Author: C. L. Denault
Published: 30 March 2015 by REUTS Publications
Personal Context: NetGalley gave me an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
In Earth’s war-torn future, evolution has bifurcated the population. “Prodigies” live in splendor in the cities of the Core, metropolitan hot-spots imbued with the technological marvels of the age, while “normals” live in destitute squalor in the Outlying Lands. In this future, genetic manipulation is normal and has allowed for the rise and development of remarkable skills that allow people to perform incredible feats. Some members of the population hold in themselves the genetic potential to undergo what is called the Surge with one of two results: emerge with a brand new genetic code and a remarkable skill, or die from the stress of the scrambling. Those who develop a skill are stolen from their lives and taken to the Core where they can be used in the breeding clinics to yield genetically Surge-prone offspring that will help expand the Core’s power.
Sixteen-year-old Willow Kent has lived in the Outlying Lands her entire life. When a genetically-enhanced military officer arrives in town and reveals to her that she is the long-lost heir to one of the world’s most powerful industrial families, her life begins to get complicated. Torn from the only family, friends, and life she has ever known and taken to the Core, Willow must adapt to an entirely new society of which she knows absolutely nothing. In a strange new world with no one to trust, Willow must attempt to master herself and her powerful new abilities all the while trying to survive the murderous attention of underground rebels who threaten the stability of the entire world. As she tries to cling to the tiny bit of freedom she so sorely desires, Willow struggles desperately to take hold of her own future in the face of so much adversity.
My Review of…
…The Plot and Pace:
At first glance, the plot of Gambit feels like a cross between The Hunger Games trilogy and the Throne of Glass series. Combining elements of dystopian fiction and sci-fi/fantasy, Denault made something that still manages to feel unique. Denault’s story was refreshingly immersive which only increased its already high level of readability. Her plot is novel enough to be enjoyable but familiar enough to keep us comfortable. Paired with her stunningly developed characters, Denault crafted a story that easily kept me hungry for more.
…The Characters and Relationships:
First-things-first, I absolutely ADORE Willow Kent. Denault did an impeccable job at making her a stunningly relatable without being trite or boring. She crafted a beautifully strong-willed and independent character who also loves her family and cares deeply for others. A true Gryffindor-at-heart, Willow fights for equality and justice with a bravery and courage that is truly inimitable.
Even at the end of the story, I still haven’t decided if I like Reece. I can’t get too much into because spoilers, but I still haven’t made up my mind. Regardless of my personal opinion, it’s clear that he has a complicated past just like everyone else, and I can’t wait to see more of it. Suffice it to say that I will be extremely interested to see how the next installment of the story plays out.
What I enjoy most about the characters of this story is that they are all so different. Not just their personalities or their physiognomy, but their mannerisms, their attitudes, their desires. Each one appears hand-crafted and tailored to be absolutely unique. This is evident in nearly every interpersonal encounter in the story, and I believe it is one of the biggest reasons as to why I found them so relatable.
…The Message(s) and Theme(s):
This section has the potential to be incredibly thorough, but imma try to keep it short. With that said, I think the most important part of this story is how much of a role model Willow can be. A strong, smart young woman who is fiercely independent and immeasurably kind, Willow is someone that we can aspire to be. The idea of a commoner rising above her station to become someone of paramount importance with extreme influence on the organization of society, is not an unheard of idea. But Denault makes it her own by making Willow not only strong, but also human. Her ability to empathize is outweighed only by her desire to help in whatever capacity she can. Many would (and, in the story, do) call her naïve or childish, but I think–as I hope it will be apparent in the next installment–that she can teach every person in this story a thing or two about humility and grace.
This book is definitely a wild-ride. Denault has made her story so immersive that you feel everything that Willow feels. For me, that is what made this story so enjoyable. Surrounded by people who want nothing more than to use her, Willow refuses to be a cog in anyone else’s machine. She has come to realize that the Core is one giant game, one that she must learn to play if she is going to survive, save her friends, and take back her life. Her first move was sacrificing her own personal freedom and leave the Outlying Lands in exchange for her family’s safety. This first gambit makes her a wildcard, and she will absolutely use that to her advantage. If you enjoy this book even half as much as I did, than you will crave her next installment.