Butler to the Dark Lord by Sam Bowring

January 9, 2015 Reviews 1 ★★★★½

Butler to the Dark Lord by Sam BowringButler to the Dark Lord by Sam Bowring
Published: August 3rd 2014 by Self Published
Format: Ebook, 250 pages
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Author
GoodreadsBuy the audiobook
4.5 Stars

Downton Abbey meets Mordor in this darkly funny gamebook for adults, in which YOU play the butler to the Dark Lord, and your choices change the story.

Looking after your master Malacandros is never easy. Like any good Dark Lord, he will just as soon fireball you to death as look at you - but this week things are particularly hectic. The Stygias ceremony is about to occur for the first time in a hundred years, the castle is bustling with treacherous nobility and unwelcome relatives, there's a feast of live balfrog tadpoles to organise, and let's not forget the sinister plot to murder your master that's taking shape behind closed doors.

With multiple pathways through the story depending on the choices you make, 9 different endings to discover, and plenty of ways to meet an untimely demise, you're going to have your work cut out for you ensuring that everything runs smoothly.

Will you sleep with the virgin sacrifice before the ceremony? Will you sample too much in the wine cellar? Will you be able to teach the castle harpies the merits of personal hygiene? Most importantly, will dinner be served on time?

Remember the Goosebumps Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books? You’d read them and at the end of every chapter you had to make choices: to go inside the creepy dark tunnel or not, to investigate the noise coming from downstairs or not, to split up from your best-friend to cover more ground at the haunted carnival or not. Each choice changed the story slightly and there were two or three different endings to the book, depending on the choices you made.

Sam Bowring has written a book in a similar format for ADULTS, and I think it’s superb!

Butler to the Dark Lord is about YOU. You are the butler and chief man-servant to Malacandros, a Dark Lord who enjoys fine dining and killing things. You have to navigate your way through a very important week in the Dark Lord’s service – you must prepare the castle to receive visitors and make sure that the Stygias ceremony goes off without a hitch, while making sure the stables are clean, that dinner is served on time, and that your Master isn’t embarrassed in front of his relatives and rivals.

The first time I read this book I tried to choose the ‘good’ options. I always picked the most diplomatic or understanding options, which was fun, but I totally missed A Large Chunk of the Plot, and had to start again!

The second time I read it I tried to do the opposite. I picked the options I thought were the worst, and still ended up in hot water in the end.

It was only on my third read that I discovered the SPOILER-FILLED THING, and then it took me a fourth read to actually thwart it.

There are nine different endings to this book, and whole plot-lines hinge on whether the stables are clean or what you decide will be served for dinner. I think it’s amazing that Bowring has taken this form of story-telling and used it to tell a fantasy story to an adult audience. It works very well in e-book format because all the choices are hyperlinked to the relevant page – no endlessly flipping back and forth!

Although this Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stuff is familiar to me because I first saw it in a children’s book, Butler to the Dark Lord is definitely not for kids! There are ribald jokes and double entendres through-out, and some of the options available to readers are decidedly not child-friendly. Malacandros is also a terrifying boss (but sometimes he’s really nice!), and the atmosphere of the book is danger-filled and darkly humorous.

I loved reading this story and think the idea is executed brilliantly. Bowring’s comedic genius certainly shines through, and I think this story will be enjoyed by audiences who are willing to give this kind of story-telling a try. Like all of Bowring’s other works, there isn’t much out there like this!

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