________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 17 . . . . January 5, 2018


Game's End.

Natasha Deen.
Winnipeg, MB: Great Plains Teen Fiction, 2017.
239 pp., trade pbk., EPUB & Kindle, $14.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-927855-85-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-927855-86-7 (EPUB), ISBN 978-1-927855-87-4 (Kindle).

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4



Lifting my face, I saw the sky from this position wasn't the same. A yellow sun blazed in an orange sky, and from the black centre of the star, the shadows swooped down. I had no idea what they were, but common sense said they were big, bad, and deadly.

I had Homer roll into a fetal position, then Zeke curled himself around his brother. My matchstick figure wasn't big enough to cover them both. Time to fight. I stood over them, yanked on my hood, pulled off my scarf, and hoped the evil things wouldn't go for my face.

I've always wondered why ghosts feel as solid to me as the living, and as one of the shadows flew close, I got my answer. For this moment, for this time. So I could use my scarf as a weapon, wrap it around the shadow and fling it to the side. So I could make a fist and punch the one that swooped close.

It was demonic whack-a-mole, as soon as I smacked one of them out of the way, another took its place. They stank of sulphur and desperate need, and even with the protection of my coat and gloves, I felt their acidic touch. More of them swooped down. My arms were tiring, my legs were losing strength from the countless squats and lunges, and I was sure I'd pulled a muscle – or seven – in my back. I hit and swung and boomeranged until I thought my arms would fly off. From behind, I heard a loud roar, words spoken in a language I couldn't understand.

The shadows exploded, raining black dust. There was a loud crack and a brilliant flash of light burned the sky. The sound of a sonic boom, a high keening. Blistering heat followed by a sharp cold and the pungent smell of rot. The light faded. Nell was beside me. Zeke and Homer were gone. I scanned the landscape. The scarf slipped from my fingers. Craig lay in a pool of scarlet, Serge knelt beside him.

In Game's End, Maggie Johnson continues her work as a spirit guardian, helping souls cross over from this world to the next, but a powerful soul-eater is on the loose, making it almost impossible for her to help ghosts transition. Maggie soon realizes that this fight is a personal one because the soul-eater has some sort of connection to her family and is set upon revenge. Maggie wants answers about her mother and also about the soul-eater but wonders if she's strong enough to cope with what she might find out.

      Game's End is the third book of Natasha Deen's trilogy starring Maggie Johnson, and continues the saga of Guardian and Gatekeeper. Once again Maggie shows how resilient and stubborn she is as she tries to solve the mysterious deaths of people in Dead Falls, AB. The townspeople are suspicious and view Maggie as some sort of threat or bad luck, and the local media harass her in an attempt to reveal her powers. While Maggie does possess supernatural powers, she is also caring and compassionate, hoping only to solve real-life mysteries so that souls can be peacefully transitioned to the next world. She now faces the threat of a soul-eater whose intention is to get to the souls first, before Maggie can help them. In Game's End, Maggie's powers seem to be growing and expanding, but this can also make them unpredictable, which only adds pressure to her already stressful situation.

      Fans of this series will recognize many of the supporting characters who are from both the real and the supernatural world. Maggie is helped by her friend Nell who often adds comic relief to grim situations. Other flesh and blood characters include Maggie's dad, who is her biggest fan and supporter, as well as his girlfriend Nancy, the local sheriff. The supernatural cast of characters who assist the protagonist includes Maggie's boyfriend Craig, a ferrier of souls, and her friend Serge, whose death was the focus of Guardian.

      Game's End is, in part, a classic good versus evil story in which the evil often appears very different from what it truly is. Webs of lies and deceit cover up evil characteristics in the novel as they often do in real life, and it takes time for readers to realize who can be trusted. As in any good murder mystery, Deen provides clues here and there for her readers.

      Once again, Natasha Deen has produced an interesting mix of events, characters and genres within one young adult novel. There are elements of murder and mystery, horror, fantasy and the paranormal all within the same story. Yet, with all of this mix, Game's End remains a coming-of-age novel at its core. Readers will understand and empathize with Maggie, a young woman who is doing her best to use her powers, both supernatural and natural, to make her community a better place. As she herself states on the final page of the novel, "Maybe there are no happy endings. Maybe there are just endings, and it is up to us to make them happy."

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson, a retired high school teacher-librarian and teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.

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