Review: Arena by Holly Jennings

Review: Arena by Holly JenningsArena by Holly Jennings
Series: Arena #1
Published by Ace on November 1st 2016
ISBN: 9780425282878
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

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…

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Disclosure: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

drey’s thoughts:

The Plot: Virtual gamer team makes it to championship, loses a member, gets a new teammate, does their best to survive elimination rounds, and as a side project exposes the not-so-pretty realities of VR, against the wishes of the game sponsors.

The Characters: Kali Ling is a female gamer in a world dominated by men (surprise!), and so it’s kind of a big deal when she leads her team to the championships. Maybe they didn’t get there as cleanly as they’d like, but they’re there nonetheless.

I liked Kali. She’s strong, confident, and stubborn – a bit formulaic in character building, but it worked for Arena. She’s also quite whiny, which I really didn’t care for, until she started growing up a bit…

Anyway. Not all’s rainbows and unicorns in Kali’s world – and she deals with it the only way she knows how, immersing herself in the VR world. Never mind that too much time in an alternate reality has consequences. Never mind that she’s started to take sleeping pills for her insomnia. It’s easier to ignore than to address problems the you think are beyond your control.

Good thing her teammates are cool – and they’re a diverse lot, to boot. We don’t get too much of the gang, other than the new guy who’s forced to play love interest for the media. He’s sullen and brusque, and the whole new-dude-after-other-dude-dies is really not my cup of tea. However, I will clarify that the new “relationship” did make Kali see sense – eventually – so I’m mostly ok with it.

The Story: Arena has a lot of stuff for the geeky-gamer-slash-bookworm: VR, survival games, fight scenes and strategy, team strife and team bonding, and so on. It also has drama, politics (the keep-your-sponsors-happy kind), and romance (though I still think it was too soon>. All in all, I was happy with this, and will pick up Gauntlet when it comes out next April.

drey’s rating: Excellent!

Have you read Arena? What did you think? And if you haven’t, read on to win your own copy!


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About Holly Jennings

holly jennings

Holly Jennings is a lifelong gamer who has spent innumerable hours playing World of Warcraft and Call of Duty. ARENA is her first novel. She lives in Canada, where she is working on the sequel.

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