Inspired by the true story of Indian chess champion Malik Mir Sultan Khan in the early 1900s, Game of the Gods is a transporting work that spans the farming country of India to England's elite to New York's bustling streets.
Plot structure: ★★★
Character's voice: ★★★★★
In 1930s British India, a young Malik wants to learn how to play chaturanga, an Eastern ancestor to chess with deeps ties to myth, faith, and enlightenment. Malik meets the wealthy Indian landowner who oversees his small rural village and shares his dream—and to his shock, the landowner takes him back to his palace and grooms him for the game.
Over the years as young Malik grows in talent, he becomes a bauble to his patron, and his patron sees an opportunity: Malik can beat Westerners at the modern game of chess, too. Soon, Malik finds himself in England and competing against the white elite.
Malik always wins. And in the 1930s, his Indian ancestry does not endear him to the British public.
Game of the Gods follows Malik throughout his entire lifespan as we watch his humble beginnings turn into lush winnings and then to mysterious World War II side rooms and finally to a scandalous murder in New York City. A surprisingly passive participant in his own life, Malik's adventures come to him like wafts of air, taking him from place to place.
Italian author Paulo Maurensig used the real-life inspiration of Malik Mir Sultan Khan for Game of the Gods, but he is clear to point out in his forward that there are embellishments to the story. It was relatively easy to tell what was most likely fiction... but that did not stop me from enjoying the tale at all. This was mesmerizing.
I enjoyed Malik's story and found myself extremely invested in how his life would turn out—which was truly something, as right at the beginning of Game of the Gods we are introduced to Malik at the end of his life. So from the top, we know how the story must end. But I still found myself cheering for him at every step.
Fantastic story, beautifully told. Recommended for all fans of the era, chess or strategy games, and good storytelling.
Thank you to World Editions for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.