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Book Review: Pawn’s Gambit

Table of Contents

Merciless gods, vengeful spirits, immortal assassins, and empires at war collide.

Five years ago, Yuu made a mistake that cost her everything. Once a renowned strategist and general, now she is on the run, royal bounty hunters snapping at her heels. But what if there was a way to get back what she lost, a way to bring back a murdered prince?

Once a century, the gods hold a contest to choose who will rule from the Jade Throne. Each god chooses a mortal champion, and the fate of heaven and earth hangs in the balance.

On a battlefield full of heroes, warriors, assassins, and thieves can Yuu survive long enough to learn the rules of the game, let alone master it?”

Title: Pawn’s Gambit

Series: Mortal Techniques #2 (Standalone)

Author: Rob J. Hayes

Page Count: 315

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5.0

Date Read: June 14th, 2023

Though this Pawn’s Gambit will count toward my personal SPFBO-9 reads, it’s also shaping up to be the year of Rob J. Hayes for me as at this point I’ve read at least one of his books almost every month this year. Since I still have a few in my possession that I’ve yet to get to, I think I might as well make this a theme as long as I continue to enjoy them.
Pawn’s Gambit was my second read from his Mortal Techniques series. The first being Never Die which I read last year. I think I found myself connecting with Never Die a bit quicker than I did with Pawn’s Gambit here. This one took me a bit longer to connect for some reason. By the end though it was equally as enjoyable as the previous installment from this series.
I believe the only real knock I have on Pawn’s Gambit is a problem with my own brain along with being English Speaking from the Western world. I tried this audiobook once before a couple of months ago and I kept having trouble processing Yuu and You whenever it was mentioned. I put the read on pause for awhile and was going to switch to a visual read to see if that helped. I don’t know if I just had a better expectation this time around but I was able to still enjoy the Audio version of this story.
As with all works from Rob that I’ve read so far, this story was fairly fast paced and easy to read (excluding my own mental issue previously mentioned). This series is a lot of fun to read through. The wuxia style stories have been hit or miss with me in the past. But this series so far has been entertaining for sure.
The worldbuilding was a strong point in Pawn’s Gambit. As someone who has read Sun Tzu’s Art of War a few times in my life, it was interesting to seeing this world built around the story with a considerable twist. The fighting styles and magic were a great balance. Then factor in the strategic thinking of the Art of War and it can’t help be a wild ride.
The character development was well done. There are quite a few characters (Pawns) to introduce and get to know in this quick read but I felt we were given enough information on our supporting characters to understand their part. Of course we get to know and witness Yuu’s arc throughout the book.
Being completely honest this one was leaning toward a 4-Star rating to me until the ending. I loved the conclusion of Pawn’s Gambit. The final fight and strategy was great!
I’m not sure when I’ll get to Spirits of Vengeance but I do already own it as I picked up the large audiobook with all three stories included earlier this year.
I’d recommend this read and series clearing looking for something beyond the traditional epic fantasy. Perhaps a reader who enjoys fantasy but also the wuxia stories. I could see this not clicking with someone who might be expecting that style of a story.

World Building 4.5/5
Pacing 4/5
Character Development 4.5/5

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Chad Barnard

Owner/Operator of The Hiking Reader Blog. Sharing thoughts on books and hiking trails and trying to find ways to continue to incorporate both hobbies together.

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