The Gauntlet

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Gauntlet Book Poster Image
Family, friendship at heart of exciting game-world fantasy.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of detail about Bangladeshi and Middle Eastern culture, food, games, and customs. Also plenty of vocabulary-enhancing words, such as "piqued her curiosity," "reassuring stability," "trivialities," "monologue," and the scientific names of several bones.

Positive Messages

Strong messages of diversity, friendship, family, kindness, and good problem-solving skills.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Twelve-year-old Farah is a relatable kid, a loving and patient sister, a good friend, and a dutiful daughter. Also determined, courageous, and clever, and a good sport. She, Essie, and Alex have a strong friendship. Her extended family is kind, loving, generous -- and full of great cooks.

Violence & Scariness

Kids must win game's challenges or be stuck in it forever; lots of heartfelt scenes and images about missing home and family. Lots of surging piles of human bones in one mildly scary scene. Scary-looking characters, including a monster with a partially severed head. Destroying the game also involves destroying its Architect.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Gauntlet is the first novel of blogger, diversity advocate, and college undergraduate Karuna Riazi, who credits the movie Jumanji as a big influence. In her story, hijab-wearing Bangladeshi-American main character Farah (a 12-year-old New Yorker) and her childhood pals Alex (geeky, smart, and black) and Essie (strong-willed, quick-thinking, and redheaded) get trapped inside a mechanical game and must use all their talents trying to save Farah's little brother, defeat the game's creator, and make their escape. Some adventures involve scary magical beings and piles of bones, while others demand blind taste-testing of sweets.  The whole premise of being forever trapped inside the game and never seeing your family again is a constant theme, and may be a little intense for sensitive kids. Lots of positive messages here, about family and friendship, courage, problem-solving, teamwork, and being a clever gamer. With clockwork gears, minarets, souks, djinns, and lots of tasty foods, worlds and genres collide, and that's part of the fun.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Kid, 12 years old March 29, 2018

Kind of creepy but okay

This book is where kids get trapped in a game. It's kind of creepy(skeletons I think, ocean of blood) and is trying to keep them in forever, so yeah. But I... Continue reading

What's the story?

As Farah and her longtime friends gather to celebrate her 12th birthday in her family's new apartment on New York's Upper East Side, they unwrap what they think is her aunt's birthday present: a clockwork-driven world straight out of the Arabian Nights, contained in a game called "THE GAUNTLET of Blood and Sand." Excitement turns to horror when Farah's annoying but beloved 7-year-old brother dashes headlong into the game world -- and there's nothing for the friends to do but go in after him and face off against the game world's unknown Architect.

Is it any good?

First-time novelist Karuna Riazi creates an exotic, mechanical world drenched in magic and danger, with a pesky little brother trapped in it and three BFFs determined to get him out. Her exciting mix of ghostly monsters and high-stakes battles of wits includes strong messages of kindness, family, friendship, diversity, and girl power.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about friendship, which is a strong theme in The Gauntlet. Do you have any friends you've been close to since you were little? How would you feel if you moved and couldn't see them so much? Would you figure out a way to stay connected?

  • Have you already sampled the tasty Bangladeshi dishes and Middle Eastern sweets that keep coming up in the story? If not, which ones do you think you might like to try?

  • What do you know about Eid and other festive occasions Farah's family celebrates? What holidays does your family celebrate? Do you like to check out other people's celebrations, too?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love diversity and books with strong girl characters

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