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Quag Keep    by Andre Norton order for
Quag Keep
by Andre Norton
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2006 (1978)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I grew up devouring Andre Norton's exciting SF and fantasy stories, enthralled especially by her Witch World, Time Traders, and Beast Master series. I also enjoyed playing Dungeons & Dragons on a regular basis with friends. Andre Norton wrote Quag Keep after being invited to play the role-playing game by its creator. Though I read it when originally released, I'm always happy to re-read anything by Norton.

The revived interest in the Dungeons & Dragons game - in both its original form and computer and videogame versions - should restimulate interest in this story, in which a variety of role-playing gamers are magicked (with faded memories) into a game world, after picking up ornately crafted gamepieces. The main character - Martin in our world - finds he's become swordsman Milo Jagon in 'a dubious inn on the edge of the Thieve's Quarter in the city of Greyhawk', in a world where Law and Chaos struggle for dominance. As in the game the book is modeled on, Milo meets his fellow questors and together they learn their objective from a bad-tempered wizard, Hystaspes. They also discover that they can sometimes mentally influence the rolls of a series of dice built into the bracelets that mark their fellowship, and these dice rolls in turn (as in the D&D game) influence outcomes of such events as blows in battle, and efficacy of spells.

In addition to Milo, the geas-bound questors include were-boar berserker Naile Fangtooth who has a pseudo-dragon companion, Woods Ranger elf Ingrge, battlemaid Yevele (whom Milo finds attractive and who more than holds her own in their expedition), cleric Deav Dyne, bard Wymarc, and lizardman Gulth - who's somewhat of a liability until they reach their goal. Milo also wears two rings of power, whose purpose he only learns when they're badly needed. The questors travel through varied terrains, fight all kinds of monsters including the undead, take counsel from a dragon who's weary of mankind, see through illusions, snowshoe through a dust desert, and wend their way gingerly through swamplands. They defeat a gamesmaster who serves Chaos - but will they ever find their way back to their own world?

Though Quag Keep is by no means the best of Andre Norton's broad and varied collection of works, it's an entertaining read, which will be of particular interest to those with fond memories of the early days of Dungeons & Dragons, as well as those enjoying D&D games now.

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