|Book Cover via Amazon.com|
T.R Tells honored me and asked to review her book, and give “A Game of Survival” an honest review. I picked it up at the time on Kindle Unlimited. As of writing this review, it is still there on KU. I also want to go into something I don’t say much, but this has a beautiful book cover. It’s classy, it does go into what you are going to read about, and it had my attention. The story itself had many aspects to get a book cover from, but this one is just right, and I feel it lets the readers know it’s going to be something special.
Stepping into the review, and I’m going to start with my first impressions of this book, and they tie into what I was saying earlier. "A Game of Survival" is a mix of reality with fantasy in the themes that are covered, but also in the way that the characters behave in their world. I felt that though the book reflects on magic or the fear of magic, that this tale could just as quickly be a metaphor for some of the other issues we face in our real world, such as false narratives and governments becoming out of touch with the will of the people.
The main character of Thea, for example, faces racism not only on her hair and skin color, but her eye color, heritage, her gender, and even economic stance. Thinking of the real world, how many times do girls get ignored or considered useless because of the fact they are girls? It happens far too often in my observations, and the smaller they are, the more that they are discounted. This story is not only a tale of a girl coming of age, but it’s just as much a reflection of the society that does not treat girls with respect as they grow into women. I enjoyed the characters and the society from the beginning of the book, and I appreciated that the reality of the world building that was done with these points as it reflected through the rest of the story.
Initially, the sheer length of the book intimidated me. When I see 553 pages, I know this is going to be a very long journey. That’s intimidating to me because I’ve done my rounds of Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, Tolkien and once, I even tried Tolstoy. All of those authors do a lot when given the space to craft an epic tale, but no one goes into that epic tale trying to read it in a day or two. Call me adventurous! I try to do just that all the time.
I’m happy to report that unlike Tolstoy specifically I was lead on the path to literary enjoyment quickly. I was not bored. There was no drag in the initial parts of the book, and it went right to the point, and I loved that about it. T.R does an excellent job of only writing about the essential parts of the story. If there is a part where you ponder “Do I really need to read this,” T.R comes back with very sound reasoning for why that scene is there, such as the one with the thread, needle, and Thea after the village incident.
Let’s go into some critiques here. The first goes to my main critique which falls under the “Whole Story” part of my scoring. This story is very long, it tells a well-done beginning and middle and close to an ending, but not a complete ending. No spoilers, but the place the story in ‘A Game of Survival” shuts off at, is mid-scene. I know that was on purpose to be a cliffhanger for the next book, and I realize it was to entice everyone toward reading more. The problem with cutting it off mid-scene where it did, is that it isn’t ending in a complete thought.
Now let me be clear, I do not mind a cliffhanger. There are some outstanding examples of where to end a story on a cliffhanger when doing a series this complicated and on this same level. The first one that comes to mind is when Jon Snow was stabbed at the end of “A Dance with Dragons.” Where that scene ended, just as all of the intricate plot lines had been collected for the specific book, we were left on a cliffhanger. There was a trial that happened, and it had a conclusion, and yet, we are left with Jon Snow betrayed. That cliffhanger is so intimidating and devastating, that when it was repeated for TV on “Game of Thrones” people lost their minds. And that also is a very long book, with very complicated plot lines, and we still don’t have the next one in hand to know what happened, but we can guess thanks to the show.
With “Game of Survival” however, the cliffhanger is mid-scene, and before the logical and natural conclusion with the actual scene that is taking place has been resolved with the plot lines that had brought the scene together coming to an end. It’s not the worst cliffhanger I’ve ever encountered for a series though, but it is one that is somewhat frustrating considering all that the reader has read through in the entire narrative.
Under the category of “Story Structure, Foundation and Presentation” when I score, let’s talk about pacing and tension because considering a book this large those factors are critical, and there is a chance on books this large to die from the “Death of a thousand cuts” because there is more to grade and score on.
I’m happy to report that the pacing is excellent. When it comes to the tension the issue I have is a specific kind of pressure found mostly at the start of the book. There are parts of the book where the main character’s special friends (I’m not going to say what they are, or where they are with the MC), get into arguments. Special friends sometimes help with her dealing with life. The tension I find is off at times when Thea is one way, and the special friends go another way. It’s a “Well that escalated quickly” kind of scenario.
While I fully understand it’s meant to punch up the action and show these friends of hers mean business, sometimes I feel there isn’t enough setup. Think back to Jurassic Park the film, and remember the water that was vibrating in the cup. That was the instrument used by the director and writer, to move and begin fueling added tension for that scene which leads to some suspense on what was coming. We knew as watching that water bounce something big was coming and had us all brace for it whatever it was. In this case of “Game of Survival,” we go from Thea, and the tension feels one way in the scene, to a quick jerk into the next progression, and it changes the pacing and action, but mostly the scene tension. Eventually, when things like that happen, the reader knows what it means which is good. That’s my critique, it’s missing a tiny piece to indicate what happens next, or if there is a piece there, that piece isn’t to be established enough to balance. It’s not often, but it happens, and the tension through the story such as character tension, or dynamic tension is exquisite.
Here comes the part of the review where I go into the positives that made “A Game of Survival” so enjoyable. First and foremost, the rich imagery and the beauty of every person in the details. Even the impoverished street urchins were painted so beautifully.
Next, I really and truly enjoyed the dynamics of magic and building up of powers. I think that was a smart thing. I do not like Mary Sue or Gary Stu characters, and Thea isn’t one. Though Thea has her power sets rise, she didn’t do so in an unbelievable way, and that is wonderful.
The next positive, the political intrigue in this story is on point. It’s so good that a book has real-life consequences to the politics and the way leaders or lawmakers or in this case, monarchs do things. The subtle threads behind everything going on make it more devious. I enjoyed the two princes and how they work together, and the dynamic with Mar Donias, right up to where that left off.
Next, I enjoyed what this said about learning how to be who you are. I enjoyed what the purpose behind each aspect of Thea’s trials and tribulations turned in to, not only for her growth but for the other characters. The other characters are unique and unusual, and I like that they had different positive and negative aspects to them when it came to the story.
Lastly, I think this is probably the most significant and most important praise. Though this story is long, it’s a lot of fun. The world building, religion creation, magic creation, politics, history and foreshadowing and all of those elements that go as the foundation work to a story, are superb. Top notch work, it’s massive, and it’s excellent. This is akin to the world building of Terry Brooks, George RR Martin, and JK Rowling. What I specifically mean is that the above-listed authors, built worlds that are intricate. Despite the details, they know where all of the pieces fit so that the reading experience is better in their novels and worlds. I love that kind of world-building, the details matter and so do the big ticket items in it. T.R Tells did a phenomenal job with everything that she was working toward in the story. And, her characters are as endearing as her world building. That says a lot. It’s wonderful. The character of Kadda for example, especially when she’s small, was charming and brought so much life and soul to the story. These elements make not only for a compelling book but a series that will be enjoyable. Thus, I for one and am looking forward to the next ones.
So I did my math several times in this review. I wanted to be sure I was as fair and accurate as I could be, and while this is a big book, it deserved a lot of respect and attention. After all of the math is considered, my score is going to be an 87/100 which is a 4-star review on Amazon and Goodreads.
I encourage those of you who love YA Fantasy which is extensive and well done, to take a look at “A Game Of Survival” because it’s worth it. If you enjoy stories about girls who become powerful and influential women, this is an excellent book to pick up to read.
Until next time my friends, have a beautiful day!