Pawn's Gambit by Rob J. Hayes

Hello everyone!
Today on Fantasy Book Nerd I am looking at Pawn's Gambit by Rob J Hayes. 

Pawn's Gambit is the second book in The Mortal Techniques series which was originally published in January 2021. 

Rob J Hayes is a powerhouse in the self published and has produced quite a number of book, which if you are interested you can find out more at Rob J. Hayes' Website. Not only that he does a comprehensive monthly list of upcoming releases which is brilliant.

Anyway on with the book.

About the Book

Yuu wants nothing more than to forget the mistakes of her past. The Gods have other plans.

Once a renowned strategist and general, five years ago Yuu made a mistake that cost her everything. Now she is on the run, royal bounty hunters snapping at her heels. But what if there was a way to get back what she lost, a way to bring back a murdered prince?
Every century, the gods hold a contest to choose who will rule from the Heavenly Jade Throne. Each god chooses a mortal champion, and the fate of all existence hangs in the balance. On a battlefield full of heroes, warriors, assassins, and thieves can Yuu survive long enough to learn the rules of the game, let alone master it?

Pawn's Gambit is a stand alone story set in the award-winning Mortal Techniques universe. It's a wuxia adventure filled with heroes, gods, spirits, and magic

I must admit that I like the premise behind Rob J. Haye’s Mortal Techniques series and as a reader I found that it works really well; a set of standalone novels that can be read in any order. And while linked in some ways, they are totally independent of each other. 

Pawn’s Gambit is the second of the Mortal Techniques and series and centres on Yuu, otherwise known as The Art of War,the strategist that we met in Never Die who is the right hand person of The Steel Prince. 

Five years after the events of Never Die, Yuu has now become a wandering rogue who has rescinded all the aspects of her previous life, including the mantle of The Art of War due to the fact that there is now a price on her head for the death of the Steel Prince, but mainly due to the guilt that she feels of what she perceives as her failure. Now she is a washed up drunk who spends most of her time using her superior intellect to devise stratagems to get as much wine as she can from playing chess. 

However, the gods have other plans for Yuu, and as the century ends, the reign of Heaven is up for contest. Once every hundred years the gods have devised an ingenious way to determine who will be the next ruler of Heaven and thus set the tone for the next hundred years. At the moment, it is the God of War who sits on the throne, and his rule is characterised by upheaval and unrest, devastation and change. However, the God of Missed opportunities and Lost things, Natsuko has devised a plan. You see the Gods, in their infinite wisdom have concocted a brilliant plan to pick the next ruler; a scavenger hunt where the champions of the Gods travel around the world collecting artifacts of importance to each of the gods and the champion that has the most wins! Simples! Except that nothing is that simple really is it? Not on your nelly, because whilst this is a scavenger hunt, there are no rules. Champions can steal each other’s artefacts and if they so wish, they can also bump off the other contenders and steal their stash. 

Playing like an anime version of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Yuu with her irascible godly companion Natsuko set off to claim as many artifacts as they can to win the contest, end the rule of The God of War and eventually hope to put the God of Missed opportunities and Lost Things on the throne of Heaven. 

Having read the first one, I expected something similar to the first book in this series, but whilst the pace is fast in this story, it is less frenetic than Never Die and subsequently gives the book more time to develop. Particularly the interplay between the characters, with Yuu and the God Of Missed Opportunities and Lost Things constant bickering proving to be one of the standout aspects of the story.

Not only that, Rob J. Hayes does not miss the opportunity to inject some heart into the narrative, especially when the character of Li Bang is introduced, who initially seems to be a throwaway character but unexpectedly becomes far more important. However, Rob J. Hayes never wastes a character throughout the story, even when Yuu steals a horse and names it Lump, it becomes just as much a treasured character as the rest of the ensemble. 

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed Never Die, I enjoyed Pawn’s Gambit more due to the fact that whilst it is an epic tale, it is ultimately a more intimate tale with a smaller cast of characters which resulted in it giving the story more time to develop.


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