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The Gameshouse

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The World Fantasy Award-winning author of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August presents a mesmerizing tale of a gambling house whose deadly games of chance and skill control the fate of empires. Everyone has heard of the Gameshouse. But few know all its secrets... It is the place where fortunes can be made and lost through chess, backgammon - every game under the sun.


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The World Fantasy Award-winning author of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August presents a mesmerizing tale of a gambling house whose deadly games of chance and skill control the fate of empires. Everyone has heard of the Gameshouse. But few know all its secrets... It is the place where fortunes can be made and lost through chess, backgammon - every game under the sun.

30 review for The Gameshouse

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    I had to waffle between 3 and 4 stars, so call this 3.5. But WHY? It's Claire North! You've never read anything of hers that you've disliked! Well, I didn't exactly dislike this one. The first of the three novellas was pretty raveworthy, like a Machiavellian back-stabby game of thrones for people in Venice a couple hundred years ago, making and breaking kings in the Great Game they play. It's smart, it's almost over-the-top, and it's quite delicious for an altern I had to waffle between 3 and 4 stars, so call this 3.5. But WHY? It's Claire North! You've never read anything of hers that you've disliked! Well, I didn't exactly dislike this one. The first of the three novellas was pretty raveworthy, like a Machiavellian back-stabby game of thrones for people in Venice a couple hundred years ago, making and breaking kings in the Great Game they play. It's smart, it's almost over-the-top, and it's quite delicious for an alternate-history high-stakes secret society story. The second, by contrast, was good for its cool setting of 30's Thailand with rather deep descriptions... But, it just didn't have the same impact OR importance that developed in the first. For, after all, the winner of THAT game became the head of the order. (The rewards were somewhat unspecified except that it's so much better than kingships, etc.) This one was okay. The rewards for playing the game are getting fantastical, now. A real fantasy story mixed with a huge number of pieces (read human resources) being used up. I honestly didn't care that much about this one. The third novella had its ups and downs in a modern setting with an even bigger location. Note, we go from ONLY Venice to ALL of Thailand, and now, the world. It was *okay* until it neared the end, with resources dwindling and piling up in a truly topsy-turvy game between order and chaos, and THEN I was like.... "Okay, this is pretty damn cool." In fact, if any of you folks have been following the author's North-Only titles, you'll see a pretty big and awesome trend that includes immortality in one sense or another. This, in my honest opinion, is probably the very best feature of her novels. Identity, immortality, and often enough, a lot of fantastic locations. This one was in line with the rest. It just didn't have the same punch for me as any of her other novels. Still, it's decent. Not bad, taken all together. BUT I'd say just read the first novella if I was really recommending this to anyone except the Northian Die-Hards like me. :)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Liz Barnsley

    The Gameshouse has an excellent premise executed with some beautifully absorbing and quirky writing, telling a fascinating story of games played at a level that the most ardent of gamer’s would struggle to comprehend.. Imagine if you will that most of the turmoil in our world is caused not by chance, or random people and things but is, in fact, a series of challenges enacted by players and pieces on the biggest chess board available- that of the world. This then is the setting into which Cl The Gameshouse has an excellent premise executed with some beautifully absorbing and quirky writing, telling a fascinating story of games played at a level that the most ardent of gamer’s would struggle to comprehend.. Imagine if you will that most of the turmoil in our world is caused not by chance, or random people and things but is, in fact, a series of challenges enacted by players and pieces on the biggest chess board available- that of the world. This then is the setting into which Claire North places her pieces, sets the scene and the reader embarks on a thought provoking, thrilling journey through centuries…. A play for political power followed by a cat and mouse game of hide and seek leads us to the final showdown, all the way the smart, considered narrative absorbs you into the game play, brings you engaging, divisive and mysterious protagonist’s and finally spits you out again where you’ll look at the latest breaking news with an unnerving sense of wonder… Clever, unpredictable, one of the most imaginative tales I’ve read lately, The Gameshouse is a sharp, atmospheric, literary and deeply layered tale of humanity. I loved it. Highly Recommended for everyone.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Stevie Kincade

    Book 1 The Serpent was a 5 star novella. I love my intrigue books and this one drew me into its world and had me on the edge of my seat throughout. I loved the concept of the gameshouse, the setting and was actively cheering for our main character Thenie. I could not wait to read the other novellas. Book 2 The Thief I give 1 star. It is quite literally a step by step recount of a game of "hide and seek". "I hid in a village then I hid in the jungle. Then I caught a boat and hid in another Book 1 The Serpent was a 5 star novella. I love my intrigue books and this one drew me into its world and had me on the edge of my seat throughout. I loved the concept of the gameshouse, the setting and was actively cheering for our main character Thenie. I could not wait to read the other novellas. Book 2 The Thief I give 1 star. It is quite literally a step by step recount of a game of "hide and seek". "I hid in a village then I hid in the jungle. Then I caught a boat and hid in another jungle". We have no reason to care about our protagonist. Hard to believe this is from the same author as "The Serpent". The only redeeming feature was Peter Kenny performing a series of authentic sounding and humorous Thai accents. Book 3 - The Master. 2 stars. A game in modern times for all the marbles. While the main characters of the previous 2 stories are referenced there wasn't a significant or meaningful payoff from them. Like book 2 this felt like a list as much as a story. "She sent the FBI and homeland security after me, I sent the CIA and Interpol after her. She overthrew my puppet government, I overthrew her puppet government. And on and on it went. Cool story bro!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    The Serpent is the first book in the Games House trilogy by award-winning British author, Claire North. In early seventeenth century cosmopolitan Venice, Thene is given in marriage at fifteen, to a gambler who has soon gamed away her dowry and more. He takes her to the Games House where all manner of games and players are to be found. He continues to lose. She watches and eventually plays, plays well, and is invited into the Higher League. The game in which she participates there is like other g The Serpent is the first book in the Games House trilogy by award-winning British author, Claire North. In early seventeenth century cosmopolitan Venice, Thene is given in marriage at fifteen, to a gambler who has soon gamed away her dowry and more. He takes her to the Games House where all manner of games and players are to be found. He continues to lose. She watches and eventually plays, plays well, and is invited into the Higher League. The game in which she participates there is like other games, but also not. A new Tribune is to be elected and four players each play their piece, one of the candidates for the Supreme Tribunal of Venice. To win the game, the player’s piece must be crowned King (elected Tribune). Each player is issued a mask, a letter and several other “pieces” represented by Tarot Cards, for use to achieve their goal. Thene’s candidate, Angelo Seluda, is not entirely sure she will be up to the task, but she assures him she plans to win: “This isn’t a game.” “Isn’t it? There are rules, boundaries, constraints on your action. Clear goals, tools to achieve them, a set table of rivals who must obey the same rules that you do if they want to reach the same end. The only difference between these events now unfolding and any other game is the scale of the board.” Thene is an excellent chess player and, just like chess, there are knights and bishops and castles and kings; in this case, they are real. Strategy, timing, tactics, all are essential for winning. North gives the reader a very cleverly plotted tale that unfortunately loses half a star of the potential 4.5-star rating for indulging in the annoying editorial affectation of omitting quote marks for speech. Two further books in this trilogy, The Thief and The Master, are bound to be interesting reads. The Thief is the second book in the Games House trilogy by award-winning British author, Claire North. In pre-WW2 Bangkok, at the Gameshouse, a very drunk Remy Burke has made an unwise wager. He has agreed to a game of Hide-and-Seek with Abhik Lee. The Board is the whole of Thailand and the stakes are high: if Remy wins, he gains twenty years of Abhik’s life; if he loses, he forfeits his own memory, all of it. Abhik Lee is a local with many resources, even without considering the cards the umpires give him. Despite his good command of the language, Remy Burke is a six-foot white Anglo-Frenchman with virtually no resources in the country; the rules don’t allow him to access any off the board. The game is hardly even, but Remy, extremely hungover, has no time to wonder why the Gameshouse has allowed (perhaps even encouraged?) this before he sets out to hide. Against the odds, Remy is not immediately caught. He does have some assistance: other players can help in minor ways, but of course there will be a future debt to pay; and some of the locals he encounters in his travels around the country are simply good people. And Remy is quick and sharp and determined, and sometimes very lucky. North gives the reader a very clever plot that also hints at what the final book of the trilogy, The Master, will involve. A brilliant read. The Master is the third book in the Games House trilogy by award-winning British author, Claire North. After centuries of preparation, Silver judges it’s time to play the Great Game. At the Gameshouse’s current location in New York City, Silver challenges the Gamesmaster. The decide on chess. It’s the Great Game, so the board encompasses the whole globe, and the stakes are their lives, for the players are the opposing Kings. And while Silver has amassed many resources, the Gamesmaster has the wealth of the Gameshouse at her disposal. Silver quickly relocates to a tiny island in the Caribbean, but stays mobile: he’s soon on an Interpol watchlist. This is chess, so strategy is all important, and he has to be careful not to use his key pieces prematurely. Those pieces are many and wide-ranging, from American Senators to German police to net hackers to FBI agents, cyber-security experts. The game is serious and there are many casualties: “I activate the Union of South American Nations; she plays two of the big four oil companies; I launch environmental terrorists and an insurance broker in retaliation. She turns the head of the Greek police against the insurance company; I turn the interior minister against the police. She unleashes a nationalist opposition movement against my minister; I play an orthodox patriarch and evangelical Christian TV station back at her” etc etc etc. The action, and there is plenty of it, sends Silver all over the world as he and the Gamesmaster battle to win. Some years into the Game, Silver reveals to one of his pieces his ultimate aim should he win, it provokes an unanticipated reaction from an unexpected quarter. This eventually leads to a very bloodthirsty climax and a rather predictable ending. A disappointing conclusion.

  5. 5 out of 5

    William

    Combined review of a Superb novella series: The Serpent The Thief The Master As usual with my reviews, please first read the publisher’s blurb/summary of the book. Thank you. Once again Claire North provides superb prose, great intellect, astounding knowledge of foreign places and times, and a growing insight into the human heart. I was astounded at her intimate knowledge of Renaissance Venice and pre-WW-2 Thailand. These are living places and peoples. The rural areas of Thaila/>/>The Combined review of a Superb novella series: The Serpent The Thief The Master As usual with my reviews, please first read the publisher’s blurb/summary of the book. Thank you. Once again Claire North provides superb prose, great intellect, astounding knowledge of foreign places and times, and a growing insight into the human heart. I was astounded at her intimate knowledge of Renaissance Venice and pre-WW-2 Thailand. These are living places and peoples. The rural areas of Thailand are beautifully painted, and the common people are alive and fascinating. Overall, a fine series, but not quite as good as her other novels. -- Once again, Claire North challenges me with a new concept, a new style, a fascinating adventure. She never fails. This is an interesting novella, nicely plotted with good pacing, but with perhaps a bit too formal a prose style. I will be reading the sequels. As usual with my reviews, please first read the publisher’s blurb/summary of the book. Thank you. Notes and quotes: I know grief, she replied, -and rage. I know them so well that I think they have burnt a part of me to ash, leaving only the shape of what they were inside me, and not the feeling itself. We walk, we walk through streets never changing, where blood is as old as stone, ancient blood of ancient families whose grandparents were fed on the water of the lagoon that shall one day be sprinkled on the brow of the newborn infant that shall carry on the name, in the house, in the street, in this frozen city of Venice. All things are chance. Nature is chance. Life is chance. It is a human madness to try and find rules where there are none, to invent constraints where none exist. The only thing that matters is the choice. So choose. Choose. Or maybe here is the most terrible truth of all: that in a city as tide-turned as Venice is, perhaps it is simply too hard to find love, loyalty and truth, and so in other virtues people invest their hearts –passion, beauty, poetry and song –fancying perhaps that these shadows of the former are as great as love itself. .

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I'm a huge fan of Claire North's writing (and mind) and The Gameshouse is a masterpiece. Originally published as three novellas and now, finally, they fit together perfectly as one with each of the three sections building on the others to present the staggering power of the Gameshouse, the astonishing lengths to which players will pursue their games, and the slavery of the pieces that they manipulate, manouevre and sacrifice. Really, really excellent. review to follow shortly on For Winter Night I'm a huge fan of Claire North's writing (and mind) and The Gameshouse is a masterpiece. Originally published as three novellas and now, finally, they fit together perfectly as one with each of the three sections building on the others to present the staggering power of the Gameshouse, the astonishing lengths to which players will pursue their games, and the slavery of the pieces that they manipulate, manouevre and sacrifice. Really, really excellent. review to follow shortly on For Winter Nights.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    The Gameshouse is a collected edition of three previously published e-novellas: The Serpent, The Thief and The Master. The Serpent follows a woman called Thene who plays the game of Kings in seventeenth century Venice. In a place where politics has become an art form, is it possible for the least powerful player to outsmart her rivals? As Thene learns the rules that govern this most exclusive of clubs, it acts as an ideal introduction for the reader. The power plays and underhanded ta The Gameshouse is a collected edition of three previously published e-novellas: The Serpent, The Thief and The Master. The Serpent follows a woman called Thene who plays the game of Kings in seventeenth century Venice. In a place where politics has become an art form, is it possible for the least powerful player to outsmart her rivals? As Thene learns the rules that govern this most exclusive of clubs, it acts as an ideal introduction for the reader. The power plays and underhanded tactics of competitors play out against this famous city, and you quickly get a sense of how all-encompassing The Gameshouse is. The Thief, set in 1930s Thailand, involves one of the most complicated games of hide and seek ever played. Remy Burke, after making a foolish drunken wager, needs to disappear in a country where he sticks out like a sore thumb. Is Remy skilled enough to evade capture and use his meagre resources to turn the tables in his favour? As with its predecessor, there is a genuinely evocative air to this story. The sights and sounds of Thailand feel almost palpable. The Master brings us bang up to date, and follows a man called Silver in the endgame to end all endgames. What could be a better prize than The Gameshouse itself? In a Highlander-esque nod there can only ever be one Gamesmaster. The competition to determine who that will be plays out on a global scale. Each novella is a study in tension and escalating consequence. The scope of each story increases exponentially to reflect this. The Serpent takes place in a single city, The Thief in a single country while The Master has the entire planet as a backdrop. Each of these stories explore the nature of games, greed, regret and conflict. Individually they delight, but as part of a larger story they are something far more gripping. They dovetail together seamlessly creating a perfect whole. I was impressed how The Gameshouse manages to be many things at once. The writing doesn’t just entertain, it’s also insightful and thought-provoking. North has real skill when it comes to exploring the human condition. There are also some wonderful throw away lines that help flesh out the history of this strange establishment and the players that use it. I particularly like the details of the stakes people are willing to risk. One character loses his appreciation of the colour purple. Another has to part with twenty years of life. The wagers are ever increasing, and it got me thinking about just what I would be prepared to give away on the toss of a coin or the roll of a die. Being ambivalent about a certain colour seems like the most inconsequential thing, but think about it, there is far more to this pot than appears at first glance. You are essentially giving away a little bit of yourself. A tiny nugget of the uniqueness that is you and no one else. Suddenly it becomes a much riskier proposition doesn’t it? Consistently losing bets like this would equate to a slow death. Conversely, the rewards could be life altering. Imagine the chance at effective immortality or decades worth of knowledge could bring. Now ask yourself the question again, would taking that chance be worth it? The fact I found myself pondering such thoughts is testament to just how engrossing the writing is. The premise of The Gameshouse is fascinating. It manages to be deliciously simple and devilishly complex in the same breath. The simple part – you win, or you lose. Seems fairly binary, just black or white, zero or one. There is more complex consideration however – win or lose the outcome of your actions will have consequences. The idea that, if invited, you can play games that could potentially shape nations and change, or even end, lives is tempting and terrifying in equal measure. There are subtle clues to the ultimate conclusion of The Gameshouse scattered throughout the entire narrative. It’s only when I got to the last chapters though that it all clicked. These final revelations are well executed and guarantee to leave any reader feeling rewarded by the experience.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Oleksandr Zholud

    This is a SF novel that consists of three linked novellas. The novellas were published earlier, but it isd the first time they are collected under the same cover. Imagine there are players behind every major event of our history from the pre-historic times to the present day. The results of their game determine our history. The first novella, The Serpent, is set in 1610 Venice. An estranged wife of a nobleman, who married her only to get funds to pay his debts is a gambler. And a b This is a SF novel that consists of three linked novellas. The novellas were published earlier, but it isd the first time they are collected under the same cover. Imagine there are players behind every major event of our history from the pre-historic times to the present day. The results of their game determine our history. The first novella, The Serpent, is set in 1610 Venice. An estranged wife of a nobleman, who married her only to get funds to pay his debts is a gambler. And a bad gambler at that. Once she visits the gameshouse and sees that she is much better player. Soon she gets a chance to play the game: to install her pawn at the head of true power of the city – the Inquisitor Tribune. She gets several Tarot cards (each linked to a person), money and some other items. She uses some unusual approaches to win. The second novella, The Thief, is set in 1938 Thailand. An old player has been drunk and agreed for a game with a star upstart. The game is hide and seek and the older player is of Anglo-French origin, who sticks out in the country. Moreover, his opponent is dealt a great hand, enough pawns to overthrow a government. The last, third novella, The Master, is set in the current time and all over the globe, for the Great Game for the ownership of the Gameshouse is played. It is a chess with whole countries as pawns. I liked the first two novellas more. The third at some moment turned a little bloody for a chess game

  9. 5 out of 5

    Roy

    3 novellas combined. Let me say first off that North has beautiful prose. She has a style which is unique and you can immediately tell its her writing. Novella 1 was great. Awesome idea and characters. 2 and 3 not so much. The protagonists just werent explored as well.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Charlie - A Reading Machine

    Review to come at https://fantasy-hive.co.uk/

  11. 4 out of 5

    James Mork

    I enjoyed all three of these novellas and would definitely recommend them, though I must say I enjoyed the first one more than the other two by a small margin. It's not that the latter two are bad, it's just that there's so much more worldbuilding going on in the first novella where we get introduced to it all. We learn the about how the Gameshouse works in the first story, what it can bring to a person's life alongside some risks. In the second story we see a desperate str I enjoyed all three of these novellas and would definitely recommend them, though I must say I enjoyed the first one more than the other two by a small margin. It's not that the latter two are bad, it's just that there's so much more worldbuilding going on in the first novella where we get introduced to it all. We learn the about how the Gameshouse works in the first story, what it can bring to a person's life alongside some risks. In the second story we see a desperate struggle to avoid some risks that was enjoyable but it doesn't add as much as the first story did. In the third we see the height of which the gameshouse can go to and how far a certain character is willing to go, but the ending is left intentionally open and I expected more tying up of all the themes, but instead they're just kind of left there. Those are my only problems with the novellas however, the premise is intriguing, the stories are great, and the performance on the audiobook is great. I'll probably come back to these at some point and I'll enjoy them each again when I do.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elesha

    I loved the idea of these stories and wish there were more. It took a bit for me to warm up to the way they were written but am glad I stuck with it. The shorter chapters make it easy to say, "Just one more," and end up reading for another hour. The writing flows and I like the world building.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    This was a most unexpectedly wonderful story! Combining 3 short stories all linked by the idea of a Games House that controls world events through different pieces and players. It has been around for centuries and while most people don't realize it exists or that they are pieces in someone else's game, there are some who would like to see the Games House brought down. I listened to the audio narrated by Peter Kenny and he did a fantastic job--one of my favorite audio books of the year!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    PopSugar Challenge Prompt: Book about a game

  15. 5 out of 5

    James Hogan

    Now this book was published just this year so a bit of a change from my recent readings of books from years long gone! But I heard it recommended (somewhere?) and it sounded interesting and so I gave it a try. Sadly, it was not quite as much to my liking as I would have hoped. It was fascinatingly written and the prose was quite pretty, so no complaints in the writing department. (Well, except for the odd habit of using open hyphens to indicate speech instead of using quotation marks like...one Now this book was published just this year so a bit of a change from my recent readings of books from years long gone! But I heard it recommended (somewhere?) and it sounded interesting and so I gave it a try. Sadly, it was not quite as much to my liking as I would have hoped. It was fascinatingly written and the prose was quite pretty, so no complaints in the writing department. (Well, except for the odd habit of using open hyphens to indicate speech instead of using quotation marks like...one should? This may be just my problem, so I will try to disregard, but it did make the characters feel even more removed and alien...which possibly was the intention?) Anyways, this book may resonate more with those who like the idea that there is a grand conspiracy to rule the world and that there are shadowy Illuminati-like figures moving pieces around the world and shaping the world per their own whims and desires. For me, I found the book profoundly depressing and I didn't really like any of the characters. The author is very much aware of the fact that the main characters are somewhat inhuman and unfeeling...she even addresses this in several places. But even the self-awareness of the author doesn't make me actually like the characters any better. Despite several moments where connections to humanity were introduced (indeed, those were the best parts of the book! The Chinese policeman who would not kill...the Thai woman who craved the company of another human being...those snippets were lovely....), I still just could not like these characters who we followed. Indeed, it was kind of interesting reading that most of history happened due to the playing of great games by great players...moving pieces around the world to further their own selfish ends. Cool? Well, at times. But this book was a cold read, with little depth or warmth. I think the author was aware of that, as even the ambivalent ending indicated. But while well written, this was a book that I can't say I particularly enjoyed.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mei

    This is a 3.5 rating. I absolutely loved the first book. The setup of the gameshouse was very intriguing. I wanted to know who these characters were and how the games worked. Thene was also a great character. I like how she essentially had her mask on before she was ever invited to the game. The game itself reminded me a lot of Liar's game. The tension and pacing were great. I like how even the most insignificant "pieces" had meaningful dialogue. The second game was a bit of a bore. The cha This is a 3.5 rating. I absolutely loved the first book. The setup of the gameshouse was very intriguing. I wanted to know who these characters were and how the games worked. Thene was also a great character. I like how she essentially had her mask on before she was ever invited to the game. The game itself reminded me a lot of Liar's game. The tension and pacing were great. I like how even the most insignificant "pieces" had meaningful dialogue. The second game was a bit of a bore. The character just zigzagged through Thailand. And I know that was the point of the game but it was so boring to watch him go from one place to the next. I think the fact that there weren't a lot of characters contributed to this feeling. (view spoiler)[ I wish they had elaborated on him cheating in his previous game with the antagonist but I suppose the speculation was the point. The author implied pretty well he did cheat which makes me wonder why the gamesmaster didn't do anything or perhaps she was waiting to use that to provoke this game. (hide spoiler)] The last book I was hyped for because this game had been hinted at throughout the previous two. Unfortunately it didn't really unfold the way I wanted it to. The great game was similar to the second in which it was just a lot of fleeing and contacting people. I didn't get the sense of game that the first book had. The conclusion was pretty good though because I hadn't recognized the twist even with the foreshadowing in the first book. Overall, I really liked the apathetic detached nature of the narration. It had a nihilistic feel as the characters pondered over the cyclical events of life. Kingdoms rise, kingdoms fall. The wheel of life will keep spinning even if there isn't anyone controlling it. I also liked the opposition to the gameshouse as it presented a different philosophy. However, the narrator is an invisible omniscient character so it might be a little jarring to read at times.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Casey Frank

    I absolutely loved the first section, or first book, in this collection. The introduction of the Gameshouse was compelling, but even more interesting was Thene and how she came to be who she is. The teasing mix of magic and humanity was so interesting as the reader learns a bit about what the Gamesmaster is capable of, but how much an individual person's strengths and weaknesses drive their role as a player or a piece in the game. The second section occasionally felt a little tedious in the I absolutely loved the first section, or first book, in this collection. The introduction of the Gameshouse was compelling, but even more interesting was Thene and how she came to be who she is. The teasing mix of magic and humanity was so interesting as the reader learns a bit about what the Gamesmaster is capable of, but how much an individual person's strengths and weaknesses drive their role as a player or a piece in the game. The second section occasionally felt a little tedious in the running and hiding, but it did offer a good sense of Remy as a person and helped set up for context for the third and final story, one that arguably, the first two stories had ultimately been leading to. Reading the third story was complicated. Somehow the devastations and human loss from the first story felt so removed as to remain entirely fictional. But with the last story set in modern times, with huge amounts of casualties, it made me uncomfortable to attribute these loses to something that was considered a game. It was tiring to read about so many battles and so much devastation but with the last few chapters some more of the mythology was revealed which brought up more interesting questions about good vs. evil, or the malleability of good and evil, the possibility of chance, and what might really be saved in playing the game. I feel like I'm still wrapping my head around some of the mythology and making my peace with the ending, while also wanting to sit down with Claire North and ask her dozens of questions about this story. I struggle to think of any book I could compare it to, which is in and of itself a nice thing. If you like clever characters and complicated plots, this would definitely be the book for you.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lee Penney

    This was one of those fortunate finds. It was on an offer and I wanted to find three books to take advantage of it. The blurb for this one sounded interesting. Actually this is three shorter books rolled into one. It consists of The Serpent, The Thief and The Master. The first follows a woman in seventeenth century Venice as she plays a game to elect a ruler. The second is about a Frenchman playing hide and seek across 1930s Thailand. The last concerns an old player challen This was one of those fortunate finds. It was on an offer and I wanted to find three books to take advantage of it. The blurb for this one sounded interesting. Actually this is three shorter books rolled into one. It consists of The Serpent, The Thief and The Master. The first follows a woman in seventeenth century Venice as she plays a game to elect a ruler. The second is about a Frenchman playing hide and seek across 1930s Thailand. The last concerns an old player challenging the owner of The Gameshouse. It’s a very novel idea, and tickled the part of me that suspects there’s a game behind the game — one that only a few people know is being played yet encompasses the planet. An idea I think appeals to many. All of the stories have great characters, wonderfully rendered by Peter Kenny. Some appear so briefly they are stereotypes but lovable ones. The backgrounds are wonderful in their detail as well, especially well drawn was Thailand (to someone who hasn’t been). The first two stories really chimed with me and I was drawn back to them, but the third — by far the most ambitious in scope — didn’t work as well; in part because so much is squeezed into something of short story length. The plot runs as if on fast-forward, with ever-more over-the-top set pieces and sacrifices. The humanity of it was lost. As I say, narrator Peter Kenny does a great job of breathing life into the characters. One of the better readers I have listened to. There’s a great concept underlying all of the stories, and plenty of room to explore innumerable paths within the universe, so I would be interested to see what else could be done.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    More excellent work from Claire North. And these stories were written back in 2015 when she still (mostly) used full sentences as well. There's decent variety here in the three novellas we have presented to us; the first is a tale of intrigue and backstabbing in 1600s Venice, and probably is the strongest of the three. The second is an intense, drawn out game of cat-and-mouse across the countryside of Thailand, which is relentless in it's action but still has a great host of memorable chara More excellent work from Claire North. And these stories were written back in 2015 when she still (mostly) used full sentences as well. There's decent variety here in the three novellas we have presented to us; the first is a tale of intrigue and backstabbing in 1600s Venice, and probably is the strongest of the three. The second is an intense, drawn out game of cat-and-mouse across the countryside of Thailand, which is relentless in it's action but still has a great host of memorable characters. The third is the least focused, despite or perhaps because of it's larger scope. All three focus around the mystical Gameshouse of the title, an institution somewhere slightly beyond the laws of nature which allows wagers for things like year of your life, or your skill at music, your beautiful eyes etc. It uses the somewhat unsubtle metaphor of chess and games in general to get across themes of structured life against chaos; what sacrifices we might be willing to make to be happy or to be safe; and humanity in the face of obscenity. These stories are not perfect, but the sign of a great book to me is when I just don't care that not every aspect adds up perfectly, because it was such good fun to read. This is book is a lot of fun, and it has a fantastic pace to it. Makes me want to see North write a James Bond film somehow, that would be incredible. But the prose continues to be lovely, mystical and ortherworldly whilst still being grounded. The characters, even the bit parts, could all walk right out of the pages. And the locations really manage to take me there, beautiful scenery.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stacey Lunsford

    A combination of three novellas, the first two are successful while the last one can't quite bring it home. The Gameshouse exists outside of time and space. People who play there start in the lower league and then, if deemed worthy, are invited to join the higher league, where the stakes of the games include armies, countries, and empires as well as years of your life, illness or health. In the first novella, Thene, a Venetian Jew married to a gentile, plays a political game with the government A combination of three novellas, the first two are successful while the last one can't quite bring it home. The Gameshouse exists outside of time and space. People who play there start in the lower league and then, if deemed worthy, are invited to join the higher league, where the stakes of the games include armies, countries, and empires as well as years of your life, illness or health. In the first novella, Thene, a Venetian Jew married to a gentile, plays a political game with the government of the city in order to win her freedom. In the second, Remy Burke, a player with centuries of experience, has lost his edge so a young up-and-comer challenges him to a game of hide-and-seek in Thailand with all of Remy's memories as his forfeit. In the third novella, Silver, a character in the first two, challenges the Gamesmaster herself for control of the Gameshouse. The third one lacks the intricate language and attention to detail of the first two, perhaps because it is written in the first person rather than the interesting device of the first two, in which they are observed and commented upon by umpires of the Gameshouse. It is a fascinating concept, the world's fate decided by an elite league of players, playing games from chess to Old Maid, with real-world consequences but I think it could have been built up and fleshed out more in the third novella to really make it work.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Yasaman

    This is a collection of three linked novellas about the Gameshouse, where players who gain access to the secret higher league of the roving Gameshouse play high-risk games with the world as the board, other people as pieces, and real life stakes. I loved the first novella and really liked the second and third. I'd have given the collection as a whole five stars, but I didn't think the third novella landed the dismount. Silver's motivation and backstory were unconvincing to me, revealed as they w This is a collection of three linked novellas about the Gameshouse, where players who gain access to the secret higher league of the roving Gameshouse play high-risk games with the world as the board, other people as pieces, and real life stakes. I loved the first novella and really liked the second and third. I'd have given the collection as a whole five stars, but I didn't think the third novella landed the dismount. Silver's motivation and backstory were unconvincing to me, revealed as they were almost entirely in exposition, and given that we didn't know a single damned thing about his beloved lost wife as a person. So while he has a somewhat noble cause and a compelling conflict as he struggles to reconcile his humanity with being a player in the Gameshouse's higher league, everything else about his story is just tedious manpain. That said! These novellas are cracking reads, kinetic and fascinating, with a premise that's just crying out for a sharply made TV series. Only somewhat relatedly: there's probably an interesting essay in comparing The Gameshouse, 17776, and Highlander, three wildly different narratives about immortality and playing games, and how those two things intersect.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dee

    There's this element about Claire North books, regardless of which amazingly creative premise she's working with, that's just about "Look at the wondrous variety of humanity! Look at it, Anakin" (I feel this resonate, for me, with the deep abiding love of London obvious in the author's Kate Griffin works. Warts and wonders and all.) This works strangely as a novel, because the final third pulls out all this "new story" (alluded to in the earlier portions, but not developed like it would be i There's this element about Claire North books, regardless of which amazingly creative premise she's working with, that's just about "Look at the wondrous variety of humanity! Look at it, Anakin" (I feel this resonate, for me, with the deep abiding love of London obvious in the author's Kate Griffin works. Warts and wonders and all.) This works strangely as a novel, because the final third pulls out all this "new story" (alluded to in the earlier portions, but not developed like it would be in a novel), but it also feels funny as a trilogy of novellas because the first two are so very clearly preludes to the Big Game (literally). But, all in all, it is a really fascinating concept (not so much the Gameshouse itself as the philosophical stuff underpinning it and raised by it) and a collection of intriguing characters doing astonishing things. The final third was a little bit "and then we battled for a thousand years across the depths of space and time" and I found myself skimming the "action" a little, but it's also chock-full of beautiful detail and a great richness of contemplation that really brings the finale to a perfect balance. So, overall? This was nice to read, thought-provoking, fun, invigorating. Was it perfect? Nah. But it was still pretty great.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dan Trefethen

    Claire North asks interesting questions in her books: What if the justice system resembled the insurance industry, and every crime had a settled price (84K)? What if when you died, you were born again into the same life with all the knowledge from your previous attempts at that life (The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August)? What if a person's existence was forgotten by everyone she was with, ten minutes after she left their presence (The Sudden Appearance of Hop Claire North asks interesting questions in her books: What if the justice system resembled the insurance industry, and every crime had a settled price (84K)? What if when you died, you were born again into the same life with all the knowledge from your previous attempts at that life (The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August)? What if a person's existence was forgotten by everyone she was with, ten minutes after she left their presence (The Sudden Appearance of Hope)? In this book, the question is a variation of an old one: What if there really was a secret organization controlling the fate of people and nations? North's variation assumes a secret house that has people who are Players and Pieces (think of chess), and compete at the largest scales, ultimately resulting in a version of the Great Game. While entertaining and clever in its execution, the use of an old concept and the ever-escalating nature of the elements of the game tend to resemble a thriller novel (albeit with fantasy aspects), and lessened its appeal to me. The twist at the end was not sufficient to salvage the story for me.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Maša

    Three novellas set in a demimonde: a gameshouse, where people are pieces, and the whole world is the board. We meet many near-immortal beings, who question what is to be human. The first novella was the best, in my opinion: the plot was pretty straightforward, especially for a Claire North book (usually, there is no plot at all), and it was a real page-turner. The second novella is the weakest for me: hide-and-seek with little to show in the way of "why" and "why should I bother"? Really, it add Three novellas set in a demimonde: a gameshouse, where people are pieces, and the whole world is the board. We meet many near-immortal beings, who question what is to be human. The first novella was the best, in my opinion: the plot was pretty straightforward, especially for a Claire North book (usually, there is no plot at all), and it was a real page-turner. The second novella is the weakest for me: hide-and-seek with little to show in the way of "why" and "why should I bother"? Really, it added nothing: you could skip it and go straight for the third book. Also, the antagonist was quite over-the-top unlikeable, and I like my villains more on the grey side. The last novella finished with a bang, although the first half resembles the second novella and dragged a bit as a result. Overall, this is a very satisfying omnibus, although it suffers from the "claire north syndrome", as I call it: too much ideas randomly and thoughtlessly thrown on a page. Delicious, delicious ideas, but alas, I would have liked a bit more structure.

  25. 5 out of 5

    David Harris

    I am so grateful to Nazia at Orbit for sending me a free advance copy of this brilliant book to consider for review. I could kick myself that I hadn't read The Games House already - it has been available for a couple of years but as ebook only and I somehow missed that. Now, I have the (physical) book in my hands and I can make amends. "Everyone has heard of the Gameshouse. But few know all its secrets . . . It is the place where fortunes can be made and lost tho I am so grateful to Nazia at Orbit for sending me a free advance copy of this brilliant book to consider for review. I could kick myself that I hadn't read The Games House already - it has been available for a couple of years but as ebook only and I somehow missed that. Now, I have the (physical) book in my hands and I can make amends. "Everyone has heard of the Gameshouse. But few know all its secrets . . . It is the place where fortunes can be made and lost though chess, backgammon – every game under the sun..." The Games House is another audacious concept from North: a club where all may come to play games... but with a "Higher League", a select level to which one can only progress by invitation. And the games there are played with pieces on a real board - a board that contains empires, kingdoms, churches. The coin turns, the game begins. The House is in Venice. In New York. In Tokyo. Walk in. Take a seat. make your move - but be careful what you stake. Players can become pieces and pieces will be played and used up. The book is divided into three parts. In the first - The Serpent - set in Renaissance Venice, Thene - a young woman of despised Jesish heritage and in a marriage to a worthless man who is eating up all her money - plays for the right to enter that higher League. Pieces move on the board - real people, caught up in the mechanisms of the House. Some survive: others do not. It's a tense game which Thene cannot afford to lose if she's to escape her life. Thene plays with skill, accepting the sacrifices she must make. North's ability to sketch a convincing character matters here, Thene's game working through screeds of them but all are vital, breathing figures any of whom who could easily sustain a book of their own (I wanted to know more about all of them!) The second story - The Thief - follows Remy Burke, a louche figure who could have walked out of a Somerset Maugham short story, in an unwelcome game staged in Siam, just before the Second World War. The background - featuring what are clearly spies, political factions and fugitives - would, again, provide enough colour in itself for a novel. But it's not the main point: the main point is the game that Remy's been tricked into, a desperate game of Hide and Seek where at stake is his very essence. North's description of the pursuit - overseen, as in the first story, by some kind of ambiguous spirit or actor above, but not totally removed from, the plot - is just masterful, whether describing Remy's sheer desperation, halting moments of tenderness when he is sheltered by a lonely widow - she is shunned, as a childless woman who has survived her husband and had spoken to nobody for seven months, or the man's sheer ingenuity in staying ahead and in the game. In the final story, The Master, things take a rather different turn, arriving at the present day and an even more desperate game which begins to unsettle Presidents, Chairmen and financial combines. The stakes are if anything even higher - and the player one who may, perhaps, be able to give some answers. Again, the coin turns... I just loved this book. North has a slightly oblique style which can take a bit of getting used to (she'll include an overheard conversation to add atmosphere (yet which contains a point relevant later) or a chapter one sentence long, which, again, only slots into he story at the right time and place. And those unseen observers remain mysterious while also becoming very familiar.) But once you do, it's a book you can simply immerse in - in fact you have to, because you won't be able to leave it unfinished. In the end, I think, a very humane book, observing all manner of human folly and wrongness as well as little acts of goodness and courage, but not judging and not setting up heroes or villains. Especially not that, because, of course, it's all a game, isn't it? Strongly recommended. VERY strongly. (And look at that pretty cover!)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    The Gameshouse by Claire North is a combination novel of the three previously released ebook exclusive novellas. While I do enjoy her style, and the narrator, Peter Kenny, is great and makes it more enjoyable than I suspect reading would be, the stories aren't as good as I hoped. Set in three different time periods with some common characters, they follow 'games' that take place as part of the Gameshouse, real-world games with all-too real consequences. It's an interesting premise, and the first The Gameshouse by Claire North is a combination novel of the three previously released ebook exclusive novellas. While I do enjoy her style, and the narrator, Peter Kenny, is great and makes it more enjoyable than I suspect reading would be, the stories aren't as good as I hoped. Set in three different time periods with some common characters, they follow 'games' that take place as part of the Gameshouse, real-world games with all-too real consequences. It's an interesting premise, and the first novella, The Serpent, introduces it really well with a political game. The second, The Thief, is less successful as it's simply a big game of hide-and-seek. The last one, The Master, is a combination of both previous novellas, but done on a global scale. It's the best of the three and has a great ending, but on the whole the collection wasn't quite as enjoyable as I'd have liked.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lashawn

    We are living in a golden era of games. There are stores that sell everything from board games to card games to dice games. Nicer ones have areas where you can go in the back and select from a library of games that you can play for free. There are conventions you can go to that center on games. You can even go on Twitch and watch people play. Games are entertaining. Games are fun. Games represent life. But how far can that go? Claire North attempts to answers this in The Gameshouse. P We are living in a golden era of games. There are stores that sell everything from board games to card games to dice games. Nicer ones have areas where you can go in the back and select from a library of games that you can play for free. There are conventions you can go to that center on games. You can even go on Twitch and watch people play. Games are entertaining. Games are fun. Games represent life. But how far can that go? Claire North attempts to answers this in The Gameshouse. Previously written as three separate novellas, they are now being published in a single volume. Read the full review at Lightspeed Magazine.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Aaronlisa

    To be very honest before I start this review, I love Claire North's writing. And while it's not perfect, I absolutely loved this book as a whole. The Gameshouse is a collection of three loosely-connected novellas that revolve around the mysterious Gameshouse. The series had originally only been available as e-books until now. I will say that the blurb on the back is somewhat misleading. Yes, the book is a bout the mysterious gameshouse where members of the higher league play for much higher stakes than mo To be very honest before I start this review, I love Claire North's writing. And while it's not perfect, I absolutely loved this book as a whole. The Gameshouse is a collection of three loosely-connected novellas that revolve around the mysterious Gameshouse. The series had originally only been available as e-books until now. I will say that the blurb on the back is somewhat misleading. Yes, the book is a bout the mysterious gameshouse where members of the higher league play for much higher stakes than money and instead play for things like politics, kings and nations. The games are any games that someone could think of including things like hide and seek. Although one can say that Claire North's plots and her genre-bending writing style are the reason to read her, I would say that the best thing about North's writing are her characters. You want to know their stories and know them as people. It doesn't matter whether they suffer from a condition where people forget who they are, or where can jump from body to body or they are part of a higher league in a mysterious, magical Gameshouse. I would argue that her characters are people that you would be intrigued to know whether they were set in some fantastical setting or not. Although I enjoyed all three novellas, my favourite was the first one. "The Serpent" introduces us to Thene and I really want to meet her again. Thene is such a fascinating character even if she's just someone who's playing the hand that's been dealt to her the best that she can whether inside or outside of the Gameshouse. Much of "The Serpent" introduces us to the rules and concept of the Gameshouse while it tells us Thene's story. Some of the reviews that I've read haven't been kind to the second novella - "The Thief" which is set in Thailand during the interwar period and it pits Remy Burke against Abhik Lee in a game of hide and seek. The deck is apparently stacked against Remy from the very start and Lee is a man that is known to be bold and relentless. At times, the story lags but what makes this story engaging is Remy and both his resourcefulness and his refusal to give up even when it seems hopeless. The final novella is "The Master" and this focus on Silver and the ultimate game. Up until now, Silver has been a secondary character in the first two novellas and a bit of a rogue who collects favours. In this story, Silver challenges the house to a game to see who will win - him or the house. What follows is a cat-and-mouse game of international intrigue. At times, this novella feels more like a cross between James Bond & the Bourne Identity. It's fast paced and thrilling but in some ways, it's not as strong as the other two novellas. I am not sure why but I feel that it has something to do with Silver coming across more as a rogue or trickster in the first two novellas as opposed to a man who challenges the Gamesmaster to the Great Game for the reasons that he does - which I won't mention due to spoilers. Overall, I found the three novellas to be an engaging and fun read. I wanted to know what happened next and had a hard time putting this book down.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joe Kessler

    This book collects three novellas from author Claire North, previously published independently in 2015. Together they tell of a secret society who play wide-ranging games of skill and chance for fantastical stakes of extended life, memory theft, and more. North utilizes an omniscient first-person plural perspective that can be alienating at first ("We watch as..."), but I've ultimately rather enjoyed these tales of spycraft adventure, which resemble the somewhat cerebral politicking of The Trait This book collects three novellas from author Claire North, previously published independently in 2015. Together they tell of a secret society who play wide-ranging games of skill and chance for fantastical stakes of extended life, memory theft, and more. North utilizes an omniscient first-person plural perspective that can be alienating at first ("We watch as..."), but I've ultimately rather enjoyed these tales of spycraft adventure, which resemble the somewhat cerebral politicking of The Traitor Baru Cormorant crossed with the exciting cat-and-mouse hunts of The Running Man. I have a lot of unanswered questions about the basic premise and wouldn't mind a more focused sequel, but overall this is a fun read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mike Mcconnell

    While the story is not uninteresting I could only make it through the first of the three connected novellas here. It is not that it is bad, I simply couldn't get on with the style of narrator used here, a style used to far greater effect in The Master and Margarita You may well enjoy this book, North creates an understandable world for Thene and her story in the first novella, the story is told expeditiously and without fluff which matches the feel of the main character and her game.

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