The wonderful game of chess is getting its moment in the sun, quite rightly in our humble opinion as we adore it, and it’s not just through beautifully executed series like The Queen’s Gambit but also through books like Paolo Maurensig’s Game of the Gods. Translated into English by Anne Milano Appel, the book is published this month by World Editions, a publisher with a very impressive list.

Although Maurensig has written about chess before, Game of the Gods is particularly interesting as it draws on real-life chess legend Malik Mir Sultan Khan, who rose from extremely humble beginnings to become a chess world champion. Born into British India, Malik is taught chaturanga, meaning ‘four arms’ in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian game of strategy and warfare, from which chess is believed to be derived. After coming to the attention of the local maharaja, Malik is taken into his household and taught, among other things, chess, at which he excels. Later, he is brought to England where his ascendant rises in a world in which the British Empire is waning, the international political arena is poised for war, on many different fronts, and India and Pakistan are finding their feet as newly independent nations with often competing and overlapping agendas.

Maurensig mixes fact with fiction, using the frame of a journalist, who tracks down an ageing Malik on the eve of the second Indo-Pakistan conflict, to talk about his life. With wonderful imagination, the author gives Malik a story that explores large themes, such as the impact of colonialism, migration and war, all set against the world of chess.

This is a compelling story, beautifully realised and well told. And what a great cover. Recommended.


Game of the Gods | Paolo Maurensig | World Editions | paperback original

| £10.99 | 14 January 2021

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the virtual book tour. Many thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours, as always and thanks to the publisher for sending us a review copy. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. Please check out the other wonderful reviewers on this tour and please share them.

Also of interest: The Stone Diaries’; ‘Alice Walker and the power of poetry‘; ‘By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Sylvia Plath on poetry‘; ‘WB Yeats, “The Journey of the Magi“‘; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Remembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

This review is copyright © 2020 by The Literary Shed. All rights are reserved. All opinions expressed are our own. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please contact us for permission and provide the necessary credit. Thank you so much. We welcome your feedback.




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