The Serpent by Claire North
Book of the Month
The Serpent by Claire North is the first novella in the Gamehouse trilogy, a series that revolves around a supernatural casino where the game boards are locations, the pieces are people, and the stakes can be just about anything. As with previous Claire North works, the Gamehouse novellas are quite literary in style, with clever supernatural elements enabling some quite original storytelling. The novella's clock in at around 100-150 pages, but that is more than enough to tell what I thought was a fantastic engrossing tale.
The Serpent is set in 17th century Venice and follows a woman named Thene, whose lot in life is to be a good wife to her miserable husband. While her husband develops compulsive gambling addiction and wastes all of their money at the Gamehouse, Thene is quietly honing her skills and winning the money she requires to leave her husband and strike out on her own. Her ability doesn't go unnoticed, resulting in an invitation from the Gamemaster to play a very special game - there is to be an election in Venice, four players are each given a nominee, the winner is the player who gets their nominee elected. The prize is a place in the higher leagues of the Gamehouse, the cost for the three players who fail is a lifetime ban from the Gamehouse. And there are suspicions that this game has not been created evenly.
The Serpent provides a fantastic introduction to the Gamehouse, slowly introducing readers to the lore that drives the supernatural aspects, while also revealing that any game can be interpreted in any way for some very interesting stakes. While reading The Serpent, it became apparent that the Gamehouse is more than just a place to play wild and wonderful games for weird stakes, it is a means of controlling the destiny and development of the world. The players aren't playing with plastic pieces on a table, they are playing with real people where the results will heavily influence nations, wars, commerce, stock markets, and more. It is a fascinating concept, and I would love for North to write many more stories in this world.
Thene is a driven and intelligent woman, capable of adapting to different situations when required. As a result, she can come across as rather cold and calculating (hence the title of this novella), so at times it can be a little hard to sympathise with her hardships, and a little hard to cheer for her victories achieved by questionable means. North makes it clear that Thene will do anything to win the game, and the strength with which she pursues her goals makes her very admirable, if not 100% likable.
The Serpent is a short but wonderful story, full of twists I saw coming, and turns I never saw coming. The concept is intriguing, the execution is almost faultless, and all I want is more Gamehouse novellas.
This The Serpent book review was written by Ryan Lawler
All reviews for: Gamehouse
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, backgamm...
The Gameshouse is an unusual institution. Many know it as the place where fortunes can be made and lost through games of Chess, Backgammon - every game under the sun. But a...
The Gamehouse is an unusual institution. Many know it as the place where fortunes can be made and lost through games of Chess, Backgammon - every game under the sun. But a ...
Have you read The Serpent?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Serpent reader reviews
9.5/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, a...
Guy Gavriel Kay
For two years Shen Tai has mourned his father, living like a hermit beyond the borders of the Kitan Empire, by a mountain lake where terrible battles have long been fought ...
The Yiddish Policemen's Union
What if, as Franklin Roosevelt once proposed, Alaska - and not Israel - had become the homeland for the Jews after World War II? In Michael Chabon's Yiddish-speaking ...
Hats off to Brandenburg
London, 1815 – The Roxy Playhouse is in trouble! The Roxy Playhouse Irregulars, those libertine artists and dreamers, are up to their necks in debt – “Pay...
The Master and Margarita
Moscow, 1929: a city that has lost its way amid corruption and fear, inhabited by people who have abandoned their morals and forsaken spirituality. But when a mysterious st...
Catherynne M Valente
Child of the revolution, maiden of myth, bride of darkness. A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, an...
Only five still guard the borders between the worlds. Only five hold back what waits on the other side. Once the Oversight, the secret society that polices the lines betwee...
Nights at the Circus
Is Sophie Fevvers, toast of Europe's capitals, part swan... or all fake? Courted by the Prince of Wales and painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, she is an aerialiste extraordin...
In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers – the keepers of thi...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: