Book Review: The Battle by Karuna Riazi

Book: The Battle by Karuna Riazi

Published August 2019 by Salaam Reads|384 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: The Gauntlet #2

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

The game begins again in this gripping follow-up to The Gauntlet that’s a futuristic middle eastern Zathura meets Ready Player One!

Four years after the events of The Gauntlet, the evil game Architect is back with a new partner-in-crime—The MasterMind—and the pair aim to get revenge on the Mirza clan. Together, they’ve rebuilt Paheli into a slick, mind-bending world with floating skyscrapers, flying rickshaws run by robots, and a digital funicular rail that doesn’t always take you exactly where you want to go.

Twelve-year-old Ahmad Mirza struggles to make friends at his new middle school, but when he’s paired with his classmate Winnie for a project, he is determined to impress her and make his very first friend. At home while they’re hard at work, a gift from big sister Farah—who is away at her first year in college—arrives. It’s a high-tech game called The Battle of Blood and Iron, a cross between a video game and board game, complete with virtual reality goggles. He thinks his sister has solved his friend problem—all kids love games. He convinces Winnie to play, but as soon as they unbox the game, time freezes all over New York City.

With time standing still and people frozen, all of humankind is at stake as Ahmad and Winnie face off with the MasterMind and the Architect, hoping to beat them at their own game before the evil plotters expand Paheli and take over the entire world.

I was really excited about The Battle after I read The Gauntlet a couple of years ago.  The Battle was just okay for me, and I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.

This book focuses on Ahmad, Farah’s brother.  I don’t know why but I just wasn’t as interested in his story as I was in Farah’s.  It did have a video game sort of feel to it, which seems right up Ahmad’s alley.  I’m not really a video game person, so I wonder if that’s part of it.

The story was interesting, and I’m glad we got to see Ahmad years after the events of The Gauntlet.  The game has definitely changed, which we see throughout the book.  It’s less Jumanji and more Ready Player One.  At least, from what I know about Ready Player One.  I still haven’t read it, so I can’t say for sure.  But this book does have more of a video game feel than a board game feel to it.

I was intrigued that the game managed to rebuild itself into a more modern version of the one we saw in The Gauntlet.  It was harder to picture, and I felt like we didn’t the descriptions we saw in the first book.  It was a lot harder to picture in this book, and I felt like the rules weren’t as clear in this book as they were in the first one.

Ahmad’s drawings sounded pretty cool- I found myself wondering if he was drawing the places in the Gauntlet, and if he didn’t remember what had happened there.  This version seemed somewhat familiar to him, but since it was really different, I wonder if he knew it was familiar but couldn’t place it.  That’s what made me wonder if he had remembered what happened years earlier and if maybe the drawings were a way to figure out or remember what had happened.  I could be completely off with this, of course, but I did think about that quite a bit at the beginning.

2 stars.  The Battle was just okay for me.  It was nice to see what happened to Ahmad and Farah after the Gauntlet was destroyed but I just wasn’t as interested in this story as I wanted to be.

Advertisements

What I’ve Been Reading: Part Two

In an effort to talk about a lot of the books I’ve read, I’ve decided that it was a good idea for me to do some sort of post where I briefly talk about some of what I’ve been reading.  All links to Goodreads if you want to check out the book!

  • Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert.  I honestly don’t know if her books are for me, because  this book was okay, and I wasn’t a big fan of Pointe when I read that.  Suzette was a frustrating character, and she seemed really self-absorbed. She cared more about herself than her brother and what he was going through.  I get that she needed to have her own life, and considering everything that her brother had going on, it makes sense she’d try to have her own life and do her own thing.  But…it just bothered me that she didn’t really seem to care about anyone but herself and what she wanted.  There’s a lot going on in this book, and it was a little unclear what direction Colbert wanted to take.  Everything felt messy and unresolved, and while it’s really cool that the story is about a Jewish black bi girl, it felt like there was too much going on for anything to really have an impact.  It was very surface level (at least for me), and nothing got the attention it really deserved.  Little & Lion gets 2 stars.
  • The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi.  I really liked this one!  If you liked Jumanji, you will definitely like this book.  Picture Jumanji, but with a steampunk, Middle Eastern twist to it, and you have The Gauntlet.  It’s definitely fun and cool and it’s perfect for all ages, not just middle grade readers.  I loved seeing the relationship Farah had with her friends and her brother, and how willing she was to go get her brother out of this game.  It’s fast-paced and you really feel like you’re playing the game with Farah and her friends.  The Gauntlet gets 4 stars.
  • The Inexplicable Logic Of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz.  This is another book I really liked.  I really liked Sal and the relationship he had with his dad and his grandma.  This book really is about family and belonging and how we all fit together.  In particular, Sal has his friend Sam, and they are better off as friends than as a couple.  I’m definitely glad that there was no (romantic) relationship between Sam and Sal, because it wouldn’t have fit with everything going on.  And the more we see them, the more you realize they are stronger as friends.  I didn’t understand Sal’s anger issues.  It seemed a little out of place, and it didn’t seem like Sal.  Sal, Sam, and Sal’s other friend were remarkably similar in that their mothers died, and their biological fathers weren’t around.  Sal’s adoptive father was great, though, and Sal (and his friends) were really lucky to have him in their lives.  It does make me want to read Aristotle And Dante Discover The Universe but I’m nervous to read it because I know everyone really likes it, and what if I don’t like it as much as this book?  I did really like it, and I’d rate The Inexplicable Logic Of My Life gets 4 stars.
  • By Your Side by Kasie West.  This book was really cute!  I wish I liked it more, because it seems like the type of book I’d absolutely love.  I did like the trapped in the library aspect of the book, and I was slightly disappointed that the entire book wasn’t set in the library, because that would have been awesome.  But at the same time, I liked seeing how her weekend in the library changed her.  My big question is, how did the library staff not double check the bathrooms before closing?  I mean, maybe they closed the bathrooms early- I know my local library closes the bathroom 10 minutes before closing, but still, why not double check.  I know it would ruin the whole book, but it is a little strange to me.  I liked seeing Autumn and Dax’s relationship after their library lock-in, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about Autumn’s anxiety.  She seemed pretty calm throughout the whole thing.  I don’t doubt that’s a real thing for her, and anxiety is one of those things that seems to be different for everyone.  Or maybe what we saw is different than what she was really experiencing?  At any rate, I did really like By Your Side, and it gets 4 stars. 
  • Bird Box by Josh Malerman.  This book was a weird one, but like most of the other books I’ve talked about, I really liked it.  I heard about it on the Book Riot podcast, and it was creepy as hell.  There were a couple of moments that were truly terrifying.  I am curious about what it is that drives people to violence, and how it even came to be.  On the one hand, growing up in the world could be a good thing, because it’s the only world you’ve ever known, and you’re better able to handle it because you don’t know what it was like before.  But on the other hand, you’ll never know what the world was like before it happened.  I can’t imagine having to go outside blindfolded.  At least with the zombie apocalypse, you can see.  Not with this one.  I ended up getting the audio book (which I haven’t listened to yet), because in a world narrated by someone who’s blindfolded, and trying to get to a safe community, you wonder what the book would be liked if you listened to it.  I’m assuming you’d really be immersed in the world, and one of these days, I’ll have to listen it.  I really don’t want to give it away, so it’s probably good this review is really short.  Bird Box gets 4 stars.