*I received a copy via the publisher and NetGalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*
Years after The
Gauntlet, the Architect returns with a new partner, MasterMind, to take
revenge on the Mirza family. Now twelve-years-old, Ahmad Mirza must face their latest
creation, The Battle. Ahmad is forced
back by the Architect to a brand new Paheli. A slicker and more modern update
raises the stakes, and with New York frozen in time, Ahmad must beat the game again
before it beats him.
Like the first book, the story is structured around three
challenges that Ahmad and Winnie must complete to defeat MasterMind’s game.
Riazi again gives readers not much time as our characters must rush all over
the city of Paheli. Ahmad remembers little from his past adventure, so he’s
just as confused as Winnie is. What definitely carries on the from the debut is
the fast-paced mix of monsters and high-stakes battles for survival. I loved the
descriptions of the new Paheli, it’s an entirely new landscape with some familiarity
with Ahmad and returning readers. The world-building of the novel and game
design shines through. The old Paheli isn’t there anymore, but parts of it
still manage to linger with a more significant emphasis on the steampunk design
this time around. I enjoyed the level of detail given to the setting. I’m
obviously not the intended audience, but this book is good fun, full of action
A similar issue I had with The Gauntlet was the disparity in characterisation between the
lead, now Ahmad, and its secondary characters. The Battle introduces Ahmad’s classmate, Winnie, as his companion
into Paheli. Throughout the novel, you really get a feel for Ahmad and watch
him grown as a person, but Winnie is not as fully developed. She’s a smart and
confident girl but doesn’t really impact the story as much you’d expect and
felt like a paper character meant to just tag along with Ahmad.
Overall, I have no doubt that younger readers will enjoy the new Paheli landscape with high-rise landscapes, flying cars and familiar faces. A surprising reveal at the end makes me wonder where the future of Paheli could lead. I personally didn’t enjoy The Battle that much which is quite disappointing, especially when I adored the first one. I absolutely loved The Gauntlet, but its sequel doesn’t match up with the magic of its predecessor. It is a solid and fascinating return but to those who loved the world created before may be disappointed by its execution.
A feature section to highlight my favourite posts from my fellow bloggers that were posted this month.
63 Prompts to Help You Write That Book Review! – Even though I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now, I always struggle to write a review. Some days I can’t force the words out of me and I can’t seem to say what I want about the read I’ve read. The lovely bloggers over at The Quiet Pond have made a huge post with prompts to help get the words rolling. I’ve used this while writing two reviews and I’ve seen the immense boost it has given. I found myself writing a lot more and thinking more deeply about my review in places that I would’ve otherwise missed.
There Are No Small Parts in Jeanie Finlay’s ‘The Last Watch’ – A post that reflects on the final season of GOT. Despite whatever thoughts you have about the writing, getting to see the heart of the production was why I particularly loved The Last Watch documentary so much. Daisy, an old school friend who studied film, really summarises her the documentary really well!
That’s it for this month! Tell me what went on in YOUR life this month! What sort of things was important for you this month? New obsessions? New TV shows? Or book? Any new song recs (I’m always open to new music!)? Best books you read this month?
Barely adjusting to her new home in the Upper East Side, Bangladeshi-American kid Farah finds herself sucked into the game of The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand after her younger brother, Ahmad, vanishes into the game. Alongside her friends, she must complete three challenges and failure to win will trap them- and Ahmad- forever.
I’ve been anticipating this book since Salaam Reads was first announced. And I can definitely confirm that this book was so worth the wait.
I really, really enjoyed the world building and game design. The way the story is mapped out is really brilliant. I hope to, maybe, see a graphic novel of this series somewhere down the line because of the Middle Eastern and South Asian influences Raizi had made a very dazzling and creative world. The way the world moves in pieces like a game was so pretty to imagine.
Farah is pretty headstrong and a loveable lead who is very aware of her own weaknesses. She’s constantly struggled with her want to ditch the challenge in search of her brother versus her need to navigate her and her friends out of the game. And she works alongside her friends to complete each challenge. Their friendship is very cute and they work well together, recognising each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They’re all very intuitive and logical in situations that would have me in tears. (ahah)
I think the only downside was the lack of characterisation for Essie and Alex. Farah’s character comes out really strongly and the other two do come across as being more archetypes rather than their own persons. Also, its cultural aspects were so adorable and great to read. While the world seems almost alien to her friends, Essie and Alex, Farah finds familiarity in it and so did I. I wished this book existed when I was a kid.
Overall, it’s a solid fantasy debut in an exciting game world. At its heart, a story of family and friendship, making it a great for any young readers.