When parts of their favorite game show up in real life, the Grey Griffins realize that life in Avalon, Minnesota, will never be the same.

They are the Grey Griffins, and they meet in secret to play Round Table, an ancient game invented by King Arthur, played on an elaborate board resembling an ancient, yellowed map.

First there’s Max, or Grayson Maximilian III, whose family is incredibly rich. But Max doesn’t care about the money — his parents just got divorced, and his dad moved out and his mom is more interested in being a socialite than a mother — he’d rather have someone to go to Little League games or read to him and tuck him into bed at night.

Next there’s Ernie Tweeny, tall, dangerously uncoordinated, with braces and huge black-framed glasses. Ernie’s afraid of everything and prefers dressing in a blinding assortment of plaids and stripes, but he’s enthusiastic about everything and a loyal friend.

Natalia Felicia Anastasia Romonov loves mysteries and detective work, especially CSI stuff like footprint patterns and voice recognition. She’s startlingly smart, absolutely fearless, fascinated by unicorns and reads voraciously.

Harley Davidson Eisenstein is big and tough looking with a reputation to match. He’s usually got grease under his nails from working on his go cart, and girls think he’s gross. But Harley doesn’t much care about what other people think.

So these are the four players, but there are five chairs around the board, because they also have a Game Master, Olaf Iverson, or Iver, who owns the store where the Griffins play and sold them their Round Table card decks. He is tall, intelligent, and distinguished, and it is he who sends the Griffins on their quests in the world of Round Table. Today however, he has spotted a new card in Harley’s deck, a card Iver didn’t sell him. Oberon, the Shadow King, the wise and terrible, deadly and ruthless ruler of the Shadowlands of Faerie. It’s a card that assures victory, but often with a terrible price. Iver tells Harley to put the card away—it’s too dangerous.

And with that, the game begins. The four friends are to fight together for the first time. Their enemies are an army of goblins, gargoyles, werewolves and a creepy monster called a Slayer goblin that looks exactly like the monster that had killed Max in his nightmare the night before. The Griffins fight as hard as they can, but at the end of the game, it’s a draw. Their enemies are too powerful and the cards Iver draws are too difficult to overcome. Iver tells them that they’ll meet in a week to resume the battle. They have survived their first encounter. That’s the important thing.

But many things can happen in a week, and much has changed by the time the Order of the Grey Griffins reconvenes to play again, including Slayer goblins, Oberon, magical grandmothers, and a book called the Codex Spiritus from the Shadowlands of Faerie. Avalon, Minnesota has always been a perfect little town, where nothing ever goes wrong and parents let their kids play outdoors after dark. But all that is about to change. Every person is born with a task they must fulfill, and the Grey Griffins are about to discover what their tasks are and why they are so important.