The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi: Book Review

The Gauntlet

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 298
Publish date: March 28, 2017
Rating: ★★★


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.

-from Goodreads


I loved the diversity in this book. I don’t know about you, but I’m so sick of reading about white people doing white people things and eating white people food and having any POC feeling very white-washed to make them “digestible” and “easier to read”. So reading a book where the protagonist wears a hijab was pretty awesome. I liked taking a dive into a new perspective and getting a taste (quite literally) of a culture different than mine.

I also really enjoyed the storyline. I thought it was original, and I was interested to see what would come next.


I wish there was more. I expected a super developed fictional world, but I felt as though a lot of the plotlines weren’t developed as much as they could have been. I only got a handful of pages in before these characters I barely knew or cared about yet were being swept up into a board game. I think it would have been better if Farah’s life had been a little bit more developed before tossing her into this situation. On the other hand, if the Gauntlet world was also more developed and given more detail, I could have forgiven the lack of context. But I didn’t feel particularly attached to either world.

Also related, the author compares instances Farah encounters in the Gauntlet to instances in her past, but they were moments that we as readers didn’t get a chance to read about first. Some foreshadowing or ability to make connections from one world to the other would have made it a lot more meaningful to the story. I understand this book is for young readers, but it felt a little too “young”.


  • You’re looking for a diverse book;
  • You enjoy fantasy and books for young readers;
  • You like stories that move fast and don’t look back.

The Gauntlet is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.


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