The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

SynopsisA 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?

Review: I loved this book. I loved it so much. Farah was such a great character. She was strong and she definitely got annoyed by her brother sometimes, but she also deeply loved him. From the first chapter, you could tell that she would do anything for him. Alex and Essie were also fun to read, and they got a fair amount of page time. Karuna clearly tried her best to give every character their own growth and adventure. Ahmed was adorable, and true to the little brother characterization. Like I said, Farah would do anything for him and she definitely showed that. Every character was incredibly fun to read.

The story was great. If you've seen Jumanji, then you get the idea of what this book is about. That being said, Karuna took the Jumanji story and wove a Middle-eastern atmosphere into it. The details were incredible. It wasn't too much to drag the story, but I still got a sense of what the food might have tasted like and what the setting would have looked like. There were some technical aspects of the writing that bothered me a bit, but it didn't deter from my enjoyment of the story. The puzzles in the book were not difficult, but it worked well with the story because of how much Farah and her family played games together.

Very impressive for a debut. I had an incredible amount of fun reading The Gauntlet and I can't wait for the next adventure.

5 howls