Lone Wolf 31: The Dusk of Eternal Night by Vincent Lazzari and Ben Dever
Holmgard Press, hardback, £19.99, December 2020, ISBN 9781916268036
If I enjoy a series and the latest instalment isn’t up to the standard of its predecessors, my usual policy is to avoid reviewing it. Perhaps that’s what I should do with Lone Wolf 31: The Dusk of Eternal Night, the penultimate instalment of the late Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf cycle of fantasy gamebooks, which was released in time for Christmas by Holmgard Press. Having invested so much time and energy (and a not inconsiderable amount of money) on the franchise as well as reviewing all of the New Order series (Lone Wolf 21 onwards) to date, however, I feel it would be a cop out. Also, notwithstanding my criticism below, I will be buying the last in the cycle – Lone Wolf 32: Light of the Kai – on the basis that I am in my fifth decade of playing the books and have a need to know how it all ends (I began shortly after Lone Wolf 1: Flight from the Dark was published in 1984). For those interested, I’ve discussed the trials and tribulations of the franchise – including why the publication of the cycle has taken so long – here, here, and here. So let me begin with the bad news and my harshest criticism: Lone Wolf 31 simply has too much dialogue, too much description, and too little gameplay. It’s as if the authors forgot they were writing a gamebook and wrote an experimental young adult fantasy novel instead. Now one may think that this hybrid model of gamebook-novel is an improvement on the gamebook-only model or that the change of direction is precisely what the cycle needs for a spectacular conclusion, but I have been playing these books since the eighties because they are games. If I wanted a novel set in Magnamund I would have collected the Legends of Lone Wolf series (novelisations of gamebooks 1 to 8, published from 1989 to 1994) – and, indeed, I did try the first and decided that they weren’t for me. I genuinely hope that most if not all readers of this review disagree with my evaluation and if you don’t want to be put off Lone Wolf 31 please don’t read any further. Just buy the book, read it, and make up your own mind.