[ARC Review] Black Chalk by Christopher J Yates.

ARC Reviews, Bry's Reviews, Reviews 5 Comments 25th July, 2014

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

[ARC Review] Black Chalk by Christopher J Yates.Black Chalk by Christopher J Yates
Published by Random House on April 1st, 2014
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
One game. Six students. Five survivors.

It was only ever meant to be a game.

A game of consequences, of silly forfeits, childish dares. A game to be played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University. But then the game changed: the stakes grew higher and the dares more personal, more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results.

Now, fourteen years later, the remaining players must meet again for the final round


This was not at all what I expected it to be. You see that tagline?

One game. Six students. Five survivors.

It was only ever meant to be a game.

Well hot damn, that sounds exciting! As I mentioned in my Top Ten Books to Read This Summer post, I’ve been itching for a great mystery/thriller that would pique my adrenaline levels. Black Chalk really did not live up to this. In fact, I almost put the book down in the first 30 pages when I realized I’d just read 30 goddamned pages of OCD rituals and mnemonics. Holy tedium.


This book centers around six unlikely friends at a stuffy undergraduate university in Oxford in the 90s: Jolyon the ringleader, Emilia the blah lack of personality pretty girl, Chad the token American pig-farmer’s son, Cassandra the ‘eccentric’ poet who swears she will commit suicide when she has completed 500 poems, Mark the narcoleptic physicist genius, and Jack the clown. The hodge-podge group represent the students who got into the university based on their merit and intelligence rather than coming from privileged families, which leave them all with an obnoxious chip on their shoulders. Though they attempt to come across as cerebral and complex, they come off more like a bunch of twats with easily triggered oversensitive buttons.

This makes for a bad combination when the group of friends devise a game to be played in secret among them, with humiliating consequences for the losers. When they pitch their idea to the mysterious and never-explained ‘Game Soc’ society, they earn ample benefaction, and their game earns a sizeable pot of prize money. Unfortunately, as the game is played and the consequences are doled out, they turn out to be far less dangerous or chancey than the synopsis or hype suggested. Even the death was only partially related, and didn’t really have that strong of an impact on the others – especially when they’re busy talking about the Game right after.

Suspense? Hardly. Every ‘reveal’ was done in a way that it came far too late. If you’re paying attention, its almost impossible not to figure them out before they’re confirmed. Thrilling? Not even a little. More time in this book was dedicated to drinking and smoking pot than the actual game or its consequences. BORE. YAWN.

Ho-hum. I guess I’m back to looking for a new mystery to get me excited.

Written by Bry


I’m Bry, and I’ll be your saucy guide in the realm of historical and supernatural fiction.

With a BA and ongoing MA in History, I am avidly passionate and easily excited over anything written in a time period of my interest. My primary specialty is the Italian Renaissance, but I have extensive expertise in Tudor Britain, Louis XIV France, and am well versed in antiquity and general world history. Because of my deep love for the past, I am drawn to supernatural fiction, particularly when woven together with myth and historical background. I also love high-adrenaline reads, whether its horror, mystery, thriller or well written sex. Give me something to excite me.

When not reading, I am a fitness model, sponsored athlete and personal trainer.

5 Responses to “[ARC Review] Black Chalk by Christopher J Yates.”

  1. Amber @ YA Indulgences

    Oh no. 🙁 I’m sad you don’t like the book. The tagline makes it sound amazing. It’s unfortunate it didn’t live up to your expectations or rather wasn’t what you expected. That’s always the worst part about reading a book.

    The characters sound very…interesting, maybe a little dramatic in Cassandra’s case. 🙂

    I’m not sure if I’ll read this one, by your review, it seems like I’ll be disappointed at the lack of…suspense/thrill that should be evident in the story.

    Have you read or heard about The Merciless by Danielle Vega? I haven’t read it, but it involves a group of teenagers who perform an exorcism on a girl, while (I believe) the main character then wants to get out of the group. Here is the link if it sounds interesting to you. 🙂 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18667769-the-merciless

    • Bry

      Oh my gosh I was SO excited by the tagline and it was such a let down in every way. Unfortunately they were all overdramatic and over-sensitive and it made me sad. Written differently, they could have all been very interesting, including Cassandra’s oddity.

      I keep seeing this merciless book around, I might have to check it out! If the suspense and thrill factor is there, it could help me recover from this disappointment, haha! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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