by Karuna Riazi
MG Fantasy, Adventure
A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.
When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.
Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?
This was my penultimate read for #RamadanReadathon and also a book I’ve had on my TBR for so long. The concept sounded so great, a middle grade Jumanji adventure with a Muslim main character? I was so excited for this for so long that I think that’s why it disappointed me a bit.
This probably won’t be that long of a review, because I don’t really have much to say about this. That kind of sums up my experience reading it. It was well written with a strong protagonist and despite exciting twists and turns every page or so, I found myself a bit bored and struggled to get through this. I have to add that I basically read this in one sitting and sometimes had to force myself to concentrate and read.
The setting was incredibly detailed and so vivid that it was hard not to get lost in this fantasy and dangerous world. I can’t say this was a bad book, because it definitely wasn’t. The characters were interesting and nuanced but there was something about this book that just lacked for me and I can’t quite place my finger on it. I’m not a massive MG reader anyways (he says even though he’s read 3 MG books so far this month, oops) so maybe that played a part in it. I enjoyed it but I won’t be reading the sequel because I did feel a bit disappointed.