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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Imagine a chessboard that can control a person’s life, even cause death. Lucy has friends over, but when they tire of their games, she pulls out the mysterious chessboard. The rules are laid out clearly and the game must proceed from beginning to end. In each game, Lucy wins and one of her friends loses. The tragedy and the mystery are that the losing friend dies within the next day by unseemly means. It reads like a mystery, but it’s also a horror story where the game of chance, in this case, a chess game, is also a game of life and death. It’s all in black and white, you see. But Lucy wants to end this life and death curse, beginning with the mystery of who created the game and who her ancestors really were.
Roy Junior’s short story, The Mysterious Chessboard, is a complex read. On the surface, it reads like a story being told. There are multiple uses of the word ‘then,’ which adds an interesting perspective. As you look deeper into the author's style, you will notice there's a unique quality to this author's approach and you see the story as being laid out like the chessboard he writes about: complex, but also very well-orchestrated, all in black and white. Each section is introduced with strict instructions to read every word thoroughly in order to follow the plot. But is there a plot? Or is the story itself another checkmate story of chance: who lives and who dies? The story is very abstract and raw, with all manner of twists and turns that pop up as unexpected tangents. In many ways, it reminds me of Shirley Jackson's 1948 short story, The Lottery. This story, like Jackson's, needs multiple reads to comprehend the complexity of it.