Ninefox Gambit Review

Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha Lee

There are some books that demand your full attention and dedication to reading the monster, but they pay off in the end. They’ll never be books you rave about, but you’re glad you read them for one reason or another. (Aurora, 2312, etc.) And there are books like Ninefox Gambit. They demand full attention and dedication to reading it, but at no point ever provide a payoff.


Even though most math makes me run screaming in the opposite direction, I did like the premise of a math-based system of fighting. Too bad it just feels like the author took your basic fantasy mage skills and substituted math words instead of spell words. And that ticks me off. The first fight that we see Cheris and her troops in completely caught my attention. I was entranced and ready to dive in. And then the magic, pardon the pun, started slipping away. It became just another variant (sorry) of the stuff that bores me in fantasy novels.


Fans of the Divergent series by Veronica Roth will find familiar ground in the faction-separated systems in Ninefox Gambit. However, unlike in Roth’s series (which I did not finish, just to be clear), there are no heroes to root for. The characters in Ninefox Gambit are pale imitations of human beings shoved into the roles needed for the author play out his epic battles. I think I was supposed to care about Jedao’s backstory, but I didn’t. Even at the end it was very much “That’s nice, dear” instead of “Oh, that explains it all!”


I’m willing to admit that part of my problem with Ninefox Gambit is probably a lack of cultural understanding. The closest I’ve ever come to understanding any Eastern culture is regular visits to the local noodle house. So I don’t understand the calendrical naming system, the emphasis on presentation and conformity, etc. I don’t understand how things could develop to the point they have in this novel. And the sheer amount of calm discussion and introspection in lieu of action in this book made me want to fall over and start snoring.


The sad thing is that about midway through chapter fifteen, Ninefox Gambit actually started to catch my interest again. Even amuse me. But it’s yet another one of those cases where it’s too little, too late.


Overall, Ninefox Gambit just felt like a colossal waste of time that didn’t satisfy me on any level.