Let the Games Begin!: The Marvelous by Claire Kann (book review)
Updated: Jul 20, 2021
GENRE: YA MYSTERY LENGTH: 328 pages
Social media mogul and heiress Jewel Van Hanen invites six strangers to her mansion for the weekend to play an elaborate, riddle filled game with a million dollar prize for the winners.
There are six players in the game and they are: Luna (the fan girl), Nicole (the actress), Stella (the sheltered, unhinged girl), Alex (Luna's skeptical best friend), Francis (Jewel's acquaintance), and Harlow (the whiny one). Then there is Jewel (the game master), Ethan (her brother), and Olive (her best friend), though they are not major characters (especially Ethan and Olive).
The characters had a really good group dynamic. Things between them could have easily turned cut throat, and at times they did indeed manipulate each other, but they also had each others' backs. I think Kann does a good job of writing relationship development. At the same time, the characters were a little too over the top, bordering on cartoonish. Stella in particular didn't feel like a real person. I wish she had toned them all down a bit. Another character I took issue with was Jewel and her motivations, though I cannot elaborate on them without spoiling the novel. I'll just leave it at I thought they were a tad preposterous.
The novel's synopsis describes it as being told from the perspective of three dazzling players; Luna, Nicole, and Stella. From this I assumed it would be from their first person perspectives. I was incorrect, however, and it was actually from their third person perspectives. I think it would have functioned better as a first person narrative solely because when all the characters were together it was difficult to discern just who we were supposed to be following. This wasn't a problem when characters were separated/in pairs, but it is noteworthy.
My favorite part of the story was the riddles that served as part of the game and as clues. I had so much fun playing along while reading trying to piece together the riddles and figure out their meaning. The setting was another favorite aspect of the story for me as the mansion was full of themed rooms and hidden passageways. Settings like this are something I'm a sucker for and it's what made me interested in the book in the first place.
The novel takes place over the course of a weekend and is divided up into semi-short sections. At the head of each section is a date and time. This is helpful to orient the readers in space and time in relation to the world of the novel. I think the structure of the novel would also make this a fun book to read from Friday-Sunday since those are the days of the game. That could be a silly but unique way to enhance your reading experience.
I would give this novel two ratings. If you asked me objectively what I would rate this novel in terms of writing technique and character work, I would give it a 3. However, if you asked me my fun/enjoyment level while reading this I would put it at a 4. If you can get past the absurdness of some characters and elements it's a guaranteed good time. I would compare this to The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes in that it also takes place in a mansion full of riddles and secret passageways. That novel also has that fun if a tad absurd factor to it.. It really scratched that itch The Inheritance Games left me with and so, while imperfect, I'm happy to have read this novel.
FINAL RATING: 3.5 ⭐️