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Throwback Review: The Game of Triumphs

Another Throwback Review, this time from February 2012. Take a looksie:

The Game of Triumphs is a YA urban fantasy by Laura Powell.

Fifteen-year-old Cat is on her way home, doing her best to avoid human contact as always, when she can’t help but notice a man being chased – a man that asks for her help. But Cat sees the gleam of excitement in his eyes, along with the fear, and figures he’s just a weirdo.

Yet something about it all sparks her curiosity, and Cat can’t seem to help pursuing the situation. Doing so brings her to an extravagant party that introduces her to the Game of Triumphs. It’s a centuries-old game played between modern-day London and an alternate, unexplainable reality called the Arcanum where game players embark on challenges having to do with the tarot cards they are dealt, or the card they are trying to win. It’s all a bit confusing to Cat at first, but the intrigue is undeniable.

Not long after becoming involved in this enigmatic game, though, Cat finds out just how dangerous and potent the information you can learn in Arcanum can be. Despite others’ single-focus goal to win and gain the power and glory of their Triumph, Cat begins to uncover secrets from her own past that alarm her – including a possible link to the Game of Triumphs from when she was very young.

Determined to learn more, Cat is drawn into the addictive gameplay – and it’s not something you can just walk away from…

My synopsis may be a little befuddling, and I apologize for that. The specifics of the actual game are a little confusing and would take a while to explain – so I’m not. The author does it far better than I could!

The Game of Triumphs has a brilliant, truly enthralling start with a creepy tarot card. It has a plot that feels fresh and new from the get-go, which is fantastic for us bibliophiles that read so much that sometimes plots tend to blur. Not here!

Laura Powell is not shy about throwing us into the story. We’re right in the thick of it from the beginning, though she kindly offers up a tad of exposition to let us a learn a bit more about Cat and her eccentric relationship with her Aunt Bel, who has been her guardian since her parents’ death when she was a child. Its’ sparse but illuminating initial detail provides us some background and explains Cat’s different, likable, maybe slightly standoffish personality.

As she gets more involved in the Game of Triumphs I was just as confused as Cat was about how the game is played. I hoped it would eventually make sense – I was captivated by it. And, happily, Laura Powell expertly lets us learn by little explanation and lots of observation without bombarding us with rules and details in one fell swoop.

The Game of Triumphs is kind of psychedelic, in a good, intoxicating, stimulating way! Mysteries and questions abound and my curiosity always mirrored Cat’s. Startling revelations, done in a hypnotic, dream-like way bring about a new level of meaning and history to the game.

Let me put it this way, since I’m not so sure I’ve made it clear yet: The Game of Triumphs is very cool, very original, and very alluring.

And I will be waiting to read the sequel the day it comes out!

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