“Deliciously scary, often funny...this tour de force leaves one marveling.” – Booklist, starred review
“Will almost certainly dazzle readers.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Readers willing to suspend every ounce of disbelief will be rewarded by this smart, consciously complex offering that never panders to its middle-grade audience.” – Kirkus Reviews
“As he did in his dazzling dystopian satire, Feed, Anderson gleefully deploys his wicked wit, leavening the Gothic atmosphere with hilariously anachronistic details... Jazzier than Susan Cooper, funnier than Philip Pullman, this is a highly original and enormously entertaining read.” – The New York Times Book Review
The Game of Sunken Places looks like a board game. It acts like a board game – most of the time. But is it just a board game? – absolutely not!
The invitation arrived in an envelope outlined in gold leaf, addressed in Gothic script. Greg showed it to his friend Brian. “It’s an invitation from my Uncle Max, up in Vermont. He’s strange, lives in his own world, sort of. He wants me to come and visit, and bring a friend. Since you’re my only friend who’s housebroken, I thought I’d see if you’d like to go. But I’m warning you, he’s strange – and weird, very very weird.”
Brian smiled. “I wouldn’t miss it. It’ll be an adventure.”
But Brian and Greg had no idea what kind of an adventure they were in for. Things were already waiting for them in the hills, traveling on strange pilgrimages, making strange plans, and issuing strange invitations.
[You can stop here for a short booktalk.]
And things continued to get more and more bizarre. On the train, an old man stared at Brian, spinning a silver-bladed yo-yo. The man who ran the snack bar in Gereford, where Uncle Max lived, told them to leave and go back where they came from. The woods near Uncle Max’s house were dangerous – a man had died there recently, and others had disappeared. When Uncle Max arrived, he was in a horse-drawn buggy, with a driver in a long black cape. He wore striped trousers, spats, a bowler hat and a coat with tails. His white eyebrows and mustache were shaggy, his nose a cruel beak, and his voice was harsh and biting. He greeted the boys gruffly and ushered them into the buggy, locking the door after them. Half an hour of silence later, they arrived at the huge, gloomy mansion, and met Greg’s cousin Prudence, who also dressed as if she were living in the 1800s.
Sent upstairs to the nursery after dinner, the boys discovered a strange Victorian board game called the Game of Sunken Places. It had been damaged by water stains, and the only things they could make out were the starting point and an old Victorian mansion called Grendle Manor, the very house they were staying in. The next day, in a secret room, they found the timer for the game, and when they set it into position on the board, other places began to appear along a path leading from the house – the Dark Wood, the Club of Snarth, the Great Cliff, the Petroglyph Wall, and the Clock Corner. Brian made a list, and they began to explore, finding the landmarks on the board one after another.
They were deep in the Dark Woods when they met the man from the train. His name was Jack Stimple and he welcomed them to the game, and warned them of the danger they would face, especially from Uncle Max. What was the Game of Sunken Places and what strange events had the boys set in motion when they first put the timer on the board, and then turned it over, to start the sand flowing through the hourglass?
This booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart