The Game of Sunken Places
The Game of Sunken Places

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Annotation: When two boys stay with an eccentric relative at his mansion in rural Vermont, they discover an old-fashioned board game that draws them into a mysterious adventure.
Catalog Number: #112954
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition Date: 2005
Pages: xi, 260 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-545-20008-3 Perma-Bound: 0-605-50741-4
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-545-20008-0 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-50741-8
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2003020055
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
Gregory and Brian find themselves unwilling participants in a role-playing game, itself a mask for a larger struggle between two supernatural peoples. The writing is lively and often irreverent, and while individual scenes are often dramatically effective, the plot feels too improvised and thus less than suspenseful. Sleator's Interstellar Pig is a much more satisfying tale of high-stakes gaming.
Kirkus Reviews
When wise-cracking Gregory and brainy Brian go to Vermont to visit Gregory's "strange . . . [p]robably insane" Uncle Max, they "couldn't know what an adventure it would be." Once at Grendle Manor and properly clad in knickerbockers, the two boys find a mildewed game board—the eponymous Game of Sunken Places—that mirrors the local landscape and takes on a real and potentially lethal life of its own. A sinister stranger, a genial troll, a fussy, very non-human game coordinator, and numerous monsters variously aid and block their progress through the game, which, it seems, is central to a cosmic contest between two spirit races. Sound confusing? It is, and purposely so. Gregory and Brian bumble and puzzle their way along with the reader, gradually discovering the many overlaid constructs and realities that make up the game. As with so many games, the fun of the novel is not in the ending but in the getting there, and 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. (Fiction. 10-14)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-Thirteen-year-olds Brian Thatz and Gregory Buchanan accept a cryptic invitation to visit Gregory's weird Uncle Max and cousin Prudence in Vermont. Uncle Max, a Victorian-era throwback, greets them in a horse-drawn carriage and dispatches them to his creepy old manor house. Once there, he burns the boys' luggage and everything in it, forcing them into the heavy tweed knickerbockers and starched shirt collars he prefers. Then an all-consuming game begins, though the hapless boys are not informed of it. It subjects them to every fiend Anderson can imagine, from bridge trolls and ogres to nefarious man-monsters in billowing cloaks. The boys are confused, and readers are likely to be as well. Anderson's prose is deliberately disorienting and chaotic, and his characters are quick-witted and engaging. This is an action-packed adventure, but the convoluted story line, abrupt scene changes, and unstable landscape will not be everyone's cup of tea.-Catherine Threadgill, Charleston County Public Library, SC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly

Anderson serves up a fantasy thriller that neatly combines the techno-savvy of his Feed, the horror themes of Thirsty and the sharp humor of Burger Wuss. Thirteen-year-olds Gregory Buchanan and Brian Thatz have accepted an invitation to stay with Gregory's Uncle Max in Vermont over their school's two-week October break. Gregory does not know Max well (he is actually the adoptive father of Max's now-adult cousin, Prudence) but warns Brian that he's "probably insane. He lives in kind of a different world from the rest of us. You know? The kind of world where electricity is a lot of invisible spiders." True to horror-story convention, locals urge the boys to turn back as they approach his estate. Max is indeed ominous, and their reception bizarre (why do the servants incinerate the boys' clothing?). Right away, the boys find a board game (from which the novel takes its title) that seems to depict Max's estate—but soon new places begin appearing on the board. Gregory and Max learn they are participants in a high-stakes Game run by the so-called Speculant; with characters like an axe-wielding troll and an infuriated elf, portentous place names (the Ceremonial Mound, the Hill of Shadow) hard-to-discover rules and riddles, the Game proceeds like an elaborate computer fantasy adventure. Anderson keeps the tension high even as he cuts it with colorful prose and an insightful motif involving the boys' friendship. Dexterously juggling a seemingly impossible profusion of elements, the author builds to a climactic series of surprises that, exploding like fireworks, will almost certainly dazzle readers. Ages 9-12. (July)

Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* When Brian and Gregory visit the isolated, gas-lit mansion of Gregory's peculiar uncle Max, their host burns their luggage and outfits them in an elaborate nineteenth-century wardrobe. They have unknowingly become players in an enigmatic game. Play begins in earnest when they discover the Game of Sunken Places, an enchanted board game that draws them into a real-life quest. Soon they are facing ax-wielding trolls, fleeing bloodthirsty ogres, and becoming increasingly aware that Uncle Max's cavalier attitude toward their safety is more than just garden-variety eccentricity. Intensifying the sinister atmosphere is an unsettling warning: The grown-ups are involved in unforgivable things, and making you their pawns. Anderson, the author of the YA novel Feed (2002), proves himself a natural in this genre, tightening the screws of suspense one twist at a time, and occasionally piercing the sinister atmosphere with a cheeky ray of comedy. Adding emotional heft is his authentic portrait of best friends, two lobes of the same brain. Deliciously scary, often funny, and crowned by a pair of deeply satisfying surprises, this tour de force leaves one marveling at Anderson's ability to slip between genres as fluidly as his middle-grade heroes straddle worlds.
Voice of Youth Advocates
In this sequel to The Birchbark House (Hyperion, 1999), a young Ojibwe girl embraces her own talents under the threat of a United States government that has determined to take her people's land for itself. The year is 1850, and although her family has survived smallpox and unforgiving winters, this latest danger seems insurmountable. Stragglers pushed off their land join the tribe, filling homes emptied by disease and introducing new rivalries. Omakayas feels the first stirrings of romance and proves to the adults that her abilities deserve respect, as she rescues her father from slow death in a frozen lake and helps visualize the new life that the tribe will build to the west. Still a girl, she bristles against the restrictions that adults place on her and struggles to control the jealousy she feels for another girl who has managed to throw off traditional constraints. The first book won enormous praise, including a National Book Award nomination, but this novel is even better. The themes are not only more profound, but the episodic structure of the previous novel is also much exceeded by the interweaving plot threads of young love, sibling rivalry, and frustration with gender roles. The threat that the federal government poses to the community is more than just a framing device; it penetrates all the other concerns of the novel, drawing them tightly together. This novel combines all the emotion and joy of The Birchbark House with an impressive deftness of structure.-Joe Sutliff Sanders.
Word Count: 56,111
Reading Level: 4.6
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.6 / points: 8.0 / quiz: 79707 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:3.5 / points:13.0 / quiz:Q35740
Lexile: 670L
From bestselling and National Book Award-winning author M. T. Anderson comes the paperback reissue of a middle-grade adventure starring two of the most disarmingly deadpan boys you'll ever meet.

When Brian and Gregory receive an invitation to stay at a distant relative's strange manse . . . well, they should know better than to go, but since this is a middle-grade adventure novel, they go anyway. Why not? Once there, they stumble upon The Game of Sunken Places, a board game that mirrors a greater game for which they have suddenly became players. Soon the boys are dealing with attitudinal trolls, warring kingdoms, and some very starchy britches. Luckily, they have wit, deadpan observation, and a keen sense of adventure on their side.

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