by ryankl

For as long as I can remember, I always dug playing the Fighting Fantasy books.

My brothers had copies of these strewn around the house, and I don’t even know at what age I picked them up, but I can vividly remember playing them when I was about 7, half laying under our coffee table, and half poking out with a cushion under me, to roll the dice, to battle the pages, and to make my own adventure sheets in an art pad.

I loved the adventure, the nerdy mathematical/chance aspect of it all, and the scenarios and art were wild. These were infinitely better than the Choose Your Own Adventure books – these were the Horror Section of your old VHS emporium compared to the Kids Rental Section of your safe old library.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but these were the METAL interactive story/game pages of my youth.

We owned many of these books, and I played the all, and while many hold a dear place in my heart, it is always this cover that fires up my imagination. behold, the ISLAND OF THE LIZARD KING!

Take in those colours, that gorgeous cover dress – complete with the chilling out dragon, and the corner logo. Everything about the basics of this cover is made to entice, to lure you in like a club member and you’re always welcome back.

All these aspects play subliminal mindgames that just make me think of how I thought I was getting away with something as a kid. Like I was one step ahead, I was behind the curtain, I was living the dream. I didn’t realise it then, but this was my first step towards appreciating Frazetta and FIRE AND ICE and all the nasty fantasy could bring you above and beyond Tolkien.

I’ve always loved the title of this book – I’m actually just a general sucker for island stories, and a Lizard King just sounds boss – but it’s the illustration that always got me. That weird crown of thorns, especially form a distance, is crazy eye-catching. The lizard looks mean af, and the compositional layers of the sword, bordering on sabre territory, matched with that battle cat just frothing to get loose right in your face, always made me want to take this journey.

I’d also venture into the FOREST OF DOOM and TEMPLE OF TERROR, and I obviously never truly got what was happening on that CAVERNS OF THE SNOW WITCH cover, but this cover always struck a primordial nerve in my own lizard brain.

This is the one I want to sit down and play right now – and my own copy is within arm’s reach. Hopefully I’ll have a spare hour one day, I’m sure I could still draw up one of those adventure sheets from memory.