I wanted to like this book a lot more than I actually did, which is not to say that I disliked it.
The opening scene, where a sinister sorcerer visits the royal court, survives two executions (and to be fair to the King, one of those executions is pretty thorough) and then animates the dead of the city’s catacombs to rip apart the King and sundry other courtiers is a pretty good start. However, Fultz then breaks stride to start bringing in his cast of characters, the eponymous Seven Princes. A caveat – the cover suggests that somehow this regal heptad assembles, much like the recent Avengers, to take revenge against the sorcerer of the first chapter. This is rather misleading, since at no point in the book are all seven either together or on the same side.
Nevertheless, the book bounds along like an over-large puppy who is so excited to see you that it doesn’t notice the smashed ornaments and muddy pawprints. In this instance, allow me to extend my analogy – at certain points, plot logic takes a back seat to the needs of the plot; one particular instance is when two of the princes are hurrying from location A to location B and suddenly realise that they won’t get there in time, whereupon a colossal (and literally true) deus ex machina eliminates all that fussy travelling. There are also a couple of instances of “With one bound he was free” which get characters out of seemingly fatal scrapes.
And those muddy pawprints – the prose is pretty good for the most part but there are areas where we veer into the Colour Purple. Fultz might have benefitted from a stricter editor at these points as my eyes started to glaze over and I found myself flicking ahead to the next action sequence (fortunately, there are quite a lot of these).
But damn me if that over-large puppy didn’t grab me by the teeth and pull me from one end of the book to the other. I found that I did want to find out what happened to the characters; they are sufficiently well-developed that they stand out and Fultz does seem to throw everything he possibly can at them to keep the reader entertained (alas, poor characters, however; they don’t all survive!).
I think it’s best to approach this book with few expectations; it’s not the next Tolkien, Joe Abercrombie or George R R Martin but it’s not Terry Goodkind, Robert Newcomb or Jim Theis either. If you don’t expect perfection, you may be pleasantly surprised.
Benbo, 3rd level Fighter/4th level Thief - he who dares.
Galzor, 4th level cleric - mysteriously disappeared along with the Third and his coffin.
Zanurax, 3rd level thief (recovering from being partly eaten by a lion and has now gone to join Merlin)
Olaf, 4th level dwarven fighter, now returning to his clan halls
Merlin, 3rd level thief (called away on the business of the Thieves' Guild)
Adthar, 4th level fighter - currently both an Ettin and a statue
Elador, nth level magic-user - called away on special assignments but will act as mentor and adviser to the team
Galadeus, 2nd level ranger - drowned and then eaten by a shark.....aaaaaand he's BACK! aaaaaaaaand he's dead again.
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That's what Old School means to me
"These rules are flexible and open to interpretation - designed not to cover all conceivable situations, but to allow good Referees and Players the freedom to create and play games of their own design."
from the Lulu download page for The White Box S&W from BHP
"This game is unlike chess in that the rules are not cut and dried. In many places, they are guidelines and suggested methods only. This is part of the attraction of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons"
Over halfway to 90, I started playing AD&D when the Police were a cool band and Punk was wild. I am a father to a ten-year-old Junior Grognard and have now managed to establish a five-strong gaming group made up of him and four of his friends, ages ranging from 10 to 11. Solidly Old-School.
High fives and natural 20s to you all!