shame you never got to Section 315 (thanks, Project Aon), which features one of the most memorable passages I read in my childhood (and I read a LOT), It expertly described what was happening on the awesome cover my book had, which you can see in the collection at the top, where you sky-battle the Vordak and, when asked, do in fact have the Sommerswerd:

    “As you unsheathe the Sommerswerd, a vivid golden flame shoots along the blade. The Vordak shrieks in terror, its blood-drenched bony fingers clawing at a black iron mace that hangs from its belt. It raises the mace to parry your blow, but the sun-sword shears through the iron, a splash of blue flame erupting in its wake. You strike again, curving the golden blade in a great arc. It bites into the Vordak’s neck, tearing through its unnatural body, and severing it diagonally from collarbone to hip. A sickening acidic smell chokes your throat as a fountain of green slime erupts from beneath the red robe. The Vordak crumples and topples from view, its dissolving corpse hissing as its spirals towards Lake Inrahim.”

    Like a climax in a great adventure movie, and it felt like it was happening to me, because I’d been playing Lone Wolf through 4+ books. Love love loved it.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. The moment you started with complimenting the book I just knew there was going to be criticism later.

    Good point regarding a compulsory meeting with Banedon in Flight. Until Shadow there could be a tendency to try the different routes (of which you pointed out how many there are) but after Shadow there’s a tendency to just take the Banedon route which greatly reduces the richness of Flight. But a compulsory meeting with him would allow the players to then spread out in whatever way’s they chose.

    Personally I didn’t find that the splitting of the book “didn’t really seem to serve any practical purpose” as I can remember my childish (well, adolescent) thrill at the feeling that I had two gamebooks for the price of one (even if they were small one’s). That thrill stays with me as my latest play through proved. However, if you didn’t get that thrill I’d agree it would feel a bit arbitrary.

    The escape from the Zakhan’s palace is … problematic. First play through we’re trying to go one way while Joe Dever want’s us to go another, next play through we go straight to the roof. I can see the flaws, but I don’t know how I could have done it any better.

    Having doubt as to the intentions of the new Zakhan would certainly have given us a different story, but that’s the thing, it would have been a different story. We do have times where Lone Wolf isn’t sure how a ruler is going to react (especially in The Cauldron of Fear) but this was to be swashbuckling from the start and in that it succeeded (with the exception of the occasional slapstick). On that matter, whatever Joe Dever’s thinking re the battle with Darklord Haakon I do know that by that stage, having had to swim through filthy water, run through a hot city (which is harder than you’d think), stumble through a sewer getting seriously infected along the way, seen every Vassagonian friend I’d made had been murdered, sneaked into the very place I’m trying to avoid, yell “BAD KITTY BAD KITTY” when attacked by an Elix (and me a cat lover), run like a frightened puppy from two monstrously powerful enemies and their hordes of troops, flown through the air with NO greatness of ease before having the opportunity to plummet to the ground, TWO chances of arbitrary sudden death, and finally a math’s problem that once you get is never a challenge again …. well, lets just say that I greatly welcomed the opportunity to pound that Darklord into a bloody pulp, and I’d have done it again if I could.

    I am surprised and rather chuffed that this time I spotted something that some other’s hadn’t. Usually I’m reading your blog or other’s comments and going “I never saw that, I never saw that either”, am all blushing now.

    As an aside I agree that’s one awesome cover.

    A glowing and eminently fair critique, praise and criticisms. If I hadn’t played the book i’d have wanted to after reading your review. Am looking forward to The Magnakai Series and The Kingdoms of Terror.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In order to meet Banedon in book 1, you must have Sixth Sense, but in book 2, having Sixth Sense leads to an unavoidable 5% chance of instant death, so in a very real sense, meeting Banedon before book 5 is not on the optimal path.

    Apart from when fighting the Chaosmaster, all the times in the Magnakai series where Lone Wolf is penalised for having the Sommerswerd can be avoided in a similar way to book 5. Incidentally, if you haven’t played the Project Aon versions before, you may be pleasantly surprised by some of the harder combats, which have been toned down slightly when compared with the original editions.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Apparently Joe decided that, in retrospect, the meeting with Banedon in Flight was an important plot point so in the extended version it is moved to somewhere close to the middle of the book and is at a “chokepoint” of the story (i.e., one of the places where almost all choices will lead you regardless). It is not obligatory, there are a few ways past it, but most reasonable choices will lead to it now.

    Gave me quite a shock the first time, when the standard Sixth Sense choice at the crossroads did not lead where I expected it to…

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s