With brisk footwork and dazzling prose rendered into English by Anne Milano Appel, the novel brims with the voice of Sultan Khan’s urgency to relate—at the end of one’s life, on the brink of a war—his prolific if foreshortened rise to fame in the throes of a fading yet persistent imperialism ... With this bold and compelling act of historical imagination, Maurensig imbues another great but marginalised figure of chess history with a capacious interiority and a history as intricate and elegant as the most calculated chess games; a minor history played against and with the grand History of imperialism, fascism, and migration. Beyond the veneer of Sultan Khan’s sparkling championship trophies, there lies a deep ambivalence about his own identity ... by his very own calculation, Maurensig’s Sultan Khan embodies the tension of at once making history and being made by history, of writing and being written.
Maurensig takes the basic facts of Sultan Khan's life and spins a larger fiction out of it. He begins by giving Sultan Khan considerably humbler origins than they actually seem to have been, and makes the discovery of his remarkable talents even more surprising ... All in all, in adds up to a strange sort of book. Sultan Khan's own life is rich enough material for a novel -- complete with the mystery of his apparently essentially abandoning chess in the mid-1930s and living a quiet life for the next three decades -- but Maurensig embellishes it far beyond that, both before and especially after the brief chess-success phase. The origin-story is built up patiently enough, and helps in forming an image of the character and, in essence, where he's coming from, explaining much of who he is. But it's a shame that, for example, the war-gaming isn't played out at greater length. And while the time in New York with the wealthy Mrs. Abbott is interesting, it's a somewhat awkward fit with the larger story ... The incredible career of Sultan Khan - burning so brightly but also so briefly, with considerable mystery as to why he withdrew so suddenly and completely from competitive chess -- would be more than enough for a novel ... Game of the Gods is fast and consistently entertaining. Even the unusual side-episodes are colorful and interesting, and Sultan Khan is a memorable leading character (not least in his general tendency to subservience); it's certainly a solid-enough read.
Italian novelist Maurensig spins an intriguing historical narrative of Indian chess master Malik Mir Sultan Khan (1903–1966) ... The story sputters a bit in the latter half, particularly with Sultan Khan’s bizarre rant from a psychiatric ward. Still, Maurensig’s tragic tale of genius and destiny duly salvages a forgotten hero.