I was recently at Dragonmeet and by accident got my hands on this adventure for Colonial Gothic. Although I wasn’t familiar with the setting, I am very familiar with its existence and with the work of Graeme Davis, one of the two writers who’ve created this adventure, the other being Richard Iorio II, so I decided this had to be quality writing.
I was right!
First things first… the plot of this adventure. The heroes will be placed in Boston in 1776. The British forces are struggling to keep control over the colonies and unrest grows by the day. Boston is under siege, business deals are difficult to come by, your neighbour can be your enemy and every night could be your last if the militia crosses your path the wrong way… Life is not easy. Under the streets of the city, though, a different threat lurks and plots to drive away anyone who doesn’t belong in the land. A epic struggle is about to start and the players will decide the future of the Americas.
The book introduces us to Boston and the historic events around the time. The level of details is high enough that it would put to shame most history teachers, but the writing is so good that learning history is a true joy. The detailed locations, atmospheric landmarks and the charismatic inhabitants create an extremely credible and easy to follow setting for this fantastic adventure.
However, as usual, I’ll start with the bits I didn’t like.
I was quite surprised to read a description in the book of a carving or painting in the wall of a cave, that depicted a figure with tentacles around where its mouth should be. I did think the setting had a very “Cthulhu-esque” feel to it, but no mention of the mythos at all in the book. It is a real shame because the way the setting has been laid out, it couldn’t be any better for it. It feels the creators of the setting wanted to make something truly unique, but fell short, if only a little bit, mind you! Don’t get me wrong, the setting is fantastic and terribly easy to digest, is just that it rings very close to Cthulhu and one is left wishing for more.
The thing that disappointed the most is probably was the book design. Before I say why, I will say I am a graphic designer and art director and therefore I am a bit pedantic about details like the sort that seemed to be missed again and again throughout the book. The overall book looks good, the font is clear and the paragraphs are well separated. The illustrations are also very appropriate. At least the portraits and prints of locations scattered around the book.
So what went wrong? Lack of art direction. It feels like no one took a look at the book and made amends. Stray lines under illustrations, a couple of typos here and there, page headers so big that look like section titles are some of the issues that caught my eye pretty quickly. The paper the book is printed on carries a watermark that makes the book look like there is something printed on the other side of the page that can be seen due to thin paper. It just doesn’t add anything to the book.
Last, but by no means least, of my negative points, the maps created for the book. They are an extremely sharp contrast with the reproductions used to illustrate the location of the island, Boston bay and real areas. The maps of the caves and cabins or houses used by the adventure are just not very good. They do what they’re supposed to do, but they’re so far from the quality of the other maps that it makes it too obvious.
However all of that can be set aside easily when one starts to read the book. With his usual expertise, Graeme Davis succeeds, once again, to grip us and make us want to read the very last word of this great story. The whole book feels very much like the first adventure of a much bigger saga, which is exactly what is meant to happen, and it doesn’t run short of ideas. In fact, I have lost track of the vast number of adventure seeds that populate the book. Just following those will give anyone with minimum imagination plenty of ideas to last for months.
In short this book is worth buying. It will never become a piece of art or a book to open and enjoy by the sheer looks of it, but it does what is supposed to, deliver a great adventure, easy to follow and very well paced indeed.
As a marking for this book, I’d probably give it a 6/10.