Audiobook Review: Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Ninefox Gambit

Source: Purchased
Publisher: Recorded Books
Series: The Machineries of Empire, #1
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller
Edition: Audiobook, 10 Hours 52 Minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi….(Yeah….no it’s not)
Purchase: Amazon / Audible / Barnes & Noble
Rating: 2/5 Stars

The first installment of the trilogy, Ninefox Gambit, centers on disgraced captain Kel Cheris, who must recapture the formidable Fortress of Scattered Needles in order to redeem herself in front of the Hexarchate.

To win an impossible war Captain Kel Cheris must awaken an ancient weapon and a despised traitor general.

Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics. Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.

Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.

The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao–because she might be his next victim.

Ninefox Gambit is a fast paced first installment of a series fit for the hardcore sci-fi fans. I’ll just preface this review with a few little warnings the most important SPOILERS (maybe…I don’t even know what is and isn’t a spoiler for the freaking book)! Secondly, DO NOT GET THE AUDIO (I will explain why below, but it’s good advice).

I was really looking forward to Ninefox Gambit. I’d heard about it through a podcast and a lot of the buzz over it was vague but really positive, I was sure this would be a perfect fit for me and I actually purchased it. It was not a perfect fit. It was like buying a shirt that looks great on the mannequin but has all these confusing straps and buttons, and by the time you figure out how to get it on you’ve been struggling for far too long and you just want to take the shirt back to store. In short, this book is confusing as hell. Gambit is a vague and yet overly detailed story. I was confused before we even got into the second chapter. You just get plopped into the middle of a conflict and it starts hurling weird words at you like you’re supposed to know what it means. I’m all for books that don’t hand hold the entire way through something, and I’m all for context clues and subtle building….but this doesn’t have either. It doesn’t guide you through the political system or why calendars are so freaking vital to the stability of the entire civilization. It’s a well written but highly confusing mess.

I do know what the calendars mean NOW, several hours after finishing the book, but only because I read someone else’s low rated review and it was explained there. I had an “OH!” moment and suddenly so much of the plot made more sense. It’s similar to a hive mind (but not) and it requires all thoughts to work in tandem toward the same system of reality and when someone becomes a heretic they’ve basically broken away from that thinking and then Calendrical Rot happens setting off a chain reaction of others thinking outside of the guidelines. But it’s not explained like that…we’re just supposed to sort of infer that all of these made up words work in a certain way.

Now the stuff I did get, I actually enjoyed. I liked Jadao and his role with Cheris, and I love the idea of using a kind of immortal guy as a tactician even though he’s a known traitor. BUT I didn’t get how any of that worked. I loved some of the imagery as well like Jadao’s shadow. The last chapter was pretty good because we actually get information.

I can’t even commit the story, Proper nouns to memory. I was trying but it becomes way too much. Any book that requires me to keep notes in order to follow isn’t one I want to read. A final complaint…this seems to be sci-fi because of the whole space, advanced technology, and guns aspects but the story itself is like a fantasy novel. Half of the stuff barely makes sense. Anytime someone would talk about the math of their formations and the powers they can use because of it, I just assume it was magic. It works better as magic because we get no actual explanation of the way this odd technology works.

This is a dense book. It has a lot of details you’re going to need time to figure out. Because of this, you should get a print copy. You’re probably going to need to read things over in order to get them, and trying to constantly skip back in an audio is just too much. The narrator was pretty decent. I had no complaints in terms of the reading, but it’s just not an audio friendly text.

So…in short, I didn’t like it. I don’t hate it, but it’s not a book I want to revisit and I certainly don’t want to continue the series. It’s too much and not enough all at once. It’s one that I definitely suggest reading a sample of it first, so you’re not sitting through almost 11 hours of text utterly hating yourself.

2 stars

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One Response to Audiobook Review: Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

  1. Oh well, ha ha, on to the next one…

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