Wednesday, August 3, 2022

BOOK REVIEW: Game of Strength and Storm by Rachel Menard

It’s been a while since I’ve read a YA novel, so I decided to dip my toe back in with the YA fantasy adventure Game of Strength and Storm by Rachel Menard. 

Borrowing from Greek mythology and infusing the story with modern twists, the author spins a nuanced tale of good versus evil.

Gen (Genevieve) is the daughter of a Mindworker and a Mazon. Mindworkers are able to empathize with/read the minds of other creatures (even other humans to some extent) by feeding them the blood, hair, or saliva of a Mindworker. Mazons (analogous to Amazons) are women with exceptional strength – at least, they were until their whole race was murdered by a race of giants because of a long-standing feud. Gen survived because she was only half Mazon. Her father was then accused of and jailed for the slaughter of a group of these giants using his mind-controlling talents. Gen is certain he is innocent and is willing to do anything to free him and restore his good name.

Castor is the daughter of the Lord of Storms, ruler of Arcadia. The Arcadians are able to control weather. They are also able to bottle and sell small bursts of this power. They are powerful and exceptionally greedy, giving little thought to the havoc caused by the product they sell. One example of the havoc was the slaughter of the Mazons by the giants, who could not have succeeded without utilizing the Arcadian’s weather vials. Castor wants nothing but to take over Arcadia after her father’s death. Her lust for control of the country’s wealth and power has warped her completely. However, the law of the land is that only a male can inherit. So her father’s heir is her twin brother, Pollux, a kindly musician who uses his storm powers for good and for entertainment. Castor views him as weak. She will do anything to force a change in the law so that she will be her father’s heir.

What can these two young women do?

Their world is ruled by the two-headed empresses, who hold a lottery each year to help consolidate their power. The ten lottery “winners” are invited to submit wishes to them. Rarely, the wishes are refused. Usually they are granted but at a cost.

This year, Gen and Castor win places in the lottery. Each submits their wish. The empresses propose a competition. Ten tasks (a.k.a. the labors of Hercules) are set before them. Whichever of them completes the most tasks will win and that wish will be granted.

Gen utilizes her great strength and her ability to recruit animals to aid her. Castor uses ruthlessness and control of the weather. Gen has something else on her side – Castor’s brother Pollux, who is in love with Gen.

The novel pits the two against one another in a desperate race. It’s a fun adventure tale that also explores themes of loyalty, love, and how far one will go to win when the stakes are desperately high.

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