The Battle

Ahmad is used to two things: being on his own and getting into trouble. But when Ahmad’s classmate Winnie hands him a package from his sister Farah, everything is about to change.

The Battle, by Karuna Riazi, is an exciting follow-up to The Gauntlet and picks up years after the Mirzas moved to NYC. Farah is away at college, and Ahmad is muddling through life as a twelve-year-old. He loves to draw and spends a lot of class time doodling pictures of a strange city called Paheli that he remembers dreaming about as a kid.

Winnie is intrigued by the package and follows Ahmad home. But when they insert the video game cartridge into the console, strange things begin to happen. Winnie notices that the avatars look just like the two of them. They’re still examining the girl avatar with Winnie’s curly hair when the city freezes around them. A thick blackness rises up and covers everything around them, and then the city is replaced by a futuristic version of the city with tall, floating skyscrapers and flying rickshaws. Soon, Ahmad and Winnie come to understand that they’ve been transported into the game. If they want to get home again, they’ll need to play the game and win.

This action-packed adventure combining video games with a South Asian–inspired fantasy world is ultimately about the power of friendship. As the game goes on, the stakes get higher and higher, and the lines between friends and foes blur. I loved seeing the developing relationship between Ahmad and Winnie and seeing Ahmad grow in self-confidence as a result of that. 

While a fun ride, I found this novel weaker than the first. It is repetitive at times, and the world building is not as clear as it was in The Gauntlet. I often felt confused about the challenge they were facing and rules of the world around them. While this confusion was at times meant to be a part of the plot, it wasn’t the most pleasant reading experience.

Although readers will recognize elements of Paheli and know information about the Mirzas from The Gauntlet, The Battle is not a strict sequel and can be read as a stand-alone.

I can recommend this middle grade novel for 8–12 year old kids who enjoy stories about video games or adventure stories in general.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Find it here: GoodreadsSimon and Schuster | Amazon.com | Book Depository

The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

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It’s Farah’s twelfth birthday and all she really wants to do is hang out with her friends Essie and Alex. Since moving from one part of New York City to another, she’s missed her friends and felt out of place in her hijab at her new school. But Farah’s little brother Ahmad, who has ADHD and is used to dominating her attention, won’t leave her alone.

When Farah and her friends open a strange gift from her Aunt Zohra, they don’t notice Ahmad standing in the doorway. The gift is an ornate wooden box labeled “The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand.” Not until they read the instructions for the game and Ahmad shouts out “I am ready for the gauntlet!” do they realize what has happened. Ahmad disappears into the game, and Farah is determined to enter the game and bring her brother back.

Now, the three friends not only have to find Ahmad, they also have to race against the clock to complete all the challenges in time, or they could be stuck in the game forever. View Post