The Serpent by Claire North The Serpent by Claire North
Narrator: Peter Kenny
Series: The Gameshouse #1
Published by Hachette Audio on November 3, 2015
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Length: 3 hrs 56 mins
Format: Audiobook
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In 17th Century Venice exists a mysterious establishment known only as the Gameshouse.

There, fortunes are made and fortunes are broken over games of chess, backgammon and every other game under the sun.

But those whom fortune favours may be invited to compete in the higher league . . . a league where the games played are of politics and empires, of economics and kings. It is a league where Capture the Castle involves real castles, where hide and seek takes place on a scale as big as the British Isles.

Not everyone proves worthy of competing in the higher league. But one woman, who is about to play, may just exceed everyone's expectations.

Though she must always remember: the higher the stakes, the more deadly the rules . . .

We play a lot of games at our house- for me it’s mostly board games. I just don’t feel the draw of video games that Amber and David do, but I love board games. We play a variety, from old standards to newer ones, board games, card games, dice. That’s what drew me to the Gameshouse trilogy. I love that North took playing games and made into a world transforming power.

The Serpent is the first of the novellas. The story is told to us by the narrator, an unseen watcher who takes us with him as he observes the gamers. He’s sly and smart and his outlook rubs off on us. I listened to the audio and this narration style worked really well that way. The narrator was the narrator, if that makes sense.

It’s short, but rich and full. I love the way North uses language and world she creates, both of historic Venice and the Gameshouse itself.

Thene is an amazing character. Her husband, who is pretty awful, introduces her to the Gameshouse. As he gambles away everything, she becomes an adept, intelligent player, making her way through the ranks until she is invited to play in the higher league, where armies and battleships are real, where even immortality can be a prize.  Thene has strengths and weaknesses, but she is playing to win.

We have the feeling too, that though the game Thene is playing really only affects Venice, the Gameshouse itself has more secrets that we will learn about.

I loved The Serpent. After I was finished I immediately picked up #2. It’s fantasy, but mostly it’s political maneuvering and manipulating people, using your assets and outwitting your enemies. And playing the game.

About Claire North

Claire North is the pen name for the Carnegie-nominated Catherine Webb, who also writes under the name Kate Griffin. Catherine currently works as a theatre lighting designer and is a fan of big cities, urban magic, Thai food and graffiti-spotting. She lives in London.