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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Gameshouse by Claire North (reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)

Official Author Website
Order The Gameshouse over HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Claire North is actually Catherine Webb, a Carnegie Medal-nominated young-adult novel author whose first book, Mirror Dreams, was written when she was just 14 years old. She went on to write seven more successful YA novels. 

Claire North is a pseudonym for adult fantasy books written by Catherine Webb, who also writes under the pseudonym Kate Griffin.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: 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.

But those whom fortune favors 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 the scale of a continent.

Among those worthy of competing in the higher league, three unusually talented contestants play for the highest stakes of all...

FORMAT/INFOThis novel was originally published as three digital-only novellas: The Serpent, The Thief, and The Master. Trilogy, released on May 28th, 2019 counts 448 pages and is available in e-book, paperback and audiobook format.


I didn’t listen when people told me to read Claire North. Silly me.

The Serpent opens Gameshouse trilogy of novellas. It takes place in 17th century Venice, where a young, lovelessly married woman named Thene discovers the joy of a game. In the Gameshouse you can play the games we all know and enjoy, but the chosen few win their admittance to the higher league, where the currency is life, and kings and empires become pawns.

Thene becomes one of the real players, she has to figure out how to play her cards (real people) to win the game.

I daresay North packed more creativity and fresh ideas in less than 100 pages than many authors do in their bloated epic creations. It has it all - strong intrigue, politics, philosophy, elegant and precise language. Thene is a female lead with brains and agenda, and games within games impressed me a lot.



The Thief by Claire North is the second novella in the Gamehouse trilogy, and it tops The Serpent.

Set in the 1930s Thailand, The Thief follows Remy Burke - a veteran player of the Gameshouse. One night he gets drunk and makes a risky bet – he wagers his memories against 20 years of his challenger’s life. The game? A hide and seek. Thailand becomes the playing board, and Remy’s odds look bad. Remaining unnoticed as a six foot tall white man in pre-WWII Thailand is difficult. Especially when his opponent has a lot more cards at his disposal.

Remy flees the city, and ends up on the run, struggling through a jungle, villages and cities. He meets people who help him but also those who betray him. It all makes for a fast-paced and exciting read with clever twists and ingenious tactics used by Remy.

The story is narrated by “watchers” who observe the game and comment it to the reader providing insights and glimpses of the future. I hope North reveals their identity in the last novella.

A must-read if you enjoy intelligent, clever ideas and the power of brevity.


The Master ties the trilogy together. Set in the present it focuses on a mysterious Silver who appeared in the previous novellas. Silver is attempting to play the ultimate game for mastery of the Gameshouse itself. The Great Game begins and players face each other during a chess match, only they don't use the board. They play governments, geopolitics, other players. 

Things get violent and insane, the game involves NSA, MI5, hackers, assassins, and much more. At times it may feel overwhelming, but I loved every moment of this spectacular world-reshaping match. 

North writes great, three-dimensional characters, engaging dialogues, and intelligent plots. The Master's conclusion is simply magnificent.

It's a must-read for everyone. Seriously. Especially now, that you can have all three novellas gathered together.



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