I’m not sure what drew me to The Master of Misrule by Laura Powell although the title just sounds like a book that’s going to be up to all kinds of no good, as my grandmother would have said. Even though it’s the sequel to The Game of Triumphs, I had no trouble getting into it and figuring out what was going on so I think it’s fine as a stand-alone novel. This is a YA novel that is really going to appeal to gamers; however, I think its topsy turvy adventure is also going to appeal to people who like fantasy novels. Warning: This review contains spoilers for The Game of Triumphs.
A little background: In The Game of Triumphs, Cat, a London teenager is drawn into the ancient twisted game world of Arcanum where four Game Masters rule. In Arcanum, a card game (based on the Tarot deck) is played for life altering prizes. The game has a sinister and deadly side that Cat and her friends believe is caused by the Game Masters. The Arcanum has the uncanny knack of finding the one thing each player desires most in their heart, and hooking them into the game but providing tantalizing tidbits leading to that as an ultimate prize.
When The Master of Misrule opens: Cat and her friends have finally won the game, and possess the cards they need to claim their prizes. They have also succeeded in overthrowing the tyranny of the Game Masters, something they believe will make the game more equitable for all of its future players. Games, like nature, abhor a vacuum; however, and a new Game Master has risen to rule the game.
“The card was Cat’s next move in an ancient and infinite game of chance. Once she tossed her coin, London would vanish, to be replaced by the landscape of a world just the other side of our own. The Arcanum. It was the Game’s board, and those who took their cards onto it would find their illustrations brought to strange and dangerous life…Cat had played many cards and won many moves. Yet the fear that bit into her heart was sharper than ever before.”
Cat and her friends are ready to claim their prizes but as they head back to the Game to do that, they notice that some very strange things are going on around them in London. There’s an odd lottery. If a person wins the lottery, they get their heart’s desire but, if they lose, catastrophic things happen to them. What no one knows yet is that the Master of Misrule not only rules Arcanum but has set his sights on ruling the entire world, and has begun to incorporate the unwitting citizens of London into the deadly Game of Thrones.
“…the woman wouldn’t have noticed it if it wasn’t for the silver trim glinting up at her…In the otherwise dreary street, the card was an unlikely touch of glamour. There was a picture on the back, of a glittering blue circle or wheel on a black background. On the reverse side was a silver embossed coin, and written in ornate curly script: The Triumph Lottery of Luck. Heads You Win, Tails You Lose…She stroked the embossed coin and found that the silver flaked off easily, as on a scratchcard…she put the card in her bag nonetheless. You never knew, did you?”
The Master of Misrule has tricked Cat and her friends. When they discover his treachery and his diabolical plans, they’re determined to defeat him no matter the cost. The fate of the entire world is literally at stake.
Each of Cat’s friends has a back story that is developed in this novel, giving the reader each one’s reason for being in the game as well as their personal motivation for stopping the Master of Misrule. The Game Masters seem to represent the Fates, spinning people’s lives one strand at a time – except the Game Masters do that using the Tarot deck of cards.
The action in The Master of Misrule doesn’t stop once you begin reading. At times, I felt like I’d fallen down a rabbit hole in a twisted Alice in Wonderland. I believe it was written more for tween and young teen readers who love gaming and/or fantasy. Everyone who reads it should familiarize themselves with the Tarot deck first because those cards form the basis for everything that happens. I enjoyed The Master of Misrule or I wouldn’t be reviewing it. It’s part thriller, part magical fantasy, part budding romance, and all very original!
Can’t wait to read it?
The Master of Misrule was published on June 12, 2012, and has already been published in England, so it should be available from your favorite bookseller below. Just click the button to go there to get it.
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P.S. Many thanks to June for emailing me about a heads up for a correction that was needed in this review. I’ve just made the corrections in the review now. I had mistitled the first book in the series, calling it The Game of Thrones (apologies to George R.R. Martin) when it should have been The Game of Triumphs. Big dwoops on my part! Thanks again June!