Game of Souls by Terry C. Simpson
|Book Name:||Game of Souls|
|Author:||Terry C. Simpson|
|Publisher(s):||Golden Arm Press|
|Release Date:||February 28, 2013|
Keedar is a dreg, a peasant, a motherless rogue, a boy. All around him, the people of the Smear struggle in abject poverty. Above it all, the nobles play a dangerous game, struggling for power and control. Money is power, but in the world that Terry C Simpson has created it is not the ultimate goal. Magic, or rather ‘Soul’, is what they seek. This is a tale of loss, betrayal, death and secrets revealed.
Winston is one of those nobles. A boy around the same age as Keedar, himself about sixteen. Count Cardiff, the most powerful noble, in both magic and influence, is his father. Winston dreams of becoming a Blade – an expert swordsman and master magician (Melder in the context of the world), though his father is not in favour of this choice of career. However, one day a year, any noble brave enough to make it through the Smear alive may ask a favour and be granted a wish. Winston takes up this Trial of Bravery and it is here that the two boys meet.
Most of the action takes place in a city divided starkly into rich and poor. Both aspects are well realised. The poverty is clearly described, the struggles for life are defined and the rivalries between guilds and gangs add flavour and danger to the surroundings. The castles and rich areas are likewise described in good detail. Aspects of nightlife, entertainment, and different groups are explored through the experiences of the two main characters.
The story of the developing relationship between the two boys is also well handled. Both are tools of their fathers’ in the Game of Souls – the quest for power, and both seek to turn their friendship to their own gain. Life has a way of messing up any plan, and throughout the story plans are made and go awry.
The system of magic in Terry C Simpson’s world is interesting. There is an underlying sense in the magic, one that is discovered as the story progresses. It is also helped by a short guide at the end of the book. As Keedar and Winston learn to use their ‘soul’, more of the magic becomes clear and understandable. It is a system that seems, at least to me, to a wisp of the orient about it – no bad thing at all, I like something a little different.
There is a history to the world and yes, there is a prologue (and epilogue). I know there are those to whom those very terms will cause turn them away from the book with disgust written plain upon their face – that is their loss. The prologue does a good job of setting up the history of the world in a way that the author clarifies through little drips and titbits of knowledge which appear in conversation and events as the story moves along. The epilogue returns to this prologue and leads the reader into the next book. It is a pay-off and an enticement.
All of this is not to say there are not areas where I was left a little flat. Firstly, though the divide between rich and poor is done well, there is no middle ground in the city. We are either in one or the other, and the city does not hang together as a whole. Which leads me to…secondly, I found it hard to maintain a sense of geography and I am left wondering if, perhaps, I have it all wrong and the Smear is in a different city, or if the King’s palace is actually in the same city as everything else.
I don’t need a map in the front of a book to garner a sense of place and distance. A good book will give me those clues and distances as I read. Indeed, I couldn’t see a map on my reading Kindle. However, on my Kindle Fire (yes, I own two… well, three ereaders) there is one – which sadly, clears up the city issue, but throws up some issues of a basic misunderstanding of physical geography, geology and topographic characteristics. Brandon Sanderson covers the basics of building your world’s geography in his lectures (you can find them on youtube.com) and there are some articles on this very site that deal with worldbuilding (I can recommend an excellent one from September 2014).
However, those little niggles aside, Game of Souls is an interesting read. A slow start builds up nicely into an exciting ending where secrets are revealed and the world of Keedar and Winston is changed. Book two is out now. I might well be reading it, once my current TBR pile is a little smaller.