Review: Gauntlet by Holly Jennings

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Gauntlet by Holly Jennings
Series: Arena, Book 2
Publisher: Ace
Genre: Science Fiction Gauntlet Cover
ISBN: 9781101988954
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Kali Ling has faced down death hundreds of times for the entertainment of millions. She knows fear—and she knows what’s truly terrifying…

There’s a new game in town. A brutal, winner-takes-all, international video game tournament showcasing the world’s most elite players, promising fame, prestige, and unbelievable fortune. But there’s a catch. The game uses new VR pods guaranteed to push digital warriors to their physical and psychological brink—adapting every time a gamer makes a move.

As the first female captain and youngest team owner in VGL history, Kali is used to defying the odds. But as the all-star tournament heats up, her determination begins to waver and the pressures of media, sponsors, and the game itself begin to put cracks in her hard-set convictions—and strain on her relationship with the one person who matters most.

If Kali and her teammates are to survive, they’ll have to find a way to be stronger than ever before. But battling the system may prove too difficult for even the most hardened of fighters…

After falling in love with Holly Jennings’s intense, exciting world of virtual gaming in Arena, I had extremely high hopes for its sequel. Gauntlet was everything I’d hoped for and more. It’s imaginative, addictive, and tense. You never know what will be thrown at Kali and her team next, and that’s just the way I like it.

Kali Ling, the youngest team owner in the history of virtual games, is out to change the world of gaming. In a world where gamers are celebrities, their images managed, their moves dictated, and their addictions covered up, Kali is determined to have a team that’s clean, honest, and the players can be exactly who they are. But being a manager is a hell of a lot harder than being a captain. Kali’s drowning trying to be a manager, player, and friend, and that’s without the added problem that her actions have pissed off the Virtual Gaming League. Even with all that on her shoulders, Kali has another new challenge: her team has been invited to play in a new all-star tournament. But this game is unlike any anyone has ever seen. It learns, it adapts, and it will push Kali and her teammates to their very limits, both physically and psychologically.

Like Arena, Gauntlet is suspenseful, engaging, and just plain cool. The added twist of the new game that learns and adapts (plus a few other elements I can’t reveal without spoiling the story) upped the ante. The obstacles facing Kali, Rooke, Hannah, Lily, and Derek forces them to grow, and I loved watching them develop as characters and come together even closer as a team. While Kali is the heart and soul of the book, I cared about each member of team Defiance and loved seeing more of their true selves come out.

Compelling characters aside, I loved the new challenges thrown Kali, both in the game and outside of it. I enjoy not knowing what’s coming next, loved facing each new challenge alongside Kali. Her frustration, pain, and determination were palpable and had me reading late into the night, wanting to see what she would do next. I hated having to put Gauntlet down, and my only complaint is that the end of the book left me on the edge of my seat, eager to see what happens next.

It’s difficult to write about Gauntlet without revealing things that would spoil the story. The fun is in not knowing what obstacles Defiance faces and what internal and external challenges they will have to overcome. I’m not a gamer, but I loved all the detail Ms. Jennings has put into her elaborate world of virtual gaming. The Arena series is vivid and wonderfully entertaining. I can’t wait to see where Ms. Jennings takes Defiance next!


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

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