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March 12, 2017

Review: Arena by Holly Jenkins

by MK French

April 2016; Ace; 9780425282878; ebook & print
(400 pages); sci-fi dystopian
a free book was provided for this review
Kali Ling is a professional in the Virtual Gaming League and is the first female captain of a team. She's young and determined to be the best, especially when her team lost in the opening gambit of the RAGE tournament. Despite that, there's a lot of glamor and glitz, which is easy to get lost in. It also hides a seamy underbelly to the League, and Kali has to decide what is actually important to her.

I really appreciated Kali being ethnically half Chinese and half American. It is referenced a few times throughout the book, as she figures out how much of the pushback she experiences in the League is because she's a woman or because of racism. There are few enough mixed race characters mentioned in a lot of books, let alone characters where it really isn't the most defining characteristic about them.

She's a player first, and the background means that there's a theme of balance and heritage. This is especially important as she grasps addiction, grief, loss and trying to find her sense of self. These are very serious issues, especially in a gaming context, but also because of her youth. She's very empathetic, and all of the members of the team are fleshed out and just as much fun to get to know. It really does take friends and family support to provide the strength to overcome problems.

There will be a sequel to this novel, and I'm sure it's going to be just as great as this one.

Buy Arena at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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