"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Fred Patten Reviews The Game

The Game
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Publisher: Firebird/Penguin Group
ISBN: 10: 0-14-240718-6
ISBN: 13: 978-0-14-240718-9

Hayley is a young girl living in London with her grandparents since her parents disappeared when she was a baby. Her overly strict grandmother keeps her virtually a prisoner at home, especially denying her knowledge of the mysteriously beautiful “mythosphere” which her grandfather studies on his computers. Finally she is banished in disgrace (but without being told why) to the home of relatives in Ireland.

Glumly expecting an even harsher household, Hayley is pleasantly bewildered to find that “the Castle” is a lively place overflowing with friendly aunts and young cousins her own age who seem to have been expecting her for ages.

The children eagerly introduce her into their secret game, a scavenger hunt for objects like a scale from the dragon that circles the zodiac, Sleeping Beauty’s spindle, a drinking horn used by Beowulf, and a hair from Prester John’s beard. Since Hayley has grown up uneducated, she does not realize how rare these are; but she is delighted when the search takes them into the forbidden mythosphere:

“They could see the strand they were on now, a silvery, slithery path, coiling away up ahead. The worst part, to Hayley’s mind, was the way it didn’t seem to be fastened to anything at the sides. Her feet, in their one pink boot and one black boot, kept slipping. She was quite afraid that she was going to pitch off the edge. It was like trying to climb a strip of tinsel. She hung on hard to Troy’s warmer, larger hand and wished it were not so cold. The deep chilliness made the scrapes on the front of her ache.

To take her mind off it, she stared around. The rest of the mythosphere was coming into view overhead and far away, in dim, feathery streaks. Some parts of it were starry swirls, like the Milky Way, only white, green, and pale pink, and other more distant parts flickered and waved like curtains of light blowing in the wind. Hayley found her chest filling with great admiring breaths at its beauty, and she stared and stared as more and more streaks and strands came into view.”

It is obvious almost from the start that Hayley is a special child. Just how special is revealed slowly as the story progresses and Hayley learns who she and her parents really are. Jones has used the plot device of walking between worlds in previous novels, but The Game is separate from her other books.

A knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology may help the reader recognize some of the characters whom Hayley does not know, but Jones introduces them all in a curtain-call endnote. This short novel or novella is in the Firebird series for young readers, although it, like Jones’ other novels, will charm readers of all ages.

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