The Mortal Techniques novels are a series of stand-alone stories that can be read entirely independently, set in the award-winning Mortal Techniques universe.
Merciless gods, vengeful spirits, immortal assassins, and empires at war collide.
Five years ago, Yuu made a mistake that cost her everything. Once a renowned strategist and general, now she is on the run, royal bounty hunters snapping at her heels. But what if there was a way to get back what she lost, a way to bring back a murdered prince?
Once a century, the gods hold a contest to choose who will rule from the Jade Throne. Each god chooses a mortal champion, and the fate of heaven and earth hangs in the balance.
On a battlefield full of heroes, warriors, assassins, and thieves can Yuu survive long enough to learn the rules of the game, let alone master it?
Pawn’s Gambit is a stand alone story set in the award-winning Mortal Techniques universe. It’s a wuxia adventure filled with heroes, gods, spirits, and magic.
Pawn’s Gambit is the fifth book by Rob J. Hayes I have read this year. Having read the first three books in The War Eternal series and Never Die (the first Mortal Techniques story), he has quickly become a firm favourite.
In Pawn’s Gambit we follow the story of Yuu, also known as The Art of War, a military strategist who has fallen from grace. The Art of War first appears as a side character in Never Die. Although each book in this series is a stand alone story, there are loose threads that tie them together. I probably would have enjoyed Pawn’s Gambit if I had not read Never Die first, but believe I got a lot more from the story having done so.
The story itself is a fascinating one. Every century the gods hold a contest for the throne of heaven, to decide who will be the god of gods. Natsuko, the goddess of missed opportunities and lost things, coaxes Yuu to be her champion in the ultimate treasure hunt.
Like a game of chess, the relationship between Natsuko and Yuu is fraught with tension. However, there’s an uneasy warmth that develops between them over time, a mutual respect, born of their shared journey for their own personal redemption. Unlike the first book in the series, this story has some darker themes. I appreciated how these themes were handled, as they are instrumental to Yuu’s character development and the overall journey she takes.
Strangely, I didn’t have as much fun with this story as I did with its predecessor. I didn’t find some of the other characters as engaging as the ensemble in Never Die. That being said, I still enjoyed the story and being immersed in the world.
The greatest quality of this book, and the author’s work in general, is the world-building. Rob J. Hayes really enhances our understanding and experience of the Mortal Techniques universe in this book. The lore, history, traditions and cultures of mortals and gods alike are detailed and vividly described. We also get more information on the magic system – the Techniques. The writing style and pacing never faulters, which is another of the author’s great attributes.
If you enjoy a high stakes quest, heists, double-crossing, a hint of steampunk, anime-style action, magic, gods, and a flawed anti hero, then this one is definitely for you. Pawn’s Gambit is yet another piece of phenomenal world building by Rob J. Hayes; like the great chess players, he is a master of his craft.
Thank you for taking the time to read my review.