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Fast-paced, plot-driven adventure in a gritty steampunk environment. The fantasy world of The Gauntlet was vast and sumptuous. It felt like I was exploring the world right along with Farah and her friends, that at any moment I could peak behind a scene and find even more.
This novel struck the perfect balance of fun and horror for target audience (kids 8- to 12-years-old). It was like a Goosebumps book, but with perfectly crafted literary writing skills. Would be a perfect book to read aloud at a camp-out or any other "spooky" setting. Even as an adult, I found this book fully enjoyable just for me.
Additionally, I really liked that the main character was an American Muslim Bangladeshi girl. So many books have all-white casts that don't reflect reality. The world I live in is full of first- and second-generation immigrants who are perfectly normal people. I loved the incorporation of family ties, traditions, and foods into Farah's story, because families like hers are part of my life (as a Canadian with western European heritage) and it made Farah seem more real.
Beautifully writing, delightful characters, and such entertaining adventure all packed into a wonderful middle grade book. I would suggest this book not only to my younger cousins, but to my friends, my aunts, teachers and students. It's such a fun story with a clever and strong lead character in Farah. Her love for her brother (even though they have sibling issues like any brother and sister would) is so heart-warming.
Her interactions with her family and culture reminds me of my own big, loud, comfortable (but sometimes nosey) extended family. And that makes it so real and familiar and relatable. The writing is so flowing but the adventure is so griping. I wasn't sure if I wanted to be awed or excited by the story half the time (probably both at the same time).
Definitely a wonderful read. Worth the buy and worth sharing widely.
So this whole time I've been thinking I've wrote a review for this wonderfully fun book and I don't know where my head went. Anyways! You deserve to know how I felt! So! Farah was such a fun character. I enjoyed reading from her pov so much throughout this story. It's a middle grade fantasy about 3 friends in New York getting sucked into a game board, much like Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flare because it's a Muslim cast of characters. Also it's own voices so that's super cool too. I loved reading the family element, especially between siblings, Farah and Ahmed fight and love each other much like I did with my own brother when we were young and sometimes still now. Brothers can be amazing and Farah's was her inspiration to jump head first into a game to save them. I loved it. Essie was the strength, the pusher, the one that jumped right in head first and showed no fears until she did but it just proved how much stronger she really is. She is kind of sarcastic and at times even rude but a solid character all around. Alex was the shy one, the timid one, and also the brains. A guy like Alex is one I can understand because I was the kid with the book under the tree refusing to come out. All their strengths were show cased and the characters were really fleshed out, I enjoyed it thoroughly. I need more middle grade in my life. The plot was interesting, the challenges were fun, there is nothing not to like about this adorable book.
I have never been more grateful for a protagonist that knows how to survive a fantasy novel. In this case, Farah is aware of stories where younger brothers disappear and games come to life. Even so, her aunt's (accidental) birthday present of a magical board game catches her off-guard. Usually Farah has to play games with her baby brother Ahmad all the time and let him win. When she tries to play with her friends instead of with her brother, a spoiled and sulky Ahmad insists on entering the game's magical world. To save him, Farah and her friends must enter and beat the game. If they lose, they stay within it forever. There is just one problem, however; the game doesn't play fair. Farah has to handle a cheating opponent, and a constantly shifting wonder. The Gauntlet is a lot of fun to read, and a rollicking adventure. Rather than a morality tale, since Farah is already a magnificent big sister and Ahmad's too little to learn from his brattiness, we get an exploration of Bengali culture and temporal consequences. The character changes are subtler, where Farah has to rally her friends and develop nerves of steel. Aunt Zorah can only watch from the outside, while the adults trapped within the game hope they can finally leave their artificial home. Sometimes we just need a grand high adventure, that teaches us more about our world.
Perfect for middle grade adventure and fantasy fans, especially for readers who love The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer, and for board game fans of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein. I greatly appreciated Farah's strong female lead and the Bangladeshi cultural influences/references that make this a refreshing addition to the middle grade fantasy world. The only cons are that there were times when the dialogue felt a bit flat, and Farah's friends Alex and Essie could have possibly had deeper characters and more involvement in the story. These are minor, however, and I look forward to reading more from Riazi - perhaps in future installments of Farah's story?
An excellent book with great characters, the story kept me on my toes and crossing my fingers the whole time. Karuna Riazai has crafted a great story with nice tidbits that make the Muslim main character relatable and interesting, and kept me googling little details to learn more about the culture she grew up in. I learned things and enjoyed this book a lot, and can't wait for Riazai to release another book!
Beautifully written with lots of fun alliteration and a great example of the sibling bond. Riazi masterfully interweaves characters' backgrounds and memories into the present adventure. It's exciting to see a MG book with a Muslim main character - especially a headscarf wearing girl - that is allowed to be a young girl watching out for her brother, acknowledging what being Muslim does to the story, but not making it what the story is about.
The Gauntlet is one of my favorite debut novels from this year - how often do we get to read an adventure story reminiscent of Jumanji with a hijaabi heroine? Riazi has a great sense of place, tension, and dialogue, and has created an all-ages adventure that will satisfy younger readers, provide representation for characters who don't often receive it outside of narrow and stereotyped windows, and give older readers a chance to re-enter imaginative worlds. Given that this is Riazi's first published novel, I think we can expect great things from her in the future!
The Gauntlet is a great book connecting to us bringing the familiarity of our well loved board games readers can connect to it full heartedly. It shows the love between siblings and teamwork how little things can make one so happy it continues with the book The battle I personally prefer this one over the other for I am not much of a video game person and more of a board game one I like how they did many different games that the characters had to win and even included one that isn't very well known but should be this is a great book for all my friends out there that love magic, board games, mystery, adventure, and sibling love.
The Gauntlet was a rollicking debut...I really loved the new take on the "getting sucked into the game" trope. Tropes have a bad connotation in today's literary world, but it's all about how the author decides to tackle them. Riazi brings a fresh, engaging, and spellbinding new take on the idea, and boy, does she deliver. A wonderful debut jam packed with heart, humor, and action.