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The Quillan Games: Pendragon Book Seven    by D. J. MacHale order for
Quillan Games
by D. J. MacHale
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I jumped into the middle of the long-running Pendragon series with this seventh of ten adventures, The Quillan Games. It seems that Bobby Pendragon (of mysterious parentage) is one of a group of Travelers, who journey through flumes to alternate worlds and times. Bobby is one of the good guys, involved in an ongoing battle with the main villain, the demonic and monstrous Saint Dane. Bobby tells us that in the last episode, Saint Dane killed Loor, but that Pendragon somehow willed her alive again. He wonders what other unknown powers he might have, where all the Travelers (who, like Bobby were raised by foster parents) came from, and what additional powers they might develop.

As this episode opens, Bobby accepts an invitation (from S.D.) to go to Quillan, where he's immediately engaged in fighting off an army of huge biting robotic spiders (more of the villain's quigs). Having escaped that danger, he finds himself on a dull, grey world, populated by miserable looking people who dress alike and only show signs of life when betting on the outcome of games, displayed everywhere on animated billboards. Those who pick losers are immediately escorted away to a dire fate by 'Terminator-looking guys', robotic enforcers called dados - games are taken way seriously on Quillan! One of the games involves Challenger Green and Challenger Yellow - Bobby recognizes the ring of a fellow Traveler on the Yellow contender's hand. Bobby is captured by dados and taken to the castle of the game organizers, clown-like LaBerge and stern Veego. They tell him he's a competitor - Challenger Red - and soon push him into a deadly game, where one slip means mutilation or death.

Back home on Second Earth, Bobby's old friends Courtney and Mark catch up with what's happening to him via the journals he sends home. Courtney has had her own problems in dealing with a long, slow rehabilitation after a serious car injury engineered by - who else? - Saint Dane. Oddly, Mark has developed a friendship with another childhood acquaintance, 'obnoxious bully' Andy, who has grown into a science nerd. They're working together on a project to create material 'that can become a variety of different shapes.' While all this develops, Bobby competes in more perilous games and makes contact with a resistance group, revivers, as well as the Quillan Traveler, Nevva Winter, whose day job is to work as assistant to the trustees who run the single company, Blok, that controls this world and subjugates its people. He meets Saint Dane as well, in the body of one of the territory's power brokers. The bad guy challenges Bobby to enter a very dangerous competition, the Grand X. Though he doesn't intend to risk death in this ultimate game, events - and the plans of the revivers - force our hero into it.

Though I haven't read the previous Pendragon books (they began with The Merchant of Death) and missed many references to earlier adventures, I was still able to enjoy The Quillan Games. It's full of excitement, imaginative challenges, conflict, Macchiavellian manipulation and multiple betrayals. It ends with two friends reunited again, and off to Third Earth: ''Hobey-ho. Let's go.' ... To be continued.' Pendragon fans will not want to miss this latest thrilling episode.

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