In 2442’s scorched future, the ultimate survival game is Krieg Chess. It’s a high-octane fusion of brain and brawn, where players use cutting-edge tech to unlock hidden powers in a ruthless battle for dominance.
From the shadows emerge Charoen and Jessie, refugee siblings from Oslo. The forgotten children of a former god of the game, they’re recruited by a cryptic billionaire and catapulted into an elite team. All that’s expected is that they use their pedigree to garner Brutal Deluxe some notoriety, but nobody expected them to be any good.
To become nascent gods of the game.
Fueled by rage and savage instinct, Charoen begins manifesting staggering abilities and ferocious battlefield instincts that stun those who witness his growth. Together with his sister, he’ll not only help Brutal Deluxe win their first few matches, he’ll destroy every opponent who dares challenge their bloody march to the top.
I’m a huge fan of the Phil and when this one got pitched as similar to Iron Prince Stormweaver (another favourite of mine), had to get on this. And glad I did. What’s not to like about a sci-fi book about tech driven arena fights?
The book is set in year 2442 at Oslo, Norway and follows the siblings Charoen and Jessie, though mostly told from Charoen’s point of view. As the synopsis indicates Charoen and his family live in a camp currently because of a hinted tragic history and work for the camp leader who helped them during their times of need. The biggest sport of the world is Krieg Chess, a team battle tournament that gets its basics from the game of Chess with players enhanced by ‘stimpacks’, a tech that integrates into their physiology and boosts it to give them superpowers. The plot unravels as Charoen & Jessie are recruited by a mysterious billionaire into a team of rejects as a second change underdog team. The redemption arc as the players come to terms with their own mistakes of the past and take the step towards glory makes for the plot.
The chess based battle mechanics is very interesting. Having players play the roles of King, Queen, Bishop, Rook & Pawns with associated powers is quite an innovate merger of the game and the book with tactics and strategies as cherry on the cake.
The writing as usual is superb, especially the character work. The way the characters deal with their inner demons and succeed is superbly written. It’s a gritty take as there are no easy solutions. Even the training is brutal forcing them to identify their boundaries and break through them…only to repeat.
On the flip side, the book suffers from a predictable plot. The wider universe as in how human society functions during that period of future is largely ignored and apart from some vague references, we don’t really get any details of the social, political or economic frames of references that would have added lot of value to the story.
Overall, it’s done enough to keep me invested into looking forward to the next in series. If you enjoyed, Iron Prince, you are likely to enjoy this too.