cover image The Gameshouse

The Gameshouse

Claire North. Orbit, $15.99 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-0-316-49156-3

Luck and skill clash in this morally nuanced novel of gamesmanship and civilization. Joining up three novellas originally published in 2015, it traces the arcs of people who find the interdimensional Gameshouse and progress from piece to player to Gamesmaster. In “The Serpent,” 16th-century Jewish heiress Thene escapes her brutish, gambling-addicted husband by orchestrating the election of a Venetian Supreme Tribune. In “The Thief,” a veteran player unwisely falls into a game of hide-and-seek in Thailand with an ambitious upstart who wants the veteran’s memories as a prize. In “The Master,” a challenge comes to the Gameshouse itself, issued by Silver, a longtime player who wants to recruit others into his own Great Game. World Fantasy Award winner North (The Sudden Appearance of Hope) melds her separate tales into an intricate critique of world history as a game board controlled by competitive and coolly disinterested gamers who are willing to sacrifice their pawns without regret or remorse. The true threat to the Gameshouse is not winning, but altering the perception of the “pieces” and restoring their humanity. Only a muddled, tension-leaking ending mars this philosophical exploration of global intrigue. Agent: Meg Davis, Ki (U.K.). (June)