Friday, 23 September 2011

Gamers' Challenge

Gamers’ Challenge by George Ivanoff (Ford Street Publishing)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 978-1921665516
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

Gamers’ Challenge is the sequel to the award-winning Gamers’ Quest. Framed in the genres of science fiction and fantasy, and suitably aimed at eleven-year-old (plus) readers, Gamers’ Challenge is a well written, evocative and heart racing chapter book. 

Zyra and Tark, the two main protagonists, have spent their life playing a game. They never grow old, have an endless supply of energy and can survive on very little sleep. They never ask any questions either; at least they didn’t up until the point where they broke the rules of the all-powerful Designers by sharing a kiss. Their lives suddenly become complicated as they find themselves out of the game and being pursued by menacing, static VI balls. As they battle to survive, and start asking questions, they happen upon a group of ‘Others’ – people who have also chosen not to play the game any longer. The ‘Others’ lead them on a quest to find the ‘Ultimate Gamer’ who is the only one who can help them defeat the deadly computer virus and exit the game, once and for all.  Along the way, and in their bid for freedom, they discover the answers to their questions and the essence of their identities.

Gamers' Challenge starts right in the middle of the action and instantly launches the reader into the lives of Zyra and Tark and the thematic concerns of the book, as well as immediately raising story questions that drive the narrative right through to the end. Zyra and Tark are strong and unique female and male characters that this age group will identify with – both on an emotional and physical level. The plot is well developed with many plausible twists and turns, and interesting characters, that keep readers engaged and the wild pace and endless action will keep the pages being turned with eagerness. The game world that the characters inhabit is vivid, believable and painterly, too. However, the real strength of the book lies in the subtle handling of themes such as identity, trust and loyalty.

George Ivanoff has given us an excellent and engrossing read with Gamers' Challenge and one can only hope that an equally engrossing third instalment will follow! 

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