Fantasy

The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

Okay, first of all I have to confess that past!me gave The Gauntlet a pass because I have read too many samey MG fantasies and I had so many other books on my TBR already. But then, I kept seeing all these good reviews/comments about it from those I follow on Instagram, and I started to think that I must try it out.

In this book, a trio of kids get trapped in a board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand, and have to win in order to save the main character Farah’s younger brother. The board game is set in a steampunk Middle-Eastern city called Paheli, mostly populated by all the people that have previously played and lost the game.

I like Jumanji and other sucked-into-a-game fiction, and I like steampunk, and I generally enjoy MG fiction. So I don’t know why I was about give this book a pass, really. I should have put it higher up my priority list!

This book isn’t perfect – Farah, Alex and Essie are supposed to be best friends, but I can’t feel their closeness through their interactions in the book. Farah’s character is fleshed out nicely, but I hardly know anything about Alex and Essie beyond one or two quirks of theirs that are mentioned as they go through Paheli.

What it does well, however, it does really well. I love the descriptions of Paheli – the sounds, the colours, the smells, the FOOD. Just thinking about it makes me hungry again. I like Farah’s relationship with her brother Ahmed. He gets special treatment a lot at home, not just because he’s the baby or he’s a boy, but because he has ADHD. Farah understands this, but she can’t help resenting him for it sometimes. I like how this resentment and love she has for her brother plays into the story, and her character development.

I also love the adults in the story – I kind of want to read more about Farah’s Aunt Zohra, and Madame Nasirah reminds me a lot of one of my great-aunts. Oh, and of course, it’s wonderful to be able to read something that is a FUN, fantastic MG read that also has a Muslim protagonist.

Overall? I find this book a delightful read – just perfect for when I needed something light and short.


  • I received a copy from Pansing Distribution (Malaysia). Thank you, Rainbow!
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