Legend of the Shadow Warriors

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Legend of the Shadow Warriors (ISBN 0-14-034272-9) is a single player roleplaying gamebook written by Stephen Hand, illustrated by Martin McKenna and first published in 1991. It forms part of the long-running Fighting Fantasy series, numbered 44 in the original Puffin edition and not yet included in the Wizard reissuing.

Although based in the usual Fighting Fantasy world of Titan, the setting of Legend of the Shadow Warriors is an unusual one, in the historical period just after the War of the Four Kingdoms in the Old World. The central character is a veteran of the war now living as a mercenary, who is called on by the villagers of Karnstein to protect them from the eponymous Warriors of the title. Disbelieving at first — the Shadow Warriors are merely children's bogeymen from an old folk nursery-rhyme — the character is shocked to discover that the legend is true, and is drawn into a battle for the life of Titan with the Warriors and their master Voivod, the personification of death and decay.

Some of the themes and storylines, such as the Frankenstein-like Doktor Kauderwelsch and the parasitic Mandrakes, are continued in the later gamebook Moonrunner, which, while not a direct follow-on, is clearly a sequel to the Shadow Warrior story[1]. The distinctive style of writing draws on a variety of influences, including pulp fiction, Hammer Horror, and aspects of Celtic and British mythology such as the characters of Jack-in-the-Green and the Horned God.

The mature and thoughtful moral tone of the tale is particularly unusual among Fighting Fantasy books, eschewing the typical "slay-the-evil-villain" violence in favour of a vision of the horror of war and carnage, and an emphasis on reconciliation, forgiveness and redemption.

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Notes

  1. Stephen Hand has written that he envisioned a third book, Blood of the Mandrake, which would tie together and conclude several outstanding plot lines begun in Legend of the Shadow Warriors and Moonrunner. The trilogy was never completed due to the Fighting Fantasy series being discontinued in 1995. See Mark J. Popp's correspondence with Stephen Hand at the former FightingFantasy.com.