Kieran Larwood: Dungeon Runners

Dungeon Runners: Hero Trial
Kieran Larwood:  Dungeon Runners

About Author

Kieran Larwood lives on the Isle of Wight where he enjoys exploring rockpools, climbing trees and writing. He was a Reception teacher before becoming a full-time author. His stories are inspired by a life-long love of fantasy stories, which began when, as a young boy, he picked up a copy of The Hobbit and saw the map inside. It just goes to show you never know where opening a book will lead…

Joe Todd-Stanton grew up in Brighton and was taught to draw by his mother, who is also an illustrator. He studied illustration at UWE Bristol, and has since worked for OUP, Usborne Publishing, and Aquila magazine. His book, The Secret of Black Rock, won a 2018 Waterstones Children's Book Prize.



Dungeon Runners: Hero Trial  (Nosy Crow)

May 2024

Hero Trial is the first in an action-packed fantasy series, Dungeon Runners, which has huge appeal to young gamers.  The first book sees Kit, Sandy and Thorn compete to join the high stakes Dungeon Runners, facing a range of challenges and learning new skills and teamwork along the way.

We spoke with author Kieran Larwood - known for his Podkin One-Ear fantasy series - about engaging young readers, his love of gaming and his favourite inventions in the Dungeon Runners world! 

Q&A with Kieran Larwood:  Dungeon Runners

"When I'm writing a fantasy story, I always start by drawing a map. I think it helps to make the world
seem like a real place, and I often find it helps build the story itself."

1.   Hello Kieran, thank you for joining us on ReadingZone! You're known for your older, often environmental-related stories, so what inspired this new series about young gaming adventurers?

I was really keen to write something for younger readers, with the aim of hopefully engaging them and getting them into reading for pleasure. It was really inspired by my son and his interests, such as sports and gaming, and trying to capture them in book form.

2.   What happens in the first book, Dungeon Runners: Level 1 Hero Trial, and what do you have planned for the series?

The first book introduces our heroes: Kit, Sandy and Thorn (pictured), and sets the scene for the world of Zerb and its obsession with the sport of Dungeon Running. The newly-formed team have to enter their first dungeon and battle through to win a place in the leagues and become proper Dungeon Runners.  The series will then go on to show how they 'level up' and improve as they face even tricker challenges.

3.   Was writing this book a great excuse to do loads of 'research' gaming - or were you already up to speed on all things gaming? 

I've always loved gaming- both table top and video games. I play a lot of Minecraft with my children, and I grew up playing games like Zelda and Final Fantasy.

4.   How important is it for you to have a map - like the one at the front of Dungeon Runners - before you get started? Do your maps help inspire parts of the story?

When I'm writing a fantasy story, I always start by drawing a map. I think it helps to make the world seem like a real place, and I often find it helps build the story itself, as you work out where your characters live and where they have to voyage to. Sometimes the map surprises you and gives you really good ideas for settings and scenes which you can then add in to the story.

5.    We love the 'reality TV' angle in this book - why did you decide to write it like this, with the hosts presenting and reporting on the Dungeon Runners' activities (pictured)?

The sports element was very much inspired by watching American Football matches with my son, and I tried to reflect that with all the commentary and the sponsors, as well as the league tables and so on. I want readers to feel as though they are watching the match as it goes on, cheering for Kit and his team to win!

6.    Who are the heroes of the story, and why do they work so well together?

They are an unlikely bunch of heroes… Kit and Sandy are gnorfs (part gnome, part dwarf) who are very small and quite unusual in the world of Dungeon Running. Thorn is a vampire, who has turned vegan and become a healer. Because they aren't super strong or powerful, they have to find other, cleverer ways to win, and they have to work together as a team to succeed.

7.   Who or what is your favourite made-up creature in Hero Trial, and why?

I love the slime monster (pictured), because of the hilarious way Joe has drawn the creatures stuck inside it! I'm also very fond of the eyebats who pop up unexpectedly here and there.

8.    How tough will it get for the trio in the next book, Level 2?

Things will get much tougher as they enter the professional leagues and come up against some proper villains and also much scarier monsters!

9.   Which of the three in a Dungeon Runners team would you be? The vampire has night vision, the mage can conjure sand castles - what would your special talent be?

I think I would probably be quite rubbish in a dungeon, as I'm not very athletic. I'd probably be a mage… one that can hide away somewhere safe and fire off the odd fireball or two.

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