Gambit by C.L. Denault
Publisher: Reuts Publications
Release date: March
Genres: Fantasy, dystopia
*Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book*
This is not an easy book to review. While the world building was decent, the plot was good and the characters well built, there is an ugly fact that I can't let go of: This book romanticises abuse. Let me tell you how. (There will be spoilers below, but it won't really matter because you really shouldn't pick this book up)
So in this book, our "love interest" is Reece, a very speshul officer who was sent to get Willow because she turned out to be a "prodigy". If Reece made an account on an online dating site, here's what it'd say:
Twenty-year-old man looking for a sixteen year old girl (whose name preferably is associated with a tree), very handsome, emotionally volatile, with anger issues and a great rank in the Army of Sociopathic A-holes.
+Killing innocent villagers that you know, just because "they stand in his way".
+Physically harming sixteen-year-old girls just to prove a point. (After all, violence is always the answer, right?)
+Beating up your teacher in order to manipulate you into doing what he wants.
+Being an extreme control freak.
+Causing physical and/or emotional damage to anyone who dares stand up to him, just because he can.
Sounds like a real dream, doesn't he? Willow certainly seems to think so. Reece rips Willow away from her life, makes her watch her beloved teacher get beaten up, manipulates her, belittles her, insults her all the damn time, and physically harms her on three separate occasions (the foremost reason for which is the fact that Willow defies him and we can't have that, now, can we?). And Willow falls for him. Over and over again, he hurts her, both physically and emotionally, and she keeps making excuses for him. I really don't know about you, but that screams abusive relationship to me.
I mean, if Reece treated ME half as badly as he treats Willow, I wouldn't want to touch him with a ten-foot pole. And yet, Willow lets him hold her, kiss her. She mentions quite a few times in his absence that she wishes he was with her. What. The. Hell?! And, even after being subjected to his sadistic control-freak nature, she acknowledges she should listen to him and not fight him. EXCUSE ME? By saying this, she's basically blaming herself for Reece's horrifying behaviour, and thinking that if she HAD listened to him, he wouldn't be such a abusive piece of crap (yay for feminism.) WHAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIP IS THAT? The more I think about it, the more it sickens me.
"Ironic, is it not, that the only man allowed to kiss you is the same man who will kill anyone else that dares try?"
A small example of Reece's controlling nature. Control freaks are so attractive these days.
And worst part is SHE ACTUALLY SAVES HIS JOB FOR HIM IN THE END, for no other reason besides the fact that she wants him to be near her (his job is to "protect" her. If he gets the sack, then he wouldn't be able to be near her anymore). Wow. I totally get your reasoning, Willow. Like, "oh, he's hurt me and abused me so many times, but that's only because he has a troubled past, and it was all for my own good anyways, so when I finally have the opportunity to get rid of the man who made my life a misery, I'M GOING TO SAVE HIS JOB BECAUSE I CAN'T BE WITHOUT HIM."
And this is ALL romanticised. The author makes it seem like this whole relationship is healthy and that it's okay to lust after the man who ruined your life.
Of course, you absolutely hate him at first (like Willow did), but once he reveals the full depths of his sadism, you fall for him (like Willow did). Obviously, you try to keep your distance because he could hurt you, and you keep telling yourself not to get too involved (like Willow did) but when you get the perfect opportunity to be rid of him forever, of course you must save his job because you just can't do without him. The author makes it seem okay to be like Willow, to know that a guy is truly dangerous, but still not be able to keep away from him because he is so hot and mysterious.
The author makes it look like the relationship between Reece and Willow is healthy, and that it's completely okay to be undecided about a guy who abuses you, physically and emotionally. THAT IS NOT OKAY, and it's not healthy.
Reece makes Warner, Jace, Daemon (and all those YA "bad boys") look like fluffy bunnies. The "romance" (and it shouldn't even be called that) is pretty horrifying. Gambit is a dystopian/fantasy book, and while it may not be a terrible book in terms of technical literary criteria, the relationship that runs through the entire book is poisonous, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who finds romanticised abusive relationships to be repulsive. I'm not going to rate this because I really don't know how to.