Following on from 2017’s The Hero’s Quest, Fox Yason Productions has released a box set of four more Fighting Fantasy audio dramas. It seems to have no over-arching title (or cover art!), but it picks up on the end of The Hero’s Quest, taking Vale Moonwing, wood elf warrior, from adventure to adventure. I’ve never read any Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, but my assumption here is that writer David N. Smith is reworking a series of standalone adventures into an ongoing narrative about Vale Moonwing’s attempt to hone her magic skills and defeat a mysterious enemy threatening all Allansia.
The first story (co-written by Violet Addison), The Forest of Doom: Lost in Darkwood, sends Vale Moonwing after Yaztromo, a wizard who can help de-enchant her ally from The Hero’s Quest. Yaztromo is in trouble, though, and she ends up having to help with the aid of a talking crow. Yaztromo is a crotchety old guy who wants primarily to be left alone, and surely David Warner has never been given a role more suited to his talents than this. He is an utter delight as Yaztromo, grouching it up at Vale Moonwing (no one ever seems to call her just “Vale” or just “Moonwing”), his pet crow, goblins, and just generally anyone who crosses his path, be they friend or foe. Other than Rachel Atkins as Vale Moonwing, his is the best performance in the whole set, and makes you wish there was a version of The Lord of the Rings where he played Gandalf. I also enjoyed Nina Clarke’s performance as the crow, which manages to do a lot with what could be an unforgiving part. The story itself is fun enough.
Each progressive story builds on the last. Vale Moonwing goes undercover as a potential bride of a dark wizard in The Citadel of Chaos: Terror of the Ganjees in order to kill some zombies; Vale Moonwing joins a foolish tournament organised by Baron Sukumvit (played by Charlie Higson, author of the Young Bond series!) in Deathtrap Dungeon: The Last Champion; and Vale Moonwing almost loses herself as a dark threat spreads across the whole land in Creature of Havoc: The Monster of Dree. To be honest, how much you enjoy all this will likely be determined by how much you can stand dialogue like, “But of course! I should have known that only a scourge such as you would have chanced such dire magics. Foul magics require a foul mind.” (Not a real quote, but I feel like it could be.) My own tolerance varied; sometimes I was swept up in the ridiculousness of it all, but I found that the more the stakes increased, the less I followed what was going on — or cared to. Suddenly there’s a trio of dark wizards, and betrayals of mentors you’ve never even met, and I dunno, it all got a bit out of hand, losing the sharp focus of The Hero’s Quest and The Forest of Doom.
If epic fantasy is more your thing than it is mine, however, it seems likely that you’ll get more out of the Fighting Fantasy box set. It’s a well put together production: well cast, with good sound design that brings these historic stories to life for a whole new age and medium.
The untitled box set containing The Forest of Doom: Lost in Darkwood, The Citadel of Chaos: Terror of the Ganjees, Deathtrap Dungeon: The Last Champion, and Creature of Havoc: The Monster of Dree (by David N. Smith, Violet Addison; starring Rachel Atkins, David Warner, Nina Clarke) was released by Fox Yason Productions in December 2018.