Loukas and the Game of Chance by Anthony L. Manna

Loukas and the Game of Chance by Anthony L. Manna
Publisher: Mascot Books
Genre: Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.), Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

While Loukas is playing his flute at the seawall one day, he befriends a mysterious talking, dancing snake that rewards him with fortune and favor. Some years later, tempted by greed and pride, Loukas loses all his riches and his family. He must now set off on a treacherous journey through a frightening forest filled with suspense and strange creatures to find Destiny, her son Ilion, the Sun, and her daughter Luna, the Moon. These celestial guardians will surely allow him to reverse his misfortune, restore his honor, and win back all that he loves and treasures, won’t they?

A reimagined Greek folktale, Loukas and the Game of Chance is illuminated with dramatic and evocative pen and ink drawings that provide an ideal backdrop for the dark intrigue that fills this haunting story of human struggle, courage, and resilience.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

It’s tricky to describe Loukas in a few sentences. He was a talented musician who was deeply loyal to and generous with his friends and relatives. With that being said, he also had moments of selfishness, greediness, and thoughtlessness just like many folks do sometimes. I had a wonderful time peeling back the various layers of his personality and figuring out how all of them were connected. He felt so three dimensional to me that I could have easily accepted the idea of him being based on a real person.

My favorite scenes were the ones that explored what true repentance and forgiveness mean. When someone makes a terrible mistake that harms others, the damage can’t be undone with a simple apology. Instead, Loukas needed to demonstrate that he regretted his actions and was going to make things right again. I found myself smiling and nodding along as he searched for ways to repair everything he’d destroyed.

Folklore appeals to me because of how often first impressions can be deceiving in this type of storytelling and how many lessons it can teach us about being what it means to be a good person. For example, not every powerful character is necessarily trustworthy, and wealth is only as good as how it is used. I enjoyed getting to know the characters in this story and seeing how they treated one another. As much as I want to gush more about this topic, it’s best for other readers to discover everything for themselves.

I should also mention that the author’s note at the end provided some helpful backstory for readers who aren’t familiar with the Greek legends this story was based on or who want to read more about this topic. It does contain spoilers, though, so keep that in mind when deciding when to read it!

Loukas and the Game of Chance was perfect.