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Literature / Stealer of Souls

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Stealer of Souls is the 34th installment of the Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks written by Keith Martin. It is notably the first of six gamebooks Martin has contributed to the franchise.

The evil wizard Mordraneth, a dangerous Master of Illusion and all-round powerful archmage, has found a way to unleash a magical army of fear on Titan. With this power, he seeks to Take Over the World (yeah, we didn't see that coming, too...) and Alsander, the only lawful wizard capable of stopping him, has been kidnapped by Mordraneth's forces. The hero, YOU, have been entrusted by Vanestin of Pollua, a mage, to rescue Alsander from the Isle of Despair. However, you will need to face the Empire of Illusion created by Mordraneth, and eventually confront Mordraneth, the Stealer of Souls, in a fateful showdown...

... and that's pretty much it. Yeah, as Keith Martin's very first gamebook, Stealer of Souls is notably rather direct and straightforward, having the player going from point A to B to C, finishing with a Final Boss battle. Despite being the 30th-odd entry into the series, most of Stealer of Souls feels like a throwback to the earlier, single-digit installment of Fighting Fantasy, following the standard rules set by The Warlock of Firetop Mountain without any extra STATS or attributes which would later be a Keith Martin's trademark.


Treat it as an experimental piece of work, if you will, or a Genre Throwback to the early days of the franchise; it's a breather of a gamebook which still provides an enjoyable, not-too-difficult challenge for FF-fans.

Stealer of Souls provides examples of:

  • And the Adventure Continues: After you defeat Mordraneth, you set out to meet your Captain and return to Pollua. But that's a story for another time...
  • Antagonist Title: The titular Stealer of Souls refers to Mordraneth himself.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Upon Mordraneth's death, the thousands of souls he enslaved are freed from his control and collectively rises to the heavens.
  • Badass in Distress: The wizard Alesander needs to be rescued by you from Mordraneth's forces.
  • Chased by Angry Natives: If you get on the bad side of the natives on the island, this can happen to you.
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  • Dem Bones: You confront an absurdly powerful Skeletal Warrior whose STATS are Skill 10, Stamina 10.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: This being Keith Martin's first gamebook, its oddities stick out like a sore thumb.
    • You only have the basic stats of SKILL, STAMINA and LUCK, there's no FAITH score, PRESENCE score, HONOR or NEMESIS score or other special STATS Keith Martin is well-known for.
    • The villain is your standard Generic Doomsday Villain, whose only motivation is to Take Over the World; later books will introduce detailed, accompanying backstories for its respective antagonists.
    • There are no Co-Dragons or Post-Final Boss confrontations here either, the closest Mordraneth has to The Dragon is the Dark Priest which doesn't really have a lasting presence in gameplay unlike the Bonestalker Mage, Katarina Heydrich or Naas the Dark Elf.
    • The storyline is rather straightforward and direct, instead of meandering through an intricate network of paths, and choices you can take doesn't really branch out as much.
    • While Mordraneth can cast fireballs and death threads at you before you can confront him, once you fight him mano-on-mano by rolling for Attack Strength he's pretty much a standard boss fight with no special moves. Later Keith Martin gamebooks will usually have the penultimate villain Turn Red or use a Last Ditch Move when low on STAMINA.
  • Flying Face: A blackened, flaming skull with glowing red eyes and spits fire attacks you at one point.
  • Gentle Giant: The moment you arrive on the Isle of Despair you meet a huge, muscular, but friendly Sea Giant, whom will offer you food and shelter and a valuable artifact. Well, provided if you did NOT slay his pet Skull Crab on your way to the island...
  • Giant Flyer: A giant stormbird attacks you immediately as soon as the adventure starts! Later you can confront its mate, as well as a Razorbeak bird.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: You come across a giant animated Minotaur statue, who ripped an unfortunate elf apart from the waist. There's even a lovely, nightmare-inducing illustration for the kids...
  • In the Hood: Mordraneth is never shown with his hood down.
  • Hearing Voices: Thanks to Mordraneth's illusory powers, this can happen to you as you attempt to navigate your way through tunnels into his lair.
  • Helpful Mook: The young guard that you confront doesn't attack you immediately, and is actually quite a chatty fellow whom is willing to point you to the next room without fighting you.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Don't you just want to bring your spouse or family to spend a week in the Isle of Despair? Sounds like fun!
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Many times in this adventure, whenever you suspect something is an illusion (like a pit of snakes or a fire-breathing dragon) you will be given the option to just run straight into the obstacle ahead. More often than not the illusion ends up dispelling itself if you do so!
  • Magic Potion: If you help a lizard capable of human speech get rid of two giant birds threatening its nest, the lizard will reward you with a potion that increases your speed in battle.
  • Master of Illusion:
    • Mordraneth is this, full-stop, and he is capable of casting illusions everywhere in his lair, at one point even an illusion of a dragon!
    • His Dark Priest henchman have this ability as well, tricking you into believing he is a harmless captive, only to attack you by surprise.
  • Necromancer: Mordraneth has the ability to enslave souls. Defeating him allows a thousand souls to be freed from imprisonment.
  • No-Sell: You can collect magic rings, which can deflect Mordraneth's spells. Namely, the Bronze Ring protects you from his fireballs, while the Silver Ring defends you from being sliced apart by his Razor Floss.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: The Diadrone is a black-coloured floating blob with a face and stinging tentacles, which floats around while trying to lash at you.
  • Playing with Fire:
    • Mordraneth can summon fireballs to use on you in the final battle, in fact the front cover of the book shows him doing exactly that.
    • The Death Skull is animated from the fires of the underworld, and leaps at you while coated in flames and smoldering smoke.
    • On the other hand, you can learn a fire spell from Alesander when you freed him.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: As you can see from the front cover, while Mordranet wears black robes and cape, the interior lining of his cape is dark crimson, as is his medallion.
  • Shattering the Illusion: You can learn a Dispel Illusion spell to use in case Mordraneth use his illusions to trick you.
  • Sinister Surveillance: Mordraneth can see and hear you from anywhere in his lair, and is even able to create illusions or voices to taunt you.
  • Snake Pit: You come across a pit full of snakes, which turns out to be one of Mordraneth's many illusions. You can dispel it with a spell or use an item to make it disappear, but if you try running through it, you suffer badly since the illusions can actually affect you physically.
  • Talking Animal: You meet a talking frilled lizard early on your quest. He is very friendly though, and if you agree to accept his quest he will give you a valuable pearl for your efforts.
  • Talking Weapon: At one point you can find a magic talking Cool Sword that goads you into uncovering it. Should you find it though, the sword will boost your SKILL and restore a little bit of your STAMINA after battle.
  • Thinking Up Portals: Two Dark Elves guards a device that allows teleportation.
  • Too Awesome to Use: This is among the few Fighting Fantasy books where there is actually a limit to the number of times you can use your spells (provided by the freed Alesander). Namely, you can choose three out of seven spells, and each of the three spells can be used only once each.
  • Winged Humanoid: You encounter a Birdman while scaling some cliffs, and if you offer him a Silver Feather he will provide you a valuable clue.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Implied to be the effects of Mordraneth's illusions, some illusory enemies like the Illusion Bug and Illusion Skeleton have STAMINA stats and can be fought like normal enemies. Not to mention the illusion of the Snake Pit and Rodent Horde can actually harm or kill you, or the illusion of compressing walls which causes death by shock...
  • Your Soul is Mine!: There is a reason why Mordraneth is called the Stealer of Souls, you know. Make sure yours doesn't end up as part of his collection!