Hello lovelies! Today I am going to do a review of the whole series, since I read them sort of back to back, and figure this is the best way to make it non-spoilery, anyway! PLUS, I have a giveaway (huge thanks to the publisher!) for ARENA and GAUNTLET for US/Canada!

Arena by Holly Jennings
Series: Arena #1
Published by Ace Books on November 1st 2016
Pages: 400
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review

Every week, Kali Ling fights to the death on national TV. She's died hundreds of times. And it never gets easier...

The RAGE tournaments the Virtual Gaming League's elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a fight to the digital death. Every kill is broadcast to millions. Every player leads a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.

And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.

Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world until one of her teammates overdoses. Now she s stuck trying to work with a hostile new teammate who s far more distracting than he should be.

Between internal tensions and external pressures, Kali is on the brink of breaking. To change her life, she ll need to change the game. And the only way to revolutionize an industry as shadowy as the VGL is to fight from the inside

Gauntlet by Holly Jennings
Series: Arena #2
Published by Ace on April 4th 2017
Pages: 336
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review

Plug back into the dangerous world of virtual gaming, in the next thrilling novel from the author of Arena.

Kali Ling isn’t afraid of dying. She’s been killed hundreds of times in hundreds of different ways. And she knows there are things much more terrifying than death…

There’s a new game in town. A brutal, winner-takes-all, international video game tournament between the world’s most elite players, promising fame, prestige, and unbelievable fortune. But there’s a catch. The game uses new VR pods guaranteed to push digital warriors to their physical and psychological brink—adapting every time a gamer makes a move.

As the first female captain and youngest team owner in VGL history, Kali is used to defying the odds. But as the all-star tournament heats up, her determination begins to waver and the pressures of media, sponsors, and the game itself begin to put cracks in her hard-set convictions.

If Kali’s Team Defiance is to survive, they’ll have to find a way to be stronger than ever before. But battling the system may prove too difficult for even the most hardened of fighters…

So a disclaimer: I am very much not a gamer. I played a mean Sonic the Hedgehog in my early days, and I could get you all across the Oregon Trail. I dabbled in The Sims from time to time, and that is quite fully the extent of my video game knowledge. So while I liked the idea of this, I was a tad nervous going in, worried that I’d have to be a video game aficionado to fully “get it”. Lucky, that was not the case at all. 

First, the games are more virtual, which is kind of amazing. Like, Kali, our main character, actually feels the pain when someone stabs her in the game. Which, frankly, sounds awful, but hey, she loves it. She’s made gaming her life’s passion and basically her career goal. I loved that she was so completely focused on what she wanted, and worked really hard to get there. I think the message that if you work hard, you get results is a really powerful one, especially for young women- and young women in a historically male-dominated field like Kali is in.

There’s a lot more that goes on behind the virtual gaming scene too. Like any major sport with a lot of money, sponsors, and business on the line, it’s way more than just the sport. Kali and her teammates go through a lot of stuff– including the death of a team member from a drug overdose. I will say that initially, I thought this was being underplayed, but it gets handled much more as the book goes on. Between the appearances at clubs that they have to attend, the social media presences they must keep up, and the images that they’re often forced by their team owner to portray, their lives are all quite complicated.

Of course, we come to know all the team members, since they not only train and play together, but live together as well. As the books unfold, we get a wonderful and in depth look at each teammate, and watch as they grow and develop. They’re diverse, and all have their own reasons for being there, goals, aspirations, and personalities. Kali also goes through a lot of growth, and we get to see her fumble, and pick herself up. She has to struggle with a lot of hard choices, especially for such a young woman. She is grappling with romantic relationships, her friendships, and her role on the team, all while trying to achieve her own dreams. Speaking of romantic relationships, yes, there is one, and yes, I ship it! I won’t say more though, because spoilers!

While I initially wasn’t sure if there would be enough of a story for the second book, there absolutely was! And I loved it, possibly even more than the first. The only minor complaint I had with either book was that sometimes, the game tournament itself felt a little repetitive, and I kind of wanted to hurry up and get along to the aftermath, which was a bit more interesting to me. But still, those times were not significant enough to really bother my overall enjoyment of the series!

Bottom Line: This series was really good, and I am so glad I read it! It’s perfect for those into gaming, but also perfect if you really just love a tough, scrappy protagonist who works hard to achieve her goals, and cares for those around her.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

So, would you want to be in a video game? Which would you choose?

I would be in The Sims. Because I could spend my day causing drama and then yelling at people to buy me stuff. I would never clean the house, I would just point at garbage on the floor and yell at others. Then I would swim in the pool, which hopefully has a ladder because that is a terrible Sim death. Or The Oregon Trail, but tbh, talk about awful deaths! ?

Posted April 3, 2017 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Giveaway, Review / 18 Comments


18 responses to “Arena & Gauntlet by Holly Jennings: Series Review & Giveaway

  1. Sam

    I was never a gamer either, though I caught all the fish in Animal Crossing (LOL!). You made this sound really good. I may have to dust off my copy of Arena.
    Sam @ WLABB

  2. I would be in an old school Nintendo game since that’s all I know how to play, lol! A game that’s fun to watch being played, though, is Bioshock. That story should be made into a movie!!

  3. Meigan

    If I were to choose a video game to be in, I’d pick Super Mario Brothers 3. I played that quite often as a kid, and my favorite part was trying to get the raccoon tail for Mario. It’s been so long I can’t remember what it did, I just remember working my tail off to get it 🙂

    Great review, I keep hearing nothing but good things about this series. Thanks so much for the chance!

  4. I have never read a book by this author, but holly woah that is one cool and freaky concept. I can’t actually imagine feeling all the feelings a character feels during the video game. And you ship the romance too! I’m intrigued! I’ll look for these at the library!
    Great review!

  5. Love the cover of Gauntlet especially, it has that cyberpunk-ish type vibe. And I think the only video game-ish book I’ve read is Ready Player One, so I haven’t read a LOT of these. Sounds pretty good.

    Okay I’ve never played the Sims although I’ve played some sim- like games (you know build a town and demolish the fuck out of your opponents) nice friendly games like that lol but after reading your description I want to play it! I played a game once years ago where you did stuff and trash would just generate, and I always wondered who picks that stuff up? Maybe it was a Sims knockoff, I don’t know, I wish I could remember. Anyway… yeah. And I did love the Mario games- power up mushrooms lol.

  6. Samantha D

    Oooh Ico or The Last Guardian! But Im sure if I truely in the game I would hate my choice as that game is very difficult. -_-

  7. I’m a prettt big gamer, so these books sound awesome! I would love to be in Mass Effect, so I can fight the reapers. I’d probably die immediately though. Lol.

  8. Lily M.

    I would love to be in one of the Resident Evil games so that I can kill zombies :):):) it’ll probably be creepy.

  9. Linda Romer

    Hi Holly! I can’t wait to read your books. I love the covers! My boys are the big gamers. If I had to be in a video game it would be Super Mario Brothers because I used to like to play it. Thank you

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