Published on March 31, 2015 by REUTS Publications LLC
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
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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 finally found a dystopian novel I liked.
Which, with my track record in the genre, is basically a miracle. Gambit is X-Men with a lost “princess” all set in the future. Outside the Core, civilization has reverted to a more primitive, medieval-esque state, while the Core functions on the most up-and-coming technology. Some humans have been born with extra abilities, locked into their genetic code – Prodigies. And if you’re a commoner outside the Core, having skills is dangerous.
What I loved most about this book wasn’t the world (shocking, I know) or the characters, but the writing. I don’t think it would matter what was on the page; if C.L. Denault wrote it I would read it. I. Was. Hooked.
Gambit also took genetics in a different direction, more mutations and less science experiments (though there was hinting at testing so perhaps that will be explored in a later book. I’m a fan of X-Men so this was right up my alley. My last dealing with dystopian genetics was the Divergent series by Veronica Roth which didn’t sit well with me so I’m glad that I can replace it in memory.
Granted, writing only gets you so far and I really liked Willow. She fights against those trying to tear her apart from her family and keeps true to her nature instead of tossing them aside for a “better” life. At times she lived up to the nickname “Brat” but thankfully it wasn’t the entire book. Her head of security Commander Reece flickered between the “ogre” and thoughtful. I wasn’t really a fan of him at the beginning but his character grew on me up until the romance took over.
Yeah, the romance. In a dystopian novel. See, this is why I avoid the genre anymore.
For all the great writing, the intricate world-building, the characters (individually), I hated the romance. And not because of the huge age gap between Willow and Reece. I’ve seen that before in the Immortals quartet by Tamora Pierce (which is one of my favorite series). No, what I didn’t like was the fact that their relationship started with the two fighting. And fighting. And fighting.
It wasn’t the kind of conflict that had that simmering sexual tension underneath. It was like siblings. A child and an adult. And suddenly he thinks she’s just the best damn thing since sliced bread? I’m sorry but no thank you. Maybe it’d be better if she acted older or a more “adult” romance was explored. Their maturity levels are just too different for it to work for me.
Despite the romance, I really enjoyed this book. There’s a story past the romance and the supporting characters were interesting enough for me to want a short story or novella shedding light on their backstories. And as I mentioned, THE WRITING. If nothing else, read this book for the writing. You’ll fall in love, especially if you’re a fan of fantasy or science fiction.
I haven’t see any news about a sequel yet but it’s labeled as the first in a series so you can bet I’ll be reading the next installment when it comes out!