Kali is a gamer - a professional gamer. Every week, viewers from around the world tune in to watch her team, Defiance, battle it out on the virtual field. But just before the start of the latest RAGE tournament, Defiance - the favorite to win, is beaten by a new team. They still have a chance to come out on top, but it will mean battling it out with the rest of the losing bracket before once again taking on InvictUS, the team no one seems to be able to take down.
Though Kali is confident, she and her team are shaken when one of their own dies of an overdose. And while Kali's still reeling from the loss of her teammate (and lover), Defiance's owner names her captain of the team - the first female captain in history -, and recruits a new member. One comes with the burden of responsibility while the other threatens the strength and cohesion of the team.
If you're a fan of gaming, this first in Holly Jennings's Arena - series, duology? - is for you. My own diving in comes at a fortuitous time: I was victorious in obtaining one of the shockingly few released Nintendo Minis last week! Our classics are Kali's classics as well and quite a few of the games I grew up with appear as pop culture references in Jennings's debut :)
So Kali's world is one in which virtual reality has evolved to the point that gamers must be athletes in order to succeed. She and her team train physically in order to be able to duke it out in the programmed world. And if they're hurt inside, they feel it when they unplug.
The popularity of virtual gaming is such that Kali and her team are subject to the whims of owners, sponsors, and media (much like real sports and celebrity today). And image is everything. Which is why the team must win and must appear to have recovered even after one of their teammates dies. Which becomes tough considering Kali's much more affected by the death than anyone wants to admit.
Jennings's story isn't just about gaming. She's taken the trappings of celebrity - the constant attention, the pressure to be at the literal top of the game at every moment, and the need to live up to the expectations and narratives created by the media - and illustrated just how much that can affect a person. Kali is a leader and a passionate player, which means walking away isn't an option. The careers and futures of her teammates rests on her shoulders. And it's getting to be too much to handle on her own.
Arena is fun, readers, and I can't wait until next spring and the release of Gauntlet! (It's synopsis on Goodreads does include spoilers for Arena, so I'd wait to check that out until you've finished the first book.) I kind of wish there had been more detail of the world and the tournament themselves, but the depth of the characters and the evolution of their relationships as a team and beyond make it easy to get wrapped up in their story.
Thanks to the publisher, I get to offer up one copy of the brand new trade paperback edition of Arena today! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, November 28. Open US only and no PO boxes please.
a Rafflecopter giveaway