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Literature / Caverns of the Snow Witch

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We mean the one in the crystal ball, of course

Caverns of the Snow Witch is the ninth entry in the Fighting Fantasy line of Gamebooks, written by Ian Livingstone.

You are a trapper, venturing forth in the snowy lands of northern Allansia, at the feet of the Icefinger Mountains, tasked with hunting down a dangerous beast that pillaged an outpost before fleeing to the north. Halfway through your mission, you find out that the terrible Snow Witch, whose lair lies nearby, is plotting a terrible spell that will plague the entire world with blizzards and start a new Ice Age. It's up to you to find the frozen dungeon, venture forth in the maze, stop the witch and leave alive to escape her terrible curse.

In typical Livingstone's fashion, the player must find and recover a series of vital items in his journey, but is rather infamous as only half of the story is spent looking for the titular witch, while the remaining half of the book is spent looking for a cure to the curse obtained in the dungeon.

Caverns of the Snow Witch provides examples of:

  • All There in the Script: The guide to Titan has the true name of the Snow Witch.
  • Bad Boss: The Snow Witch uses her powers to kill one of her underlings just to show off her powers. As seen on the cover.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti: The first part of the book is spent hunting down a massive, carnivorous yeti.
  • Black Magic: The Snow Witch's magic, of course. If you escape the caverns, you will be inflicted with a Death Spell that you have to find the cure for.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: The second time she's confronting you, the Witch is content to play games rather than just fry you on the spot with her spells. That been said, you're already affected by the Death Spell at the time...
  • Call-Back: The second part of the book is spent journeying to Stonebridge, where the war between Dwarves and Trolls mentioned in The Forest of Doom is taking place (and the hammer is still missing). Firetop Mountain and its Warlock are mentioned. The very ending of the game takes place on the top of Firetop Mountain.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The rune-inscribed stick may look odd, but guess what, it makes an excellent vampire-slaying stake.
  • Climax Boss: The Snow Witch is confronted (twice) about halfway through the book. The rest of the story has you helping your friend and looking for a cure for the Death Spell upon you.
  • Convenient Weakness Placement: Garlic, a makeshift stake, and anti-shapeshifting material are all stored inside the Witch's fortress.
  • Cool Sword: The Sword of Speed, which grants a sweet bonus to SKILL.
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: There is a mook chef who, if encountered, will offer you free food (if only because he thinks you're a fellow slave). You have to attack him to get at the stuff inside his cupboards, which is vital to defeating the Witch.
  • Cthulhumanoid: The Brain Slayer, an octopus-headed creature that feeds on the brain power of people. Totally not like Mind Flayers....
  • Elves vs. Dwarves: Averted, you can release an Elf and Dwarf prisoners, Stubb and Redswift, who get along with each other.
  • Everything Is Trying to Kill You: Justified in the first half, with the icy mountains populated with ravenous carnivores and the Witch's servants out for your blood. A tad more ridiculous in the second half, where pretty much everything from birdmen, to centaurs, to irritable barbarians and lunatic hillmen will try to murder you on sight. The sole exception is Redswift's brother.
  • Fighting Your Friend: In a rather unusual and overcomplicated variation, the Snow Witch will make Stubb and Redswift faint before summoning two zombies who look exactly like your friends and sic them on you. Given the "split" nature of the book, it's likely that she was originally supposed to kill and reanimate them.
  • Fight Like a Card Player: When you face the Snow Witch for the second time, she will play a rock-paper-scissors game with you. If you win she will keep promise and let you go still.
  • Final Speech: The fur trapper explains how he discovered the Snow Witch's domain as he succumbs to the Yeti's mauling.
  • Fur and Loathing: The Snow Witch in the remake's cover wears a white fur coat around her shoulders.
  • Golem: A Crystal Warrior is sent by the Witch to kill you. The only way to physically overpower him is using a warhammer.
  • Grim Up North: The first part of this adventure is set in the winter wastelands of northern Allansia.
  • An Ice Person: The Witch, the Ice Demon and the White Dragon all have frost-related powers.
  • Javelin Thrower: In a hut you can find some weapons, including a spear: you can use said spear as a javelin to fight the Yeti.
  • MacGuffin Guardian:
    • A shield is guarded by an Air Elemental.
    • The potion room is guarded by a Zombie.
    • The Witch's treasure chamber has a humanoid Sentinel clad in armor.
  • Man Behind the Man: Though it doesn't come up in this book, Titan, The Fighting Fantasy World reveals that the Ice Demon is not just a random monster but the force that turned the Snow Queen evil in the first place and tutored her in dark arts.
  • Mask of Power: The first step to cure the Death Spell is wearing the Mask of Life. The mere act wrecks your body, but it's beneficial.
  • Master of Illusion: A sly illusionist is among the Witch's servants. You can bluff your way past him if you have a magic flute. If you don't, however, then good luck trying to take him down while he executes a Doppelgänger Spin that traps you.
  • Necromancer: The presence of undead in the caverns suggest that the Witch dabbles in necromantic arts.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Forcing Redswift to tell you the meaning of the strange message on the runic door activates the Death Spell on the protagonist, setting in motion the events of the second part.
  • Nightmare Face: The Night Stalker, totally not helped by the picture showing its ugly, fang-filled mug in first person.
  • No Name Given: The Snow Witch and the Healer aren't named. You will have to check supplementary material to know they are called Shareella and Pen Ty Kora, respectively.
  • Not Quite Dead: Turns out that you cannot get rid of the Snow Witch that easily, even if you staked her heart.
  • Oddball in the Series: The illustrations for this book are done in an extremely unusual "woodcut" style; this was the first and last time the illustrators worked on the series.
  • Oh, Crap!: Redswift has one when he realizes that reading the inscription on the door leading out of the dungeon triggered a Death Spell.
  • Orcus on His Throne: The Snow Witch controls everything from her stone casket and, later, by Crystal Ball.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: One of the possible enemies is a powerful White Dragon. Not only is he among the strongest enemies of the book, but you can take one of his eggs for a potion you'll need later on in the endgame.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The Reveal that the Snow Witch is also a vampire... which means that you can repel her with garlic and finish her off with a runic stake. It's both unexpected and kind of anticlimactic. At least she comes back later to torment you.
  • Pegasus: For the final trial to rid yourself of the Death Spell, if you have a silver item you can summon a winged horse that flies you to the top of Firetop Mountain.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Snow Witch has red eyes in the close-up.
  • Religion of Evil: A group of cultists inside the Caverns worship an Ice Demon and even try to feed you to him.
  • Skippable Boss: The Banshee in the endgame can be safely ignored, provided that you took the Dragon Egg concoction the Healer made for you.
  • Slave Collar: Most of the Witch's slaves wear magical collars that compel them to follow her will. Encouraging others to rebel is fine, but any disobedience or talk of escaping makes the collars suffocate their wearers.
  • Sneakers of Sneaking: If you're lucky enough (you need to roll a 5 and 6, twice in a row) you can obtain a pair of magical elven boots that effectively silences your steps. These can come in handy when you're trying to sneak past a sleeping barbarian later.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Redswift has a brother, Raym, who looks just like him.
  • Suffer the Slings: Rather than a bow, in this adventure you can find and equip a sling.
  • Unwinnable by Design:
    • Infamously, if you roll too low at the beginning, then the spasms from the Death Spell will kill you halfway through.
    • If you don't drink the elf's potion (which is easily missable), you will die later on.