The Kai Monastery -- Vault of the Sun
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Vault of the Sun

The Books

"'Seek and find the Lorestone of Varetta for this alone holds the power and the wisdom . . .'" are the few words you can still decipher of the Grand Master's Chronicle . . . . you recognize the name Varetta. It is one of the oldest cities of Magnamund, lying in the Stornlands beyond the Maakengorge, . . . . the war in Helgedad will not last indefinitely and the Darklords swore long ago to conquer your country and destroy your people . . . . You must therefore act quickly and with secrecy, for your life and the future of Sommerlund depends on your success."

Those are the prophetic opening lines of book six of the Lone Wolf saga. By the end of the Magnakai quest, the conflict they foreshadow will have swept all of northern Magnamund to the brink of doom.

The Stornlands are among the most rich and fascinating settings in all the Lone Wolf books. They help make book six one of the most memorable and enjoyable stories in the series. The story itself has a fun mixture of overland and city adventuring. But it is the atmosphere of intrigue, deceit and war, more so than the geography, that makes the tale so engrossing. Part of that atmosphere is the characters, notably Gwynian the sage and Roark, the highborn of Amory, both of whom make return appearances in later adventures.

The Kingdoms of Terror marks a new beginning in the saga of Lone Wolf, last of the Kai Lords. There are great expectations as the story begins, and an epic adventure awaits. The plot itself unfolds in an incredibly vibrant setting, the turbulent Stornlands, which offer not only a rich background, but also a wide variety of mini-adventures along the way. With this book, Joe really follows through on the promise in the About the Author blurb: "Joe looks forward to revealing more of the wonders of the Lastlands in future books." There is also the introduction of a whole new set of game rules which adds to the thrill of this adventure. A grand beginning for the Magnakai quest, The Kingdoms of Terror offers everything a Kai lord could ever want.

After Lone Wolf discovers the long lost Book of the Magnakai, there is new hope for Sommerlund. But that hope will come at a price: Lone Wolf must retrace the steps of Sun Eagle, first of the Kai Lords. To that epic quest, add the backdrop of the threat of war with the Darklords, bent not just on the destruction of Sommerlund, but now the destruction of Lone Wolf himself. The stakes are indeed high in The Kingdoms of Terror.

The Magnakai adventures, of which book six is the first, are unique in the Lone Wolf saga. While all the books form a single narrative, the seven Magnakai adventures form a single quest. Book six introduces that quest and foreshadows the darkness that will come in later adventures. Lone Wolf has truly come of age; besides his mastery of all the basic Kai Disciplines, the last of the Kai is now firmly on the path of restoring the warrior lords to their former glory. There is a strong sense of destiny and rebirth pervading book six, and this adds greatly to the excitement.

A hallmark of the Lone Wolf adventures up till now has been the detailed world of Magnamund in which they occur. Book six adds greatly to that aspect of the series, with the introduction of the Stornlands, the feuding states of central northern Magnamund. The story is imbued with the politics and history of the region, and the narrative sparkles with nuggets of detail; Castle Taunor, the Denka Gate, the Halfway Inn, Brass street, the Ceners, the mercenaries . . . each passage offers a new discovery.

Most importantly, the book gives the reader a great deal of variety. There are overland and urban sections to the adventure. There is overall mystery but also sections where interim goals are defined (such as finding Gwynian). There are fantastic characters waiting at every turn, characters who are part of their environments, not just stock elements of a medieval/fantastic setting. Just try imagining Cyrilus somewhere other than the road to Varetta, or the mercenary captain anywhere but the Inn of the Crossed Swords and the riverboat. Lone Wolf's interaction with these people only helps complete the wonderful atmosphere of The Kingdoms of Terror.

Equally important to the atmosphere of the book are the many detours possible within the main adventure. Do you go to the archery tournament, or Castle Taunor? How do you get to Brass street? Which road do you take to Tekaro? Sid Meier, the veteran computer game designer of such classics as Railroad Tycoon and Civilization, has said that "a successful design presents the player with a series of interesting decisions." That is exactly what book six does so well; at every turn you can chose to go one way, or go another way. Each path is valuable, revealing something a little different from the others. While the overall story is quite linear, like book two, each reading can still offer something a little different because of the choices involved.

All these mini adventures in book six are made all the more fun by being the first opportunity the reader has of using these wondrous new Magnakai skills. With the close of the first five adventures, Lone Wolf has mastered all the basic Kai disciplines. The Magnakai quest offers not only the opportunity of bringing peace and security to Sommerlund, but also of acquiring all the Magnakai disciplines. While only incremental improvements on the Kai disciplines before them, the Magnakai disciplines offer many neat skills the reader may have day dreamed of before: mastery of multiple weapons, more potent psychic combat, healing of diseases not just wounds, successful hunting even in barren areas, and so on. Also, significant bonuses are possible with mastery of the new Lore Circles of the Magnakai. On top of these abilities, book six introduces the bow as a regular weapon. The end result of these rule enhancements are more possibilities for the reader, and The Kingdoms of Terror wastes no time in letting the reader explore them.

With all the strengths of The Kingdoms of Terror, it is hard to imagine a more well rounded Lone Wolf adventure. It is the beginning of the epic story of the Magnakai quest. It is the dawn of a new hope for Sommerlund, and a new stage in the development of the character Lone Wolf. The story has great variety in settings, characters and choices. All these make for a fun adventure in and of themselves, but with the addition of the new Magnakai disciplines and new rules, The Kingdoms of Terror becomes one of the best books in the entire Lone Wolf saga.

There is one major error in the text of the book (at least the copy I have). If you meet the Acolytes of Vashna in Quarlen, you must reply that you are either a believer or an unbeliever. However, you also have the option of turning to another passage if you completed book 4. In that passage (294) you then have the same choice to make as before, but the passage numbers are reversed; if you answer "believer" you are instructed to turn to the passage for the reply "unbeliever" and vice versa.

© Julian Egelstaff 1997-2000
Lone Wolf © TM Joe Dever 1984-2000