book about living chess set
September 14, 2012 6:32 PM Subscribe
Looking for the title of a YA book featuring a living chess set.
posted by spunweb to media & arts (1 answer total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Here's what I remember about this YA book about chess pieces and revolution.
1. It's not a "true" chess set; the narrator watching the game gradually realizes that the pieces are not following the roles. For example, one female pawn is perserving and inciting other pawns to join her in an uprising against the white pieces. In a way, all the black pieces are pawns -- they just don't all know it. The narrator is fascinated by this; he goes up to the attic of his father's house all the time to watch the games/battles. He doesn't realize it, but the pieces can vaguely see him, and the crumbs from his sandwiches are like manna from heaven.
2. The last scene involves an ambiguous victory, and the winning side throws banners in the air that read something like LOVE or FREEDOM IS LOVE or something.
Basically, this boy moves into an old house with his dad (I think his parents are divorced?) and discovers this chess set in the attic. He realizes that the pieces are not just moving on their own, but that if he watches long enough, they look more and more human/personalized and as though they've got free will. He watches them every day, and decides he's not going to interfere, but then one of his favorite pieces (the female pawn) looks like she's about to die. He picks her up and moves her to another part of the board, and she then realizes that he's... not the absentee god they've been thinking he is. She challenges him to help her take the other side, and what follows is an ambivalent story linking her rise to power and growing cynicism (which is a good thing, with caveats) to the boy becoming more comfortable living with his dad (which is also a good thing, but also with caveats).
I'm thinking this was a 1990s book; I think the cover had a chess-scape but with trees and people in black and white, with the colors matching the squares. There may have been a splash of red on it, since I think the main pawn took as proof of the boy's existance a strand of his shirt/scarf and made it a banner.
From what I remember, this was a novel about defiance and perserverance; the boy refused to stay "damaged" and the pawn refused to remain a pawn.