A twisty tale of intrigue and games played for the highest possible stakes.
The Gameshouse is always the same, though it is not always in the same city; always home to a strange crowd of gamblers, some of whom don't seem to belong in this time and place. If you play well, you may be invited to join the higher league. There, your pieces are people, and you must wager part of yourself to join the game: “Your skill with language, perhaps. Your love of colour....Years of your life.” We begin in Venice, 1610, where a woman named Thene will be invited to play a game of Kings. We will travel many miles and centuries from this beginning but must always remember that anyone we meet might later become a player—or a piece to be played. North (84K, 2018, etc.) creates a dark, atmospheric world in 17th-century Venice, then moves to a high-stakes, suspenseful game of hide-and-seek all over Thailand in 1938, and finally a world-spanning game of chess played for control of the Gameshouse itself. The first two parts are stronger than the third, because the stakes feel more immediate and less theoretical, but the whole adds up to something quite rich.
An unusual, intriguing novel that’s both a paranoid fantasy about a world where anyone can be bought and a broody tale about what really matters when anything can be gambled away.