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.