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Gauntlet by Holly Jennings is the second book in a series called Arena. Kali Ling is a professional team owner and gamer in the Virtual Gaming League. In the gaming league, not only do the gamers need to remain in top physical shape as their own physique is translated to their game personas, their fame requires them to constantly been on view for the paparazzi. As a new team owner, Kali intends to change this environment that puts the league and the team owners above the health and well-being of the players. However, with the pressures of both managing the team, with all its challenges of funding and need for sponsorships, while continuing to be a team captain, she is overwhelmed. When an unexpected opportunity arises to play in the newest and most elite game to exist, she jumps right in. But as the challenges mount in and out of game, she wonders if she and her team are out of their league.
Jennings continues an excellent story with everything that I was missing from the first novel. While not being a gamer or a sports-lover, I did enjoy this story. Again, this novel is filled with real problems and the reader gets to observe as Kali learns to deal with them, including drug addiction, pressures of leadership and fame, how perception and reputation can have real impacts, and dealing with power. The rest of the team really got the opportunity to develop in this novel. The reader learns a lot of information about the characters and the team becomes more of a team. Again, the relationship between the league, the team owners, and play for money and power are center stage. This is a really diverse set of characters coming from all different races and backgrounds. There is a big focus on honor and doing what truly feels right to you, even if it will buck the status quo. The gaming aspect of this novel was really cool. I loved how the game developed over time and how the gamers had to adapt to it, especially the championship.
The narration by Erin Spencer was really well done. She really captures the characters personalities well. Unfortunately, the production quality was again not perfect. As in the first novel, there are a few skips and really fast speed through for less than a second. I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes a story about fighting against those who have all the power with a strong female lead learning how to take control and learning from her mistakes along the way.
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