Review: “The Gender Game” by Bella Forrest

Review: “The Gender Game” by Bella Forrest

A review by Vanessa.

I purchased this book from Amazon after an advertisement linked me to it and the synopsis seemed interesting.

In a world where your gender rules your fate, Violet Bates is happy being a woman born in Matrus, where the females rule the government. Violet doesn’t know what exactly caused the great war that brought such destruction upon them, but everyone knows why the surviving populace living in the only fertile mountainous area left, split into two different ruling factions. Men had proven to be monstrous, and violent, and had already brought about the eradication of their previous way of life. Women thought it was time for females to lead. The men disagreed, and the majority of the women left, with those men who agreed, to form a separate government in the flat lands beyond the toxic river. Peace reigns in Matrus; power and masculinity reigns in Patrus.

Even though 19-year-old Violet committed a crime that put her in jail until her upcoming 21st birthday, she was better off than in Patrus where women were no more than property. Still, when her brother was marked at an early age as unfit to reside in Matrus, she loved him too much to see him condemned and tried to smuggle him across the river. She failed, and he was taken away. Now all she wants is to get through the rest of her sentence without trouble. But fate has other plans when Violet’s scuffle with another prisoner ends in womanslaughter. The Queen has made Violet an offer: help with a secret mission to recover something that was stolen, or face death as punishment. The mission comes with a heavy price. Namely, marriage to the Queen’s spy in Patrus. If she succeeds, she might just get the chance to see her brother again. But first she must survive having no rights, and no bodily autonomy. Still, it’s not all bad. Violet has always loved the thrill of physical combat, which is outlawed in Matrus. But in Patrus she is drawn to a lean handsome fighter who serves as a warden for the government her new scientist husband works for. Things just aren’t what they seemed to her before, and she finds herself torn between her mission and her heart.

The classic futuristic dystopian genre gets an interesting twist in this book. Focusing on the gender dichotomy as the source of the main conflict is an all too familiarly painful, and eerily possible, future. The turns the story takes are expertly executed, and will definitely keep the reader engaged. Violet, the main character, is a highly relatable lead to the story. Her personal journey is particularly captivating, as she discovers more about the world outside of her own experience. A rather large flaw in the world building, however, is the complete lack of acknowledgment of what happens to those who would be transgendered, non-gendered, or outside of the societal expectations for sexual orientation. Considering that this world is supposed to be the future fate of our own world, it is insanely disappointing that such a large part of humanity is simply not addressed. I have to hope that the great potential for what could have been a fascinating conflict within this world will be covered in future books. That being said, it has been a very long time since a book has actually kept me up all night to finish it. And though the prose could be just a little bit stiff at times, it flowed just right in all the places that mattered the most; the first moments of Violet’s real self-discovery, the height of the romantic tension, and the shocking twist of the story’s climax. I will definitely continue on in this series.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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Review of “Gambit” by C.L. Denault

Gambit by C.L. Denault A review by Amanda.

I would like to thank the author and publisher for allowing me to read Gambit in exchange for an honest review. There are mild romantic spoilers in the last paragraph of this review.

Sixteen year old Willow Kent has a secret. More than one, actually. She has a skill, a genetically enhanced ability that makes her extremely valuable to the Core, the ruling industries of war-torn Earth. It’s been centuries since battles over genetic coding destroyed Earth as we know it. Now, the population is divided. Those who live in the Core have every technological advantage conceivable; elsewhere, citizens live in primitive villages where technology is forbidden. Patrols from the Core round gifted individuals up to be put to use working for the wealthy or breeding to make stronger skills. Willow has done everything she can to keep herself out of the hands of those who would use her skill, to keep her freedom, and to keep her loved ones safe. When an elite patrol arrives just ahead of terrifying news from the Core, everything Willow has worked for will be undone.

I am a big fan of speculative and dystopian fiction. As such, this story drew me in immediately. Willow is smart, stubborn, and tenacious. While those traits could have made her come across as harsh or cold, the author does an excellent job of balancing with Willow’s warmth and humor towards her family and closest friends. The story itself is intriguing, combining science with fantasy. The differences between Willow’s village and the Core give the story a time-travel effect; the village lifestyle has a 19th century feel to it, whereas the Core is much more modern and advanced further than today’s technology by far.

The Core commander who throws Willow’s life into disarray is sharp, cruel, and intimidating. He alternates cruelty with kindness and confuses Willow more than anything. This is the only aspect of the book that gives me pause. It bothers me to see another YA story with the heroine finding herself attracted to someone who has hurt her, both emotionally and physically. He blames her for his actions and either apologizes or does something kind to make up for it. He also uses his powerful position to manipulate her. That being said, he is still a fascinating character and to my chagrin, I found myself warming to him. I can only hope that his character changes for the better.

The real heart of this story is in the richness and depth of the supporting characters. I will definitely continue with this series.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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