International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Young Fiction
Game Of Triumphs by Laura Powell
Date Of Publication: 05 March 2009.
Published By Orchard Books
Michael Webb review
game of triumphs is about a 15-year-old girl named Cat. As far as
she is concerned her parents died in a horrific car crash. Subsequently
she has lived with her auntie Bel since the age of three.
As usual Cat is
wondering aimlessly around London. Little did she know that all around
her a game was being played. A game of chance, a game of consequences
and a game of unsurpassed prizes.
Cat stumbles into the bewildering world of the Arcanum where questions
are answered and secrets are revealed. Just like so many players before
her, Cat now has something to play for. Though the odds are heavily
stacked against her, will this orphaned girl find her answers in the
strange world of the Arcanum?
Laura Powell has a good idea here. I think the intention is to appeal
to the teenagers who are unsure about their place in the world. I know
that when I was that age I wished there was a place to escape
to. I think that this world called the Arcanum is a reflection of that
So just incase you are unsure as to the fundamental story line allow
me to give you the basics. Essentially it is about a girl named Cat
who is a bit of a loner and a wonderer. She stumbles across a game called
The Game Of Triumphs. This is a place where people can win
wonderful prizes. For example one of the prizes is the power to indulge
in all the sins of Satan and not have to pay the mortal price.
To enter into the game you need to transport into an alternate world
called the Arcanum. In this world Cat uncovers a secret about her past
and feels that she has no choice but to try to reveal the complete truth
of her dark past. She travels through the Arcanum with three other companions.
The build up is slow however; it seems to take an age to move the story
forward. And unfortunately when the story is pushed onward it is not
done effectively. At the beginning the explanations and understanding
of the rules of this bizarre game were not made clear. However this
was intentionally done by the author to keep a sense of mystical bewilderment.
We can assume that the purpose of this was to keep the reader intrigued.
Nevertheless this act of trying to maintain the reader on the edge of
their seats was dealt with rather awkwardly. In fact as much as it is
my displeasure to say this, I think that a lot of the narrative in the
book was dealt with awkwardly.
Two thirds of the way through the book it is still not clear exactly
how the game works. The characters seem to have such an understanding
of how the game works that they immediately figure out new things within
it. Cat manages to pick up the rules and intricate workings of the game
with immense speed. This would be fine if this understanding was communicated
effectively to the audience. This however is not the case. I, as a reader,
was left in the dark about a lot of things. As a result I felt as if
I was missing something fantastical or crucial to the plot. The extent
of this awkwardness throughout the book hinders the enjoyment of it.
This is down to the use of language as well I feel. This is a book aimed
at people of 12 - 15 years of age. I rang up my thirteen-year-old sister
and asked her what imperceptibly meant. She couldnt even say it
let alone understand it. On the same page the word irrevocably is used.
The truth of the matter is that with both of these words I couldnt
have given you a complete understanding and definition without looking
them up in the dictionary.
The issue with this is that a young person who does not understand these
words is not going to have the patience to look them up. These books
need to appeal and be accessible. This lack of appreciation for more
simple use of the English language will not allow the target audience
to adhere to the author. This is no reflection on the intelligence of
our young generation because as stated earlier I wasnt completely
sure what these words meant either.
There are a lot of really nice moments though. The descriptive language
used is sometimes very effective. This is an example of such a description.
"It had drowned a man in eternal winter, yet the closer they
looked, the more its depths shimmered with rainbows, and light."
The characters are very nicely rounded as well. It is a shame that we
do not get a closer look into their past. I would very much have liked
to have known why Blaine lived with a Latin teacher. Why did he have
those scars on his arm? What was wrong with Floras family situation
exactly? There was scope for this I feel.
The trips to the Arcanum are dealt with very well. The surroundings
are mostly very comprehensible and enjoyable. I would have liked to
have seen more of it.
The ending is rather surprising. You do not actually find out if they
are successful. You are never told exactly what happened in Cat's past.
Once again I personally felt that it was a shame to leave the book unresolved.
My intention with these criticisms is not an attempt to put you off
the book. It is simply to address the issues. For I truly believe that
with some revision and a few redrafts this could be an immensely successful
© Michael Webb February 2009
Michael is studying Drama at the University of Portsmouth
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