My rating: 3 out 5 stars
When Farah, Essie, and Alex stumble across “The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand” they think it’s just an ordinary board game. Much to their surprise, the game is anything but. The trio get trapped inside the game and become pawns of the mastermind, referred to as The Architect. The only way out is to play the game and win the challenges, lest they want to remain there forever.
This was a fun middle grade read, reminiscent of Jumanji and The Hunger Games. Farah was an interesting main character. It was refreshing to see a main character with a different ethnic (Indian) background, for once. I don’t typically feel like you see a lot of diversity in middle grade fiction, so this was pretty cool. I also enjoyed the close, albeit complicated, relationship between her and her little brother, Ahmad.
The game itself brings the characters to the clockwork city of Paheli, which again was brimming with Indian culture. The game and it’s rules were pretty simple. I would have liked for it to be a little more complicated than it was, but I imagine that may have made things too confusing for young readers. The city was really interesting, as it was laid out in layers rather than being flat and horizontal. Again, I wouldn’t have minded reading more about Paheli itself.
The supporting characters were entertaining and unique, I particularly liked Henrietta Peel, leader of the lizard Resistance.
Overall, the book didn’t blow me away. It was a nice way to kill a few hours though. I’d definitely recommend it to younger readers and anyone who appreciates games.