The Game

gameI absolutely adore Diana Wynne Jones. As far as I’m concerned, she may be the very best writer of fantasy for children and young adults that there is. Fire and Hemlock stands out as one of my all-time favorite YA books (based on the ballad of Tam Lin), and her Homeward Bounders, Dogsbody, Howl’s Moving Castle, Archer’s Goon, Dalemark Quartet and Chrestomanci Chronicles simply cannot be beat. Whenever I see one of her books I haven’t read (and they are numerous — she’s been prolific, bless her writer’s heart), I pick it up. And that’s how I found The Game, a wonderful, intricate, thoroughly satisfying novella written in 2007.

Hayley’s parents are missing, and she has been raised by her extremely strict grandparents for as long as she can remember. As the book opens, however, she is in disgrace: she’s done something wrong, something dreadful she doesn’t quite understand, and she’s been sent to live with an enormous family of aunts and cousins she’s never met in Ireland. At first, Hayley is shocked and overwhelmed, but this soon gives way to belonging and delight, especially when her cousin Harmony introduces her to The Game.

This is where the story really takes off. Hayley’s family, it seems, can live in more than one dimension: ours, but also the mythosphere, a dimension made up of all the strands of myth and belief and story from our world. You could follow the apple strand, for instance, and find yourself in Eden or the Hesperides or watching the Apple of Discord being thrown; follow the hunter strand and see Orion and Actaeus and Nimrod and Gilgamesh. The Game, then, is a kind of mythological scavenger hunt. Find a roc’s egg. Get a slice from the witch’s gingerbread house. Bring a teacup from Alice’s mad tea party. The players must navigate the mythosphere, and they must do it in secret, lest their frightening Uncle Jolyon find out and stop the Game for good.

The story unfolds and unfolds, as it gradually becomes clear who these cousins and aunts and grandparents really are, and indeed who Hayley herself is, and what she can transform into. Every page contains obvious and covert references to myth and story — I’m sure it would take three readings at least to catch them all — and it’s so delicately balanced that the ending, though satisfyingly clear, is still a surprise. There’s a note at the end about the characters, to which I referred several times so I didn’t have to Google my mythology, but if you’re up on yours, you’ll love this slim volume even more. Wonderful fantasy, highly recommended.

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This entry was posted in Children's / YA Lit, Fiction, Speculative Fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Game

  1. Nymeth says:

    I adore her too :D I haven’t read this one yet, but I bet I’ll love it.

  2. Eva says:

    I’ve never read anything by her, but I’m off to put Fire and Hemlock on hold at the library! :)

  3. Melanie says:

    I haven’t read this one yet – it sounds marvellous. I love her work so I’ll have to pick this one up asap.

  4. Jenny says:

    Nymeth — I’m sure you will. I don’t think she’s written a dud yet, and this one is great.

    Eva — Fire and Hemlock is my *favorite* of hers. I must have read it fifteen times at least. Let me know what you think when you read it!

    Melanie — it was so much fun to read! Do let me know what you think when you read it.

  5. Annabel says:

    I read this one last year and really enjoyed it – I’m a sucker for a bit of Greek/Roman mythology. I’m looking forward to reading some more eventually!

  6. Steven says:

    Im definitely gonna buy it!

  7. Kristen M. says:

    I love that she’s written so many books that are all so different. I have the Chrestomanci and Howl books and have read Aunt Maria (quite a good one!) and the griffin ones but have so much more to explore with DWJ!

  8. litlove says:

    I’m a fan of Diana Wynne Jones from her children’s novels like The Ogre Downstairs (which my son loved). I actually have a copy of Fire and Hemlock and have read positive reviews of it before. I really must get it off the shelf. You have given me another little push towards reading it!

  9. Jenny says:

    Annabel — I honestly could recommend almost anything she’s written, so when you try again, I’m sure you’ll have good luck. I tend to like her stand-alones even better than her series.

    Steven — enjoy!

    Kristen — isn’t she wonderfully inventive? I haven’t read Aunt Maria, but it looks fantastic. I’ll try to find that next, on your recommendation!

    Litlove — I’m sure you’ll love Fire and Hemlock. I’ve read it over and over and never get tired of it. So clever and well-done.

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