The Game (YA)
by Diana Wynn Jones
Review by Cathy Green
Puffin Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0142407186
Date: 01 March, 2007 List Price $11.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
You don't have to be familiar with Greek mythology to enjoy Diana Wynne Jones' delightful new novella The Game, but it will help you fully appreciate just how much she's incorporated into her story.
The story begins with Hayley being packed off to stay with her aunts in Ireland, as punishment for she's not exactly sure what. Up until being sent to Ireland, Hayley's life has been severely circumscribed. Her parents are dead and she's been raised and home-schooled by her grandparents. She never gets to meet anyone aside from the maids who occasionally take her shopping or to the park. There are hints that something mysterious is going on, such as when Hayley's Grandpa shows her parts of the "mythosphere" on his computer, resulting in a very cross grandma banning Hayley from using the computer; or when she meets twin street musicians named Flute and Fiddle while on a shopping excursion with Martya, the latest in a series of household help. It's after Hayley meets and plays with Flute that her Grandma ships her off to stay with her aunts. It's dark and rainy when Hayley arrives and discovers that she has a large family of rambunctious cousins of whom she was previously unaware.
Soon Hayley is joining her cousins as they play the secret game of the title, which involves setting out into the "mythosphere" and bringing back objects belonging to mythical creatures such as golden apples and dragon scales. And of course they must never, ever tell the adults about the game. As Hayley becomes more involved in playing the game, she learns more about who she and her family really are and what really happened to her parents. Soon the game isn't a game at all and for Hayley the stakes are very high indeed.
Diana Wynne Jones has written an absolutely charming story that can be appreciated by anyone 10 and over. (Not that there is anything in the story that makes it unsuitable for children younger than 10, although the novella would probably need to be read to a child of six or seven; I picked that age because that's the year we studied Greek mythology in school.) As with any well-written tale, the story works fine even without a background knowledge of the relevant characters from Greek mythology. However, the reader will get an extra level of enjoyment out of being able to identify who the various characters represent and which stories are being referenced when Hayley and her cousins venture into the mythosphere.
Very highly recommended.