Ninefox Gambit

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Ninefox Gambit (The Machineries of Empire #1)Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
Published: 2016
Narrated by: Emily Woo Zeller
Series: The Machineries of Empire #1
Length: 10:52 (384 pages)

Captain Kel Cheris is a brilliant captain in a very strictly run army and finds herself disgraced by running unapproved formations while trying to keep her soldiers alive, but she is given one chance to redeem herself. To do so, she must take back a lost fortress with the help of a master tactician from the past. He has never lost a battle, but he’s also a murderous traitor.

The first chapter of this was so confusing, with so much unexplained terminology, that I nearly gave up. A lot of people seem to see this as part of the book’s charm, throwing the reader in headfirst and letting them slowly figure things out, but charmed I was not. I listened to this as an audiobook, and when I listen to a book I want to absorb just as much of it as I would if I was reading it on the page. I’ll let my mind wander during podcasts or music, but for audiobooks I actively listen. So a book like this, that is purposefully unclear, really throws me for a loop. I appreciate the author trying to avoid info dumping at the beginning, but it just leaves the reader feeling like they missed some required exposition. I listened to the first chapter twice, thinking I must have missed something.

Once the book gets rolling, it has a gripping story with some fascinating characters that also happen to have a refreshing take on the theme of gender identity and sexuality, something that isn’t focused on but is there in the background. The characters change and surprise you throughout the novel, and the ideas he’s come up with really do feel fresh, but the writing made it difficult to appreciate. This is the first in a trilogy, and I’m still unsure if I should continue or not. Now that I have a grasp of the world, maybe the second book will be a smoother read?

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