During her 12th birthday party, Farah finds a game she presumes is her birthday gift. When she starts playing it with her friends, it sucks her younger brother Ahmed into it, forcing Farah and her friends into the Gaunlet to play the challenges set up by the Architect.
Why this book?: Okay, one, hijaabi main character on the cover. Two, the author is amazing. Three, the story sounds amazing. Doesn’t it sound like Jumanji??
Charming and nostalgic
The Gauntlet can best be described by saying “Jumanji backwards”. Instead of the game coming out, the players go in. Although I don’t want to rely on this for most of my review, I do want to say that there were Jumanji-esque feelings, and that definitely helped with how much I ended up enjoying the novel.
The writing was very simple, but that’s to be expected in a Middle Grade novel. A lot of descriptions I would be used to having in a YA or adult novel were absent, and it took a while to get used to the writing, but overall Riazi’s writing style was very smooth and immersive. I loved all of the included cultural nods within the game, such as the mentions of Turkish puzzle rings, salwar kameez, saris, different foods (omg the food descriptions were amazing), Farah wearing a hijaab, and much more.
Strong relationship feature
One of the strongest parts of this story are the characters. I ended up falling in love with most all of them, from Farah and her brother to Henrietta and Vijay.
Farah and her relationships are very interesting. In the beginning, it seemed like she could barely make eye contact with her friends Essie and Alex, but as the plot moves forward you really get to see their friendship at work and it is truly beautiful. Each of the children has their strengths and their weaknesses, and as each of them are tested, you get to see so much of their character just in their choices.
Vijay, Henrietta, Madame Nasirah, and the Architect are all very interesting characters. Riazi’s explanation for all of The Gauntlet and the rules behind it are all very intriguing and eye-catching, and, to be quite honest, I finished this book in less than two days, and I wish I could read it all over again. There’s so many little nods within the pages that I just love so much. (I may have found a Star Wars reference?? Maybe?? Farah mentions hating sand lmao.)
Final Rating: ★★★★★
The Gauntlet is a tale anyone from anywhere can enjoy. It doesn’t matter the age, because anyone would find something they love within the pages. The Gauntlet takes an idea we’re familiar with, gives it a personal spin, and adds in such culture and character to it that it will become an immediate favorite.
Would I Recommend?
As I said before, anyone would really love this one. The writing is simplistic for younger readers, and the themes are easy to understand. But there’s enough there for an older reader to love and enjoy it, just as I did.
Published: March 28th, 2017
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Page Count: 298
Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy/Steampunk
Synopsis: via Goodreads
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?