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The Serpent: The Gameshouse, Part One Kindle Edition
The first installment of the Gameshouse, a mesmerising tale of a mystical gambling house whose deadly games of chance and skill control the fate of empires.
In seventeenth century Venice exists a mysterious establishment known only as the Gameshouse.
There, fortunes are made and fortunes are broken over games of chess, backgammon and every other game under the sun.
But those whom fortune favours may be invited to compete in the higher league . . . a league where the games played are of politics and empires, of economics and kings. It is a league where Capture the Castle involves real castles, where hide and seek takes place on a scale as big as the British Isles.
Not everyone proves worthy of competing in the higher league. But one woman who is about to play may just exceed everyone's expectations.
Though she must always remember: the higher the stakes, the more deadly the rules . . .
The three installments of the Gameshouse are also available in a single edition.
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About the Author
- ASIN : B00XUDPG6M
- Publisher : Orbit (3 November 2015)
- Language : English
- File size : 449 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: 325,440 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Trapped in a loveless marriage, Thene must stand by a husband who whiles away his days gambling and whoring, falling into debt and dishonour as he spends every last coin. Finding herself at The Gameshouse, in the company of gamblers and gamesters, fortune makers and fortune breakers, she watches as her husband sinks further into ruin. Unable and unwilling to change his fate, she takes up the dice.
She plays for gold and plays for coin and, when the scales tip in her favour, her actions capture the attention of the house. Called to the higher league, Thene finds that she is playing for far more than she could ever have imagined. This is a game which transcends all boundaries, where players control people like pieces on a board, and where the fate of empires and kings is decided by a roll of the dice. In this game of politics she must claim victory for her king or risk losing all.
The Serpent is a richly imagined tale, brimming with mystery and intrigue, and reminiscent of the old morality tales of centuries past. Venice is depicted in gloriously vivid detail, the architecture of the city and the spirit of its people captured in remarkably lyrical prose. North weaves the fantastical throughout a narrative which in all other ways could be real. This is a novella which lives and breaths its time and place, where it’s as easy to become lost in the pages as in the narrow calles and campos of Venice. North has captured the spirit of a city – the revelry, politics and intrigue – whilst basking in its grandeur.
The narrative is told from the perspective of unseen observers who watch as Thene plays her game of kings; silent sentinels who recount the unfolding of events whilst giving little away as to their form and purpose. Thene is an intelligent and thoughtful character who conjures up an instant rapport, the hardship she endures balanced by her power as a player. The other characters, or pieces – the Priestess, the Fool, the Queen of Cups, and the four kings eager to be crowned – are lent an air of mystery, creating an exciting and unpredictable read which keeps you guessing until the very end.
Claire North has proven herself to be a skilled author whose way with words is sure to impress. Her use of language and her beautiful, poetic prose conveys the excitement and thrill of the game whilst carving out a city and a compelling narrative in wonderful detail. This is a novella centred around politics and power – instantly captivating and utterly absorbing; North is the Gamesmaster and the readers are puppets on her strings.
The Serpent surprised and impressed me in equal measure, and I would recommend it to fans of fantasy and historical fiction alike. With two more novellas in The Gameshouse series awaiting my attention, along with numerous feature length novels, I’m sure 2016 will be a year in which Claire North features heavily on my reading list – I seriously can’t wait!
The overall concept - a games house that exists outside of time and space where players play games centred on human affairs - was unusual, intriguing and mostly well-executed. And it was written by Claire North, whose "First 15 Lives" I absolutely loved.
But despite all the promise and despite some clever moments, I found it incredibly slow-going and it struggled to engage my attention. The main problem was the rather odd second person narrative style which slowed the action and left me feeling very detached from what was going on. And most of the time, neither the main character nor the narrator gave any real sign of emotion, so I didn't feel any either. This problem was so pronounced I almost gave it two stars, but the interesting premise, setting and plotting saved it from that, while still not being enough to make it a really enjoyable read.
Part of me wants to read the sequel to see where it goes and to give it another chance, but I'm struggling to motivate myself to do so.
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.
The perfect introduction to the Gamehouse world. Introducing Thene as she enters the Gamehouse and learns to play for high stakes.
Claire North does it again. I haven't read a single book or story that has been published with Claire North as the author that hasn't gripped me from start to finish, stretched my imagination and spat me out after I've finished it wanting more.
Give me MORE!
This is the first installment of the Gamehouse sequence of novellas. Each novella can be read separately, but for maximum enjoyment I recommend reading them in numerical order... for the first time any way. This installment acts as the best introduction to the world in my opinion though.