Review: Game of Secrets by Kim Foster
This week, I have the pleasure of reviewing Game of Secrets, a YA Victorian thriller, by Kim Foster, who just so happens to be Canadian, in keeping with this month’s theme. (And British Columbia-based at that–Woot! Represent!)
Released: 3 July 2018; Sky Pony Press; 356 pages; available in Canada through Thomas Allen & Son.
Game of Secrets is an intriguing blend: part Red Queen, part X-Men, part My Fair Lady. The novel follows teen Felicity Cole, a flower girl scraping by in a London slum, trying to protect her little brother—a boy ‘Tainted’ with telepathic abilities. But when Felicity’s own abilities manifest, she finds herself slated for execution and her only means of escape comes through an enigmatic instructor. He brings her to Greybourne Academy, a school where Tainted youth compete to become secret agents in the service of Queen Victoria.
“You must be proud, bold, pleasant, resolute… and now and then stab, as occasion serves.”
Christopher Marlowe, real-life rival of Shakespeare and Elizabethan spy who, in Foster’s world, is additionally the Founder of Greybourne Academy
At first glance, the overall plot arc seems familiar: a girl from an underdog neighbourhood gains powers—powers that turn out to be unusually strong—and she becomes a deadly assassin. However, Foster provided three gutsy plot twists that I definitely did not see coming, and these added refreshing surprises to the storyline.
Without spoiling too much…
The first twist hits at the end of Chapter 2 to kickstart the action and subvert an expected romance. The second, which puts a very clever wrench in the ‘save the sibling’ trope, strikes about ¾ of the way through. And Foster saves the third for the final page. This last was one of my favourite kinds of plot twists, impossible but inevitable, the sort that JK Rowling is so good at.
The Victorian atmosphere also added an extra layer of interest. Epigraphs from Victorian classics set the stage at the start of every chapter and the worldbuilding was nicely fleshed out with 1800s obsessions, from the search for ancient Atlantis to debates on Darwinism. There’s also a chainmail parasol, which is pretty darn cool, and although I don’t believe Foster has plans for a sequel, if there is one, that parasol should absolutely be there!
Foster also writes thrillers for adults and you can learn more about her here.