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Pawn's Gambit by Rob J. Hayes Audiobook review

Official Author Website
Pre-order Pawn’s Gambit over HERE (USA) and HERE (UK)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rob J. Hayes was born and brought up in Basingstoke, UK. As a child he was fascinated with Lego, Star Wars and Transformers that fueled his imagination and he spent quite a bit of his growing up years playing around with such. He began writing at the age of fourteen however soon discovered the fallacies of his work. After four years at University studying Zoology and three years working for a string of high street banks as a desk jockey/keyboard monkey. Rob lived on a desert island in Fiji for three months. It was there he re-discovered his love of writing and, more specifically, of writing fantasy.

REVIEW: Yuu, once a famous strategist, has found her niche in life - playing chess with old men and drinking herself into a stupor. Formerly known as "The Art of War," she led armies and won battles until her mistake cost her ruler his life. She doesn't seek redemption, just another bottle of wine. 

Unfortunately, it can't stay that way, not when the gods play their games with mortal pawns. Natsuko, the goddess of missed opportunities, needs Yuu to checkmate Batu, the god of war, and rise to power. Once a century, the gods hold a contest to choose a new ruler. Each god chooses a mortal champion, and the fate of heaven and earth depends on the winner.

Rob J. Hayes has packed Pawn's Gambit with action and adventure, and even the quieter moments are intense. The sharp and direct writing style makes it easy to follow and enjoy the story. Even though Pawn's Gambit rehashes familiar tropes (quest for powerful artifacts, redemption story), Hayes' confident narration makes it fresh and interesting. He also twists them in a most exciting way.

Hayes does a lot of things right in Pawn's Gambit. The first is characterization. Yuu and Natsuko have unique perspectives (Yuu human, Natsuko inhuman) and personalities. Their interactions drive the story forward and make it so fascinating to follow. Natsuko toys with mortals, but she respects them. She loves walking through the mortal plane as an old woman because she finds it liberating to be the curmudgeon. As a strategist, Yuu has learned to remain cold and think of troops as numbers rather than individual lives. She knows she shouldn't consider the consequences of her actions because the end justifies the means, but she doesn't quite succeed. I found her more introspective moments insightful and engaging.

Secondary characters have whimsical names (The Ticking Clock, Laws of Hope, etc.) and possess a variety of supernatural abilities that make their encounters explosive and intense. Expect lots of blazing action, cool magic, breakneck pacing, and relatable and well-developed characters doing what they have to to survive.

The combination of an engaging plot, excellent pacing, good dialogue, fleshed-out characters, and economy of language enhances the reading experience. Pawn's Gambit is gripping and fun, and I'm sure it'll keep most readers glued to the pages.

The narration: I listened to the audiobook version of the book. Kim Bretton was a great choice for the narrator - she captured and shaped the tone as needed, and gave the right portrayal to each character.

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