The Master by Claire North. ★★★★
The Master is the third novella in North’s Gamehouse series, which begins with The Serpent. It might not have been as good as I had hoped, but it was still a solid ending to this trilogy, which has combined the genres of fantasy, thriller, and historical fiction across it’s short page span.
In the past two books, we’ve seen a mysterious man known as Silver gathering strength to make a move against the Gameskeeper. It’s now roughly modern day times, and Silver is ready to make his stand. He challenges the Gameskeeper to a game of chess, where the board is the world and they are both kings. In the course of their game, economies will be shattered, wars created, and lives lost until one or the other is finally captured.
In The Master, the POV shifts away from the mysterious watchers to being first person from Silver’s POV. On one hand, it might have been a good decision to put the reader inside Silver’s head. On the other, I really want to know who those mysterious watchers were!
More is revealed about the mythology of the Gameshouse. It is order and rationality, opposing the chaos of the barbarian king mentioned in the previous novels. If Silver succeeds in taking it down, where will that leave the world?
I think the overriding question of The Master is whether Silver retains his humanity. It’s a theme that’s been interwoven through the past two books. Can the player remain a person? Or do they have to sacrifice all connections and feelings to win the game?
The ending may not be for everyone, but I personally liked it. The ambiguity of it suits the trilogy and reminds me of the classic short story “The Lady or the Tiger.”
I’m glad I’ve picked up this series. It’s something different and hard to describe, not quite one thing or another. Picking them up also encouraged me to try more of Claire North’s work, which has been a rewarding experience. The Gameshouse novellas have been an enchanting journey that I would recommend.