Huge thanks to Zuntold Publishing for sending me an ARC of Rebecca Zahabi’s Game Weavers for review.
From the blurb:
Seo is Twine’s youth champion.
We are in a darker Britain and the national sport is not football but Twine, a game where weavers craft creatures from their finger tips to wage battle against others in vast arenas, watched by thousands. But we are living in intolerant times and Seo harbours a secret.
When he is outed as gay by the media, Seo cannot use his magic to save him. With the help of his brother Minjun and Jack, the man he can’t quite decide if he loves or not, Seo has to fight to get his life back on track whilst facing the biggest match of his career.
A fantastical yet hauntingly contemporary debut novel from Rebecca Zahabi.
I was so excited to read this book. It promised many of the things I love in a story: fantasy/magical realism, LGBTQ+ rep, dystopian undertones, love, family and explorations of identity.
When I first cracked it open, I’ll admit I wasn’t sold straight away and it took me a couple of chapters to adjust to the writing style and hit my stride with reading it. But I’ll tell you what, it wasn’t long before I got completely sucked into Seo’s world.
First off, I just love Seo and Minjun. I’m a huge fan of tight-knit siblings and Seo and Minjun have the most precious relationship. Their closeness and support of one another, despite the expected sibling up-and-downs, is completely lovely and a real thread of joy through a story that is fraught with complicated, and sometimes toxic, relationships.
The world itself is fascinating. Zahabi takes contemporary society and changes just enough to make it a whole new world: LGBTQ+ rights have taken a backwards step, particularly in the often brutal world of Twine, creating a hostile environment for our protagonist and his beau; and the magic system, which is central to the game of Twine, is imaginative and fun but with a dark edge that ups the stakes as the story progresses.
The story is very character driven, and Seo’s character in particular has a moving and sometimes gut-wrenching journey as he struggles with internalised homophobia. Told in third person and focusing alternately on Seo, Minjun and Jack, the core relationships each develop in alternately beautiful and painful ways. The character focus is woven through with increasingly tense encounters within the world of Twine – a game where two players craft fantastical creatures and landscapes from their magic in order to win ground within a stadium – and by the time we reach the final match, I was on tenterhooks and could not stop reading!
All in all, Zahabi has written a unique story which brings together challenging themes, heartwarming characters and nail biting action, all told with flair and creativity. A cracking debut. I look forward to reading more from this author.