I wanted to show the Players a Game where the world was free. Where the pieces played the Game, not cold-hearted, disinterested gods. I wanted to fool them, and save My creation.
In this second installment of Samit Basu’s Gameworld Trilogy, Kirin, having claimed his father’s inheritance, now rules as Dark Lord, yet still has surprising difficulties in keeping his own armies from destroying the world. Meanwhile, Kirin’s former companions, unaware of his motivation for taking up this new job, prepare to defend the civilized world against his attack.
Amid the chaos, three ravians have quietly arrived through a magical portal, and work to bring the rest of their race back into the world. It seems, however, that the ravians’ intentions may not be as benign as history seems to indicate.
From all corners of this bizarre world the gods are moving their heroes into position in preparation for the impending war, but even they may not have as much control as they would like.
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In short, The Manticore’s Secret is a novel with some decent moments and some clever ideas, but doesn’t really come together as anything really spectacular. That being said, I think Basu has certainly offers up something truly unique in contemporary fantasy writing. I like to think that with a strong editor, Basu could be working wonders in a genre that, even as it strives to find wondrous new visions to stretch the imagination, often has trouble seeing past its own conventions.
The biggest weakness, I think, is the characters: there are so many of them, and they all seem to have similar voices and personalities. This makes it hard to keep track of who is whom, let alone build any kind of empathy towards them. The plot itself presents some interesting conflicts and twists; with a little more depth to the characters, it would reasonably make for a truly gripping tale.
There were enjoyable little gems here and there. My favorite addition to The Gameworld Trilogy’s mythology, for example, are the Kaos butterflies, which “can, with a single precisely timed flap of their wings, set into motion chains of forces that determine the weather in regions they choose to influence” (72). For me the real high point of the book, though, is the philosophical banter between gods, as they argue out the most effective and most amusing ways to manipulate the world.
In the end, this sequel holds up well against it’s “Part One,” telling a story of consistent tone and quality. Despite a few interesting scenes and some truly unique concepts, though, it is unlikely a book that will change your life.
My Grade: B-