Gauntlet, Book 2: The Battle

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The game begins again in this gripping follow-up to The Gauntlet that’s a futuristic middle eastern Zathura meets Ready Player One!

Four years after the events of The Gauntlet, the evil game Architect is back with a new partner-in-crime—The MasterMind—and the pair aim to get revenge on the Mirza clan. Together, they’ve rebuilt Paheli into a slick, mind-bending world with floating skyscrapers, flying rickshaws run by robots, and a digital funicular rail that doesn’t always take you exactly where you want to go.

Twelve-year-old Ahmad Mirza struggles to make friends at his new middle school, but when he’s paired with his classmate Winnie for a project, he is determined to impress her and make his very first friend. At home while they’re hard at work, a gift from big sister Farah—who is away at her first year in college—arrives. It’s a high-tech game called The Battle of Blood and Iron, a cross between a video game and board game, complete with virtual reality goggles. He thinks his sister has solved his friend problem—all kids love games. He convinces Winnie to play, but as soon as they unbox the game, time freezes all over New York City.

With time standing still and people frozen, all of humankind is at stake as Ahmad and Winnie face off with the MasterMind and the Architect, hoping to beat them at their own game before the evil plotters expand Paheli and take over the entire world.---from the publisher

304 pages                      978-1534428720                      Ages 9-13

Keywords:  action/adventure, video game, computers, technology, fantasy, Asian American author, part of a series, New York, diversity, diverse books

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Ahmad has just gotten into a lot of trouble in school for leaving detention and retrieving a package from the office. The package is addressed to him and is from his older sister, Farah, who is off at college. He didn't actually take it; another student, Winnie, delivered it to him. After she tells the assembled teachers and administrators this, they let Ahamd off, even though he is usually in big trouble for something or other. When Ahmad and Winnie walk home together, they look at the game and suddenly get sucked into the world of Paheli. Winnie has seen Ahamd draw pictures of this, so is excited to see that it's real.

The Master Mind, at the behest of the Architect, has frozen New York City, and Ahmad must go into the world of the game before it will be unfrozen. In the time since he and his sister were in the game, it has been upgraded, and there are lots and lots of problems with the code.

They find out a little about this from Tim Salt, but spend most of their time working on the challenges that the game, The Battle, sets for them. They meet people from the former incarnation of the game who aren't happy with the way things are going, and complete all of the challenges... only to find that it isn't enough to release them. A new form of evil is in charge of the game. Can Ahmad and Winnie use their wiles to defeat it?

Strengths: Like The Gauntlet, this has a lot of action and adventure, and this time, it is video game based. That's always a plus. Winnie and Ahmad get to save Machi men, battle rats, go through several mazes, drive space cars, and do all sorts of fun and exciting things in their challenges.

Weaknesses: There aren't as many cultural references, which I really liked in the first book, and I vastly preferred Farah as a main character to Ahmad.

What I really think: The first book has not circulated well even though I am constantly pushing it-- I think the cover doesn't appeal to my reader. I may not purchase this one unless I can get students to read The Gauntlet a bit more.

Recommended by:  Karen Yingling, Librarian, Ohio USA

See more of her recommendations:  http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com/

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