Andre Norton & Jean Rabe,
Return to Quag Keep
(Tor, 2006)

In 1978, Andre Norton wrote Quag Keep, a dreadful little Dungeons & Dragons-based novel that certainly needed no sequel. Return to Quag Keep is that sequel.

In Norton's original novel, a group of ordinary people from our world were transported to the medieval city of Greyhawk when they picked up particularly well-made gaming miniatures. Each player became the flesh-and-blood equivalent of the miniature, with no memory of their former selves. Locked around each person's wrist was a copper bracelet decorated with jeweled polyhedral dice, and each person felt a pull toward the mysterious Quag Keep. The novel concerned their journey to reach the mysterious Keep.

Return to Quag Keep opens with our heroes back in a city, facing the realities of medieval life. In short, they're unemployed (fortunately, not in Greenland), filthy and hungry, with few prospects. The only improvement in their situation -- that they now remember who and what they were before they found themselves in this world -- is no improvement at all. With their memories restored, their quest now becomes to find a way back to their own world.

Unfortunately, they make the classic D&D (and horror movie) blunder of splitting their party, sending some to Quag Keep and some in a different direction. The only trouble is that the story doesn't at all follow the characters who go in the different direction, as though the author didn't really like them and didn't want to have to deal with them. They disappear at the beginning of the book and aren't heard from again until the final paragraphs.

If you haven't read Quag Keep, don't concern yourself. In fact, you're probably better off not having read it, though I'm not certain that the grammar mistake-ridden sequel is an improvement over the wooden prose of the original. Enough information is given in the sequel (though in the clumsiest, as-you-know-Bob manner possible), to get the general idea and history of the characters-within-characters.

The novel ends in an open manner that indicates the possibility of another sequel, but honestly, I won't hold my breath in anticipation, nor will I revisit Quag Keep in the future.

review by
Laurie Thayer

22 September 2007

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