Last fall, I read a several page excerpt that I liked, but I've managed to forget the name/author. I think the book was recent (at that time) and meant for young adults. Specifically, the young hero wanted to see the emperor?/head magician?. Before doing so, he played a card/board game with an older fellow. The gameboard would materialize two creatures which would fight each other until one won. The creatures were created by the players choosing characteristics from the beings displayed on their cards. (the strength of the GFFRRF from Naboo, the wisdom of the LKJLK from XXXXX, etc). No one knew exactly what creature they created from their cards until the game board materialized them. The game boards had been made long ago and the people had lost the lore to build them. The young hero tried to remember the lessons he had learned from his father/grandfather. After playing his cards, his adversary complemented him saying "he hid his skill well". One of the creatures was a little flying lizard while the other one was a multi-footed bouncing ball. Before the two creatures finished their fight, the head dragon of the emperor stuck its head out of a door and blasted the game board, halting the game. The young hero wanted to stand up and protest, but the guards kept him pinned down to the ground so as not to antagonize the dragon (and get blasted in turn). If you can't tell, I had vivid images as I read the excerpt. Can anyone offer suggestions on the name of the book and/or author. And is the rest of the story a good one? cheers.