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The International Writers Magazine: Children's Fiction

The Master of Misrule by Laura Powell
Orchard Books
ISBN: 978 1 40830 237 8
Gareth M Bryant


It’s always difficult to write a sequel. You have a fan-base that will throw down the gloves if you do something they don’t like. Then there is the challenge of creating excitement in a world that already exists and much of the initial wonder is lost. How then, do you go about reigniting that wonder? Simple, you give full control of an alternate world to the appropriately named ‘Master of Misrule’ who wants in on our world too. Cue anarchy.

      For those unfamiliar with the initial story, The Game of Triumphs, the world as we know it exists exactly as it does today, but alongside it lays the Arcanum. In this world a deadly game is played for life changing prizes. Cat discovered a way to enter this game and her prize was that of justice for the death of her parents. In order to enter the game you need to find a coin, the ownership of which makes you a target for those with the knowledge of how to use it. Cat and her three companions, Toby, Flora and Blaine, band together to take down the four rulers of the Arcanum and release the imprisoned ‘hanged man’. In doing so they each win their prizes and to claim them, they need only enter the Arcanum and play their triumph cards. This is where the first book ends and The Master of Misrule picks up.

      There is no hanging around with the introduction in this book. It’s revealed very early on that the Arcanum is in chaos. The Hanged Man has taken over donning a new name, the Master of Misrule. He has changed all the rules and started to work his way into our world. Mysterious scratch cards are turning up all over, they have no details on other than the words ‘Heads you win, tails you lose’ and an image of a coin that when scratched away reveals either heads or tails. People that reveal heads immediately receive great luck and those with tails inevitably find themselves with the extreme opposite.

      Powell has really brought the Arcanum to life in this story, the descriptions are eloquently detailed and the protagonists are very easy to relate to, even if you haven’t read the first book. The game itself is difficult to follow, but this seems too obvious to be an accident. The world is supposed to be confusing and Powell does a good job of keeping that element intact, even when the hanged man brings about the simple game of heads and tails. The way in which she writes is almost poetic yet easily followed by the 12+ audience at which it’s aimed. That said, it is not without its tense moments so often found in today’s young fiction.

      Powell really has outdone herself, setting a new standard for future publications. The Master of Misrule is imaginative, intriguing and one of the best reads available today. It carefully weaves plot and character into an expansive world that has potential for many more books to cover. It’s been truly difficult to pick fault in the story, it brings nothing new to the genre but instead refines much of what has been seen before. The characters are believable, the world is full of amazement and there is not a plot hole left open. If you are looking to get lost in a book this spring, make sure it’s this one.
© Gareth M Bryant Feb 2010
Gareth is studying for his Degree in Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth

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