We continue with the series from our guest bulgarian contributor Borislav Traykov, where he continues reviewing the three gamebooks that compose the third volume of “Hero: The Calling!”, an untranslated (and very interesting, by the looks of it) bulgarian gamebook series.
I would like to feature The Enslaved Princess – the second short gamebook from the 3rd “Hero: The Calling!” collection of short gamebooks. It is also the 2nd gamebook in the cycle that started with “Blaze over Cordoba” – one of the three gamebooks from the 1st edition of “Hero: The Calling!”
The back cover teaser synopsis for each gamebook can be found in the blog post dedicated to “Hero: The Calling!” #3.
For this post I wish to translate the reviews on The Enslaved Princess from the book’s page on GoodReads.com.
A fragment of Slavy Ganev‘s review from his blog (Bulgarian only):
The Enslaved Princess emphasizes on a much more elaborate plot than the rest of the gamebooks in the collection. In this aspect perhaps, it has no rival among the rest of them.
An Arabian princess is captured by a group of French knights during the Reconquista in Spain. One of those knights turns the heroine into his sex-slave and when he becomes bored with her, throws her away into his castle to be a servant-girl. Deprived of all of the luxury she once lived with, the princess must find a way out of her prison and get back to her homeland.
Each day the reader chooses in which part of the castle to send the heroine – the stables, the jail, the kitchen and so forth. In that way she will uncover various items and information about the castle which can aid her escape. The gameplay system is quite complex and it’s related to a lot of note-taking (for a moment there, I felt like a clerk). At the end of some paragraphs – fragments of the story – code numbers are given for the current part of the castle being visited. These code numbers can be used in certain combinations that lead to other paragraphs where possible escape plans are outlined. It’s a good idea, but I did some mistakes in the calculations and I couldn’t progress further … in the end I gave up on the combinations and continued from whichever paragraph I wanted. After all, it’s all for the sake of fun and it really turned out that way :).
A fragment of Branimir Sabev‘s review from his blog (Bulgarian only)
(Branimir is also the author of the third short story in this collection – The Well)
The story is tightly related to Blaze over Cordoba from the first Hero: The Calling! It was interesting for me to see the continuation of the story – written by only one of the authors of the original – would change for the worst, but I was pleasantly surprised – everything was in place. The story, the literary aspect, the gameplay and mechanics – it was all top notch. I admit that I was skeptical – in the first story/gamebook you had to flee (from the city – Cordoba) whereas this time you have to escape a fortress and you’re also a teen Arabian girl – things like fights are out of the question; I didn’t think it was going to get my attention. Quite on the contrary – it’s surprisingly good, well-put together and competently created gamebook. I am waiting for the next installment.
A fragment of Borislav Traykov’s (that’s me!) review:
I am going to share some spoilers by saying that this gamebook has a very high degree of parallelism. By that I mean that the ways of going about in “the first act” are akin to Robert Blonde’s The Magical Harp. Apart from the standard rewards and penalties on the heroine’s stats while exploring, I also really liked that I got to know the castle and its inhabitants – I genuinely cared about the setting! I forgot to note the very start of the gamebook – the prelude can appear a bit dragged out, but it gives a very good motive for the very first choice of the princess – what is she going to be like as a person after the tragedy and trauma that has happened to her.
“The final act” of the story is also made parallel because of the multiple escape plans you can uncover – I am very happy that each one of them can play out in more than one way. Hell, I did all the code number combinations for those escape plans like a boss and I got rewarded and satisfied by that effort.
Last, but not least I would like to mention the bad endings – although they are relatively hard to come by, they do exist and they emphasize the skill of the author of blending a captivating tale and a challenging game.
As an addendum to my original review, I would like to point out that not only does The Enslaved Princess have a female protagonist, it actually has a competently fleshed-out female protagonist. A girl, to be more precise. In a medieval setting with all of the nastiness that comes with that: fear, prejudice, rape, but also courage, a fighting spirit and a will to pull through.
I also would like to mention the little side quest that the reader can undertake for one of the other girls in the castle – help her get out and have a future. There is no benefit to accomplishing this quest other than the sheer pleasure of reading about how another girl, stuck with a similar fate – scarred not only physically, but mentally as well, can receive a second chance.
Please let me know what you think in the comments below – I would love to hear your questions and comments!
- The image of cover photo of the book is taken from the publically available feature article on knigi-igri.bg
- All translations of names – book, story, author, etc. – are purely my own interpretation – I am not in collaboration with the people who published the book.