The Thief by Claire North is the second novella in the Gamehouse trilogy, and in my opinion the best of the three by quite a substantial margin. That is saying something given how much I enjoyed the other two novellas. These novellas, while connected by the entity that is the gamehouse, tell contained stories in different locations and different time periods. No prior reading of The Serpent is required, however, prior reading will certainly enrich your experience.
The Thief is set in 1930's Thailand and follows a man named Remy who has won and lost in the higher leagues of the Gamehouse for a very long time. Remy gets blackout drunk and awakens with a pounding headache to find that he has accepted a game of Hide and Seek - the board is the whole of the Thailand, the game starts in less than an hour, and he has bet all of his memories against 20 years of his challenger's life. The Gamehouse shouldn't have accepted such a bet, but Remy shouldn't have gotten drunk.
The Thief is the story where we truly get an understanding of The Gamehouse and its machinations. You get to see how games like monopoly or chess are interpreted by the Gamehouse, you get to see that players can achieve something approaching immortality by betting years of their lives against others, and you get to see that bets can be made for just about anything such as the appreciation of the colour purple, or the ability to taste chocolate. And you get to see just how powerful the Gamehouse is, with players in these games given pieces that include military generals, government officials, spies, trackers, village chieftains, and more.
One of the things I enjoy about these novellas is the narration style. The Serpent and the Thief is narrated by "watchers", who observe the game and provide insights with respect to the players, the pieces they are utilising, and the people whose lives are impacted by the players and their games. The act almost like a sports commentary, giving specific facts about a variety of different people and items, and their commentary adds some much needed levity to what can be some very tense storytelling.
The Thief is storytelling at its finest, full of emotion, tension, failures, triumphs, mysteries and conspiracies, all while enriching an established world, and all contributing towards a final showdown in the third novella. The Thief is a must-read story.
Review by Ryan Lawler
10/10 from 1 reviews
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