Life used to be good. I had money. I had fame. I had respect. The same thrill during work every day. A different woman in my bed every night. Best fighter to hire for dangerous jobs. Most famous thief in the Nineteen Kingdoms. Half the world sought my services when they needed the impossible done. The other half wanted to sleep with me.
Then one day this strange guy showed up with his even stranger pet, the latter a bit of a gift horse by all accounts, and turned it all upside down. They claimed to have come to save my life, and while they were at it, I got them to help out with the most important quest of my existence: finding the Supreme Key of the Dragon. Needless to say, none of it turned out quite how I expected. But we had fun, even if it was hell sometimes. In the end, what we found was worth it all.
My name is Conor Drew, the Gods destined me for great things.
But I turned them down.
“Anger is like fire. Let it burn unwatched, and it will hurt you. Use it wisely, and it becomes what the gods intended it to be: fortitude.”
What a fun book A Gamble of Gods is! If you’ve read the synopsis above, no doubt you are intrigued. I remember seeing an alternate synopsis somewhere else that I feel gives a slightly better idea of what this book is about, but I couldn’t find it when I was typing this review. So I’ll summarize a bit without spoiling to give you an idea of what you’re in for.
Yes, we have Conor, who is without a doubt the funniest character. He provides a lot of comedic relief, but he’s so much more than just a jokester. He’s a thief and he’s alternately loved and hated within his kingdom. He lives in a more medieval setting within this novel. If he’s on the page, I’m guaranteed to laugh.
“Then one day, the idiot whose life you’re trying to save drugs you and two things happen: you turn into a god, stop time and carve your name into the flawlessness of eternity. Then you sigh, release your grip and let it flow again, just so you can go and kick his arse.”
Most heavily featured, in my opinion, is Kristian. He’s a bookish type from a futuristic setting and he/the people surrounding him at the University are immediately attacked by someone with motives that are originally unbeknownst to him. In the beginning, I didn’t like him as much as Conor, but I quickly grew to look forward to his chapters. He ended up being one of the most interesting parts of the book.
After we are introduced to these two, we get to meet Selena, who is in a present-ish day setting on Earth. She is in therapy for a host of things, when her life starts to get even stranger. When she comes into the story, things really start kicking into gear. I couldn’t wait to get more of her chapters, because Faywood makes us wait a bit to really dive into her story.
We get a few random POVs besides these three, but for the most part, they are the center of the story. Also, if I went into those POVs, it would spoil a bit of the novel. These three are connected in ways that they don’t yet know, especially since they’re all part of different spaces in time and the universe.
I really enjoyed the time-traveling and world-traveling aspect of this. Faywood blends so many different elements into A Gamble of Gods and it is quite unique compared to so many other books I’ve read in the SFF genres. There’s fantasy, romance, science fiction, and comedy facets that all work to make this something fresh. The fact that Mitriel Faywood wrote an entire book in English when it isn’t her native language is quite impressive. It flows well and you’d assume the author was extremely comfortable writing in English, though she says in her author’s note that making sure that English sounded natural to the native-speaking ear was one of her challenges.
I loved the relationship and friendship formed between Kristian, Selena, and Conor. I found myself smiling and laughing aloud quite often. There’s protective, familial love. There’s some pining and instant attractive that forms into love. If you love a found family trope, this will definitely check off that box for you. There’s even an animal companion in this book.
“‘People you meet are like seeds,’ Aiki said when she asked me about our friendship in the middle of the street yesterday. ‘Sooner or later, most of them are blown away from your life, and you forget all about them. But a few will stay and grow roots while you’re not looking. Before you know it, they take hold in you so deeply, you can no longer remove them without tearing off a part of you. And sometimes you will find that it is a part you cannot live without.'”
If I was to say any criticism, I would say that at times the pacing could go too slow at some parts and too quickly at other parts. It wasn’t enough to throw me off of the book, though.
One thing I think might be quite enjoyable to some fantasy readers is that at moments, there’s almost a LitRPG feel to it. There’s especially scenes when it’s just Conor and Kristian that felt almost like we were reading about them in a game setting with an expansive story mode. This isn’t the entire novel, and it adds even more to my comment about Faywood blending this book in ways that make it feel entirely unique.
Though we covered some ground in A Gamble of the Gods, I can tell it’s just the beginning. There’s so much more to come and so much more to learn about these characters. I can’t wait to see what journey Faywood takes us on from here. There were so many times I thought I had this book pinpointed, and she turned it on its head every time. I bought an ebook copy of this and Mitriel was kind enough to send me a hardback copy, as well. This is a fantastic debut and there’s no doubt in my mind that each book is only going to get better. Mitriel Faywood will be a name SFF readers are familiar with.
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