STORYLINE: Jamil, a young pearl diver from the coastal city of Jumlat, who dreams of acquiring great wealth and importance, discovers a glowing glass bottle during a deep dive in the waters of the Golden Gulf. Inside is a beautiful and powerful marid named Tala, a djinni of the seas and the queen of the Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls. Betrayed and magically imprisoned by an ancient sha’ir for sixty years, she sets you a difficult and demanding quest: travel to the city of Sikak to rescue her husband, the king, who is trapped inside a similar glass bottle located somewhere within the sha’ir’s rose-coloured tower. Can you, a poor citizen of the City of Multitudes, aid the king and queen to become a hero so that they may once again take their places on the pearl thrones of their wondrous citadel?
Secret of the Djinn is an interactive tale of adventure and discovery, set in TSR’s Land of Fate, the Forgotten Realms setting from the AL-QADIM campaign for AD&D 2nd Edition. Zakhara is a fabled realm of powerful magicians and djinni, flying carpets, pirates, sea monsters and cyclops – following in the style of the lands of Ali Baba, Sinbad and Aladdin. You’ll firstly need to locate a treasure map to discover the exact location of the king’s hidden glass bottle, however, this map is made from four pieces of flying carpet, now scattered about the lands of Zakhara. Also, the evil wizard Sha’ir Rashad al-Azzazi will shadow your movements, eager to steal the map and stop your quest. A grand adventure of magic and mystery, Secret of the Djinn is a moral tale where right and wrong are clearly defined, and where foolish misjudgements are punished with an unwanted fate.
GAMEPLAY: A CYOA-style gamebook with a focus on telling a specific story, Secret of the Djinn features a narrow plot structure, which then creates a restricted pathway to successfully locate the king and restore his desired freedom. Disappointingly, nearly all of the available choices are simply too obvious in nature, with only inconsequential or game-ending alternatives on offer on many occasions. As a result, most of your decisions will require little analytical observation and considered thought to correctly select the option that will allow you to continue progress.
Jean Rabe’s writing is entertaining and highly readable, neatly capturing the flavour of the various locations and incidents with a suitably youthful outlook and more than enough energy. The pacing is very good throughout, and a number of sections are very lengthy, with some of the notable events and encounters continuing for several pages. Overall, this is an adventure built on descriptive content that pleases with its level of detail and drama, and offers plenty of emotive hooks. There’s enough here for any age to enjoy, but it’s a story clearly directed at younger readers.
PRESENTATION: Books in the Endless Quest series feature a simple, effective layout that is easy to read. The cover illustration by Jeff Easley (the renowned TSR artist who produced many rulebook, boxed set, and module covers) is taken from the AD&D AL-QADIM Arabian Adventures rulebook. Easley’s dramatic image is of excellent quality, but it’s decidedly inappropriate in regard to the actual content of this specific solo adventure, which is mildly irritating. The interior illustrations by Terry Dykstra (an AD&D regular) are also attractive, with a combination of half- and full-page images that nicely capture our young hero in action during his encounters with various characters and opponents. I particularly liked the illustration of Mamoon, the outcast yak-man and mountain hermit (shown above, left); the giant two-headed Roc carrying Jamil to its nest of hungry hatchlings (top image, left); and the three images of the evil wizard, Sha’ir Rashad al-Azzazi (one shown above, right), which always portrayed him as a desperate man with an angered expression, perfectly suiting his role as the tale’s endlessly frustrated villain.
REPLAY VALUE: The low difficulty level of Secret of the Djinn means that you’ll complete this story without too much trouble. Alternative paths do exist, however, many of them are only brief diversions, quick endings and minor variations of existing content, generally providing extra detail of little importance beyond that found within the required objectives of the central path. There’s only one true ending to this adventure, so those who fail to achieve the perfect result will probably try again, already likely to have understood at which point they chose incorrectly to miss the ultimate conclusion.
Review by Michael Reilly