I have a thing for dark books. Stories that aren’t afraid to go into difficult places with characters, with events. That show moral complexity insteadI have a thing for dark books. Stories that aren’t afraid to go into difficult places with characters, with events. That show moral complexity instead of being didactic, that don’t shy away from the shadows, so that the light moments seem to shine all the brighter. The Losing Game was definitely one of those books for me.
Don’t get me wrong, do you want a light-hearted read? Maybe come back to this one later. This book as a strong ambience of grief, and the character goes through many different processes in that experience of grief – rage and anger, despair and hopelessness, slow-embedded resentment that leads to a consuming need to revenge. In all of that, Lucas manages to find connections to others (specifically Dante), a relationship, but the grief is like another character in the story, and because it’s so fully realised, I think most readers will ‘feel’ it. Me? Personally? I love stories that can do that to me. There’s not many that can, and it’s one of the strengths of the book (I also think the cover and the title both go a long way to indicating things tonally, personally, which helps to kind of prepare yourself).
Since the emotional side of things did feel like another character, it made sense to me that the romance took its time to develop. It didn’t feel shoehorned in, and I feel anyone who has been in a place in their lives where they’re drowning in some emotion like grief or rage know what it’s like to make space for healthier interpersonal relationships. It’s hard! It doesn’t go in a linear, easy fashion. This is not two uncomplicated people having an uncomplicated relationship, it’s two people with significant history, carefully making space for something new, while struggling to let go of the old.
Given my tolerance for straight up feelgood romance is very low, this – for me – was also fantastic and felt realistic. It felt tentative and gentle, instead of being forced to endure unrealistic amounts of flirting or chemistry. The chemistry itself when it came, for me, was awesome. I liked the thread of tension that was woven between Dante and Lucas, sexually and literally in terms of the high stakes plot, so that the moments when they came together had the effect of being really powerful.
The story is set a little in the future, but the science fiction components are never a huge part of the story. Some people might not like this. I know for myself, I actually love fantasy and science fiction worlds as ‘backdrop’ to other narratives. It’s hard to think of how exactly to categorise the book, since the straight up ‘romance’ tag is a misnomer for sure. The romance is a component of a complex story, as is the futuristic world, and other sections. It’s not solely science fiction, or romance, or dark thriller. It’s a combination of all of these things. Genre-bending is wonderful, I wish more writers would do it, and do it in an adept way like this!
Anyway, deep story, strong emotional stakes, complex characters. This is the kind of story I sink my teeth into, that stays with me for a long time. ...more