Gauntlet is the second book of the Arena series by Holly Jennings. In the first book, Arena, we met Kali Ling who had achieved her lifelong dream of becoming a professional gamer in the Virtual Gaming League’s RAGE tournaments. The league has the best players in the world competing weekly in virtual reality tournaments, the weapons are digital but the pain is real for the players. They eat, sleep and breathe their training and workouts. However the players also lived the rock star lifestyle with partying and drugs and it cost the life of one of Kali’s teammates.
Now in Gauntlet Kali is still overcoming her teammates death and she has taken control of her life and her virtual gamer teammates by becoming the team owner and hopefully cleaning up the drugs and partying. There is now a new tournament going on that is bringing the top athletes in gaming from all over the world to compete that uses new VR pods that adapt every time a gamer makes a move bringing the players to their physical and psychological brink.
The further I get into this series the more I have actually been enjoying the world and characters that the author has created. The story takes on a tough subject of the young athletes getting involved in drugs and alcohol and digs deep into that subject even into the second book which makes this fantasy world deal with a real life problem while still entertaining a reader with the virtual gaming and fantasy elements.
Kali is a very likable character that has many different demons to battle and a lot to live up to. Watching her grow and struggle is certainly intriguing and you can’t help but to root for her to find her way and develop an inner strength. The rest of Kali’s team also have their struggles in this edition that gave them more depth and had them stepping up as individuals more so than in the first book so I was quite happy with getting to know them better this time around.
Overall, highly enjoying this young adult fantasy series about virtual gaming. Looking forward to reading the next book and seeing what else is in store for Kali and her friends and teammates.
I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.