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The Prize in the Game Hardcover – December 13, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (December 13, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765302632
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765302632
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,906,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Out of the Celtic twilight, that gold mine of romance lore for contemporary fantasists, comes Walton's retelling of the wooing of Emer, set in the same world as her first two novels, The King's Peace and The King's Name. This story, an expansion of a passage in The King's Peace, follows a group of noble-born youngsters on the cusp of adult warriorhood, their relationships as intertwined as a Celtic knot, in a brawling, bloodthirsty culture where gods stoop to speak with men. Just as one form shifts to another in Celtic art, Walton constantly shifts the point of view as she traces the early careers of beautiful Elenn and Emer, her younger charioteer sister, princesses of Connat being fostered in Oriel for a year; sardonic Conal; the wild dream-ridden Darag; and gentle Ferdia of Lagin, who loves Darag to his own destruction. When a horrible accident causes the death of a warhorse and in revenge the Beastmother goddess Rhiannon curses Oriel, political alliances shatter and reform among these distrustful kingdoms. It seems that Celts, male and female alike, would rather fight than eat. Walton sure-handedly evokes a primitive realm where the Otherworld seamlessly impinges upon reality, bringing sounds, smells, sorrow, hatred and burning love to life as powerfully as the thrust of a barbed spear. She also captures the terrible beauty of a warrior race in an outworn time, struggling, in Yeats's phrase, to come clear of the eternal nets of wrong and right.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

In the Ireland of Walton's alternate world, four young peoples' lives are torn apart and their homelands threatened with fratricidal destruction after a goddess is accidentally offended. As Walton develops her alternate Celts, however, what with their convoluted politics and quick tempers, it sometimes seems that the miffed deity is superfluous. The feuds of local potentates are quite capable of generating all the havoc any novel could need to keep readers turning pages. As with previous Walton novels, readers will indeed do just that, especially the intelligent sort of Celtophiles who respect authors with something under their Celts. Moreover, it seems likely that this book will have at least one sequel, for the number of corpses left unavenged by the last page provide all the motivation the rest of the characters need to keep their swords sharp and employed for a good long while. A readable sidebar to Walton's Arthurian variations, The King's Peace (2000) and The King's Name (2001). Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Jo Walton has published nine novels, three poetry collections, and an essay collection, with another novel due out in 2014. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2002, the World Fantasy Award in 2004 for Tooth and Claw, and the Hugo and Nebula awards in 2012 for Among Others. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are much better. She writes science fiction and fantasy, reads a lot, talks about books, and eats great food. She plans to live to be ninety-nine and write a book every year.

Her livejournal, with wordcount, poetry, recipes and occasional actual journalling, is at: She also blogs about old books at

Her real grown up website with info about her books, stories, plays and poetry is at


The King's Peace (Tor 2000)
The King's Name (Tor 2001)
The Prize in the Game (Tor 2002)
Tooth and Claw (Tor 2003, reprinted Orb 2009)
Farthing (Tor 2006)
Ha'Penny (Tor 2007)
Half a Crown (Tor 2008)
Lifelode (NESFA 2009)
Among Others (Tor 2011)

My Real Children -- forthcoming from Tor in May 2014.

Poetry Collections

Muses and Lurkers (Rune Press 2001)
Sibyls and Spaceships (NESFA 2009)
The Helix and the Hard Road (Aqueduct 2013)

Essay Collection

What Makes This Book So Great.


Copper Cylinder Award (Among Others 2012)

Hugo: (Among Others 2012)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, 2002

Mythopoeic Award (for Lifelode, 2010)

Nebula Award (for Among Others, 2012)

Prometheus Award (for Ha'Penny) 2008

Robert Holdstock Award (Among Others, 2012)

Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award (for Farthing) 2007
Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award (for Half a Crown) 2009
Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award (for Among Others 2012)

World Fantasy Award (for Tooth and Claw) 2004

Award Nominations

Indie Lit Awards: (Among Others 2012)
John W. Campbell Memorial (Farthing 2007)
Lambda (SF with gay/lesbian issues) (Ha'Penny 2008)
Locus (Farthing 2007, Among Others 2012)
Mythopoeic (Among Others 2012)
Nebula (Farthing 2007)
Prometheus (Libertarian) (Half a Crown 2009)
Quill (Farthing 2007)
Rhysling (SF poetry) (2007: "Candlemass Poem", in Lone Star Stories, Feb 2006)
Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice (Ha'Penny 2008)
Seiun (Best work translated into Japanese) (Farthing, Ha'Penny, Half a Crown 2011)
Sidewise (Alternate History) (Farthing 2007, Ha'Penny 2008, Half a Crown 2009)
Sunburst (Canadian Literature of the Fantastic) (Half a Crown 2009)
Tiptree Honor (Lifelode 2010)
World Fantasy Award (Among Others 2012)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David Roy on April 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The Prize in the Game is a short novel that takes place in the world of Walton's The King's Peace and The King's Name. It gives a little history on a few of the characters, and takes place before the other two books, with events in this one leading up to the characters' entrances in The King's Peace. It's a wonderfully done piece, with not a word wasted.
At 253 pages, it is certainly a quick read, but there is so much packed into it that it feels like a longer book. Walton writes a lean and mean novel that doesn't use any extraneous language or plots. The book is about Emer and Conal, but it is also about Elenn and how she compares to her sister, Emer. It's about friendship, love, and honour, and the power that all three have over the life we live. How Walton manages to package all of this together in such a small package, I have no idea.
Emer and Conal's love story is a sight to behold. They both start out the book very young, with not much idea of what their future holds. Emer is sixteen, and really too young to be considered an adult, but she takes arms just like her slightly older companions do. Conal starts out the book talking about how beautiful Elenn is, but you quickly realize that he has no feelings for her whatsoever. When he stumbles across Emer (relatively plain compared to Elenn), he finds that he has discovered the love of his life. When both take up arms, Emer wants nothing more than to be Conal's charioteer and wife. When Walton writes these two, they just spring off the page. You feel their pain when they realize the many obstacles in their path, both from her mother and from the circumstances around them. They are well-rounded characters who are very interesting as well.
The second story has to do with Elenn.
Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Detra Fitch VINE VOICE on October 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The story has several lead characters (Conal, Emer, Elenn, Darag, Ferdia, and more), as well as quite a few secondary ones. However, once the reader gets into the story, knows everyone, and the plot comes into focus, the story zeros in on Conal and Emer.
Conal, Darag, and Ferdia are rivals for the High Kingship. Emer becomes Conal's charioteer. On a favorable day, they "take up arms" and complete a ritual marking them as adults in the eyes of their countries. Conal and Emer fall in love. They dream of running off together, but honor and duty hold them tightly.
When a friendly competition leads to the death of a horse, the Horse Goddess sets a curse upon the island of Tir Isarnagiri. Of course, politics and betrayals must follow.
**** This is a well written story that slowly weaves its way into several complex situations. The more I ready, the more I became enthralled with the characters, plots, and sub-plots. Bravo, Jo Walton! Recommended! ****
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Format: Kindle Edition
I'm on a mission to read all of her books after reading _Among Others_ and _What Makes This Book So Great_. I wasn't impressed by her first book, but this one is truly excellent. I was reminded of _Sailing to Sarantium_ (high praise indeed). The best moment was when she had the characters blithely describe the past two months which were the best times of their(young) lives. Walton unconcernedly skips over this because she has better stuff to tell. Again, worth reading!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Wonderful episode in the parallel world so like post-Romano Britain, yet with wonderful changes and improvements, including much greater equality between men and women.
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