Alrighty, next review up is GAMBIT by C.L. Denault. A dystopian/romance novel and Denault's debut, as many of REUTs books are. I had previously read her works in the short story collective Fairly Twisted Tales for a Horribly Ever After which I quite enjoyed. Anyway, with no further delay, this is my honest opinion of this novel!
*SPOILERS. NO DAA*
Take a second to appreciate the prettiness of this cover!
(And click through for Goodreads page!)
GAMBIT means - according to Google - 'an act or remark that is calculated to gain an advantage, especially at the outset of a situation'. This fits nicely for C.L. Denault's novel, especially with the chess references at the end. Though sadly it didn't include this guy:
(Wrong story bro. No Tatum either.)
Set in a futuristic Earth where those with 'skills' (powers) are elite and normals are cast out, in GAMBIT we follow sixteen year old Willow as her normal world is turned upside down when General Reece arrives from a Core city (the leaders of this futuristic world) to her humble town on the outskirts (I believe that is correct, correct me if I’m wrong with terms!), proceeding information that a important Heiress is an imposter, and the true Heiress whereabouts unknown.
I quite enjoyed the opening. The writing was great, and I found myself fully immersed in Willow’s family pub business. Denault set up a great little world here that had me quite impressed at the detail. Willow also was a fun character to read about at this point, and I really did love her exchanges with her best friend Tem. It wasn’t soon, however, until I found my first problem - the lack of mystery.
It was obvious from the beginning that Willow was the lost Heiress - or at least someone of importance - even before the information was released. When that spare horse arrived, there was little doubt that it was for any one else. This meant I found it a little funny when it seemed to be a big thing that ‘the original Heiress was alive’ news came. I had just assumed that was the case as there was no evidence saying she had been killed. Maybe I just think differently, so that could be me. But nonetheless, I found myself hoping Denault wouldn’t drag out the reveal about Willow - which she didn’t by much, thankfully.
But I was with Willow when she revealed she saw it coming. We all did. Which isn’t a bad thing! I like some cheese when it come to lost rich/powerful girls. I just thought this would build to a later twist… which didn’t really come. But we’ll get to that.
(sigh, oh how we wish)
My next issue came with Reece. I didn’t mind later the hate/love relationship he built with Willow, but in the beginning Denault, I believe, jumped the gun a little. For such a cautious man, he really should have been a lot cooler towards her at the start. Not only should he have started working down her walls, but she should have had a great struggle bringing his down.
At one point I had to pull away from this book and wonder where she was coming from, and then I got it. I could clearly picture Reece’s character - and I quite liked him. Sadly, he acts too often outside of character in the opening that weakens him a little. As for the later end of the book, things start to work a little better. I did like the whole ‘I’m a man first’ arc. It did make him a lot more human which was needed - so good work there.
Now, here we must return to the ‘twist’ - or as it turned out, lack of one.
After the obvious Heiress thing, we learn that Willow’s real mother played a part in her disappearance (which I don’t think is ever explained? Maybe I missed it - have to admit, I was skimming a little towards the end). This is cemented as we meet her, and learn she’s quite the iron lady, in contrast to the father who is all warm and fuzzies. But as it turned out, the enemy wasn’t the mother in the end (at least in this book), and it was here that I REALLY hoped, the father would reveal himself to be the actual manipulator.
The mother does show her heart, and I would have loved for her husband to show he had taken advantage of her, him being the only one she’s really opened up to. This would have also strengthened the bond between mother and daughter as they find a mutual third party hate and betrayer.
But this didn’t happen (again, maybe this is second book stuff!), instead at the end we are introduced to Katja (I believe I spelt that right?). And this was the next main issue.
(my face when Katja was introduced - and I think most of the characters in the scene too)
Katja was introduced as an obvious antagonist, and brings out the most annoying in Willow (and it’s at moments like these that I agree with some of the other reviewers, and wonder what a together 23yr old sees in a petty 16 year old who doesn’t really get over her tantrums). It was obvious she was a betrayer - she was even introduced as a back stabber! Then she goes and does that, and it’s the main climax of the book?
It wasn’t the best move, sorry, Denault. Maybe I missed something, but if she was going to play such a large role, she really should have been brought in earlier and given a more substantial role. Instead she's just the back-stabbing wench who goes and does what everyone expects her to do, but somehow they’re still surprised?
As I said earlier, and I do apologise, I was skimming a bit by this point. I needed to get this book done today (I don’t get much time to read now a days sadly, and feared I wouldn’t pick i up again if I stopped), so in my fast pace I could have missed points. So feel free to explain things if I have missed them. But beyond all that, the only other thing I don’t really get is Joshua’s position. It was never really explained, and it became a bit too coincidental him helping her. It made things too easy for her (and you know how I feel about that after The Rose Master.)
Then there's Tem. Oh sweet Tem. What happened to him? Must say, lost of potential there too. He was one of the most decent characters. And while I'm not exactly a fan of love triangles (over used much?), he has an honesty to him that actually make me hope the next book will have him back as the leader of Willow's heart. Maybe it's just me, but Reece seems to be hiding some dirty business. Well, I hope he is!
So, wrapping it up, when I started GAMBIT, I had expected something else. With the promotional style (which was awesome! Great advertisement footage), I was expecting something a lot darker. Denault had created the foundations for a spectacular world, I think she just held back a bit too much. You need to test your characters. You need to throw obstacles at them that really backs them into a corner. We didn’t learn that much about Willow in the end because she didn’t grow. She remained stubborn and ignorant. What was the lesson she was supposed to learn through this novel? What was it that she needed? Because I’m not entirely sure.
So that’s where I’m standing. It isn’t the action packed, power-filled adventure I was hoping for. But as a cute, lost princess, romance it hopefully serves as a introduction to a stronger second book where we hopefully are flung into this dark underworld Denault hinted at, and finally discover why Willow was taken to start with, and what they possibly gained from it.
I'm awarding this novel 4/5. At least that's what I originally gave it on Goodreads. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure why it got that .5 more than The Rose Master when it fell short of expectations while ROSE upheld its promise at least. It's been a few too many months since reading these books. But ah well, there you have it.
Until next time!