I had never heard of Gambit until it popped up on a NetGalley, and it published months ago. I was really surprised by that in light of the strong writing and the engaging narrative voice. There is a sort of X-Men thing going on, and the futuristic and dystopian setting should have gotten this book more notice. I don’t think this book will appeal to every reader (as I will certainly explain in detail below), but I think it has a lot of potential to make you a happy reader. I gave it four stars, and so did most other reviewers on Goodreads.
In Earth’s battle-ridden future, humans have evolved. Those with extraordinary skills rise to power and fame. Those without live in poverty.
Sixteen-year-old Willow Kent believed she was normal. But when a genetically-advanced military officer shows up in her village and questions her identity, long-buried secrets begin to emerge. With remarkable skills and a shocking genetic code the Core and its enemies will do anything to obtain, Willow suddenly finds the freedom she craves slipping through her fingers. Greed, corruption, and genetic tampering threaten every aspect of her existence as she’s thrust, unwilling, into the sophisticated culture of the elite Core city. To ensure peace, she must leave the past behind, marry a man she’s never met, and submit to the authority of a relentless officer with a hidden agenda of his own.
Her life has become a dangerous game. How much will she sacrifice in order to win?
I have always liked the long lost princess storyline, and Gambit puts it to good use in this futuristic tale where having the right DNA can make you both valuable and a target. This is a well written and engaging book that drew me in from the start. I liked Willow as a narrator and a character because she came across as smart and independent. I particularly liked how devoted she was to her friends and family. This book follows her through a Buildungsroman arc where she is ripped from the life she knows and must struggle to find her new place in the world. I liked that she had a few false starts because that seemed realistic, and she does, over time, learn the lesson she needed most – if you are going to fight, you need to fight smart. Her constant defiance did start to wear on me, though, so she might not be as appealing to some readers who don’t have the patience for the constant challenging of authority. I struggled with the characters from The Core, the privileged few who live in the cities. They were a lot less emotional, so I couldn’t always read them or their intentions. I think that was the point, but it made me feel hostile and suspicious of almost everyone in the second half of the book. Even Reece, the first Core character readers encounter, didn’t quite feel sincere and I’m still not convinced he isn’t going to turn on a Willow sometime in the future. I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted the relationship between Willow and Reece to stop being contentious, and I think other readers will feel the same way – he really feels like he is working on an agenda I couldn’t see, even at the end of the book. This is a long read- over 500 pages, and I have to say I felt the length. The story covers a lot of events in detail, and I felt like it dragged enough to be noticeable. That is the trade off for a lot of careful character development which I can appreciate, but there were times when I really wanted to fast forward through sickbed scenes, combat lessons, a detailed makeover, or some of the conversations. Overall, I think this is a book that lots of readers can enjoy. The setting was something I had never seen before, and the addition of genetic alterations and the powers that come with them are interesting and fresh in this context. Readers who like dystopian settings or strong, defiant female protagonist will definitely want to give this book a shot.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.