Book Review: Pawn’s Gambit

What better way to rekindle the embers of The Bookshelf than with a story about renewal? Yuu’s journey from retired recluse to regenerated legend was just what this backslidden blogger needed to shake off the rust and get back into the game. 

Pawn’s Gambit is the second book in the Mortal Techniques series, following Never Die. The two works share many similarities, including standout, colorful characters and action-packed pages. However, this second installment features a new type of hero.

The Basics:

Title: Pawn’s Gambit (The Mortal Techniques book 2)
Author: Rob J. Hayes
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Comedy
Published: Rob. J Hayes, 2021

Spoiler-Free Summary: 

We last met Yuu in the final movement of Never Die as the famed strategist The Art of War (all the heroes in this series have delightfully over-the-top nicknames. It’s a feature, not a bug). Pawn’s Gambit picks up nearly a decade later, as the consequences of her actions in the war to supplant the previous tyrannical emperor have pushed her into exile. She lives as a vagrant under an assumed name, earning just enough money hustling old men at chess to feed herself and drink the painful memories away. She is a bitter shell of her former self. 

On an otherwise unremarkable day, an eccentric woman approaches Yuu with an offer she cannot ignore: the opportunity to resurrect her deceased love. The price? Nothing much… just a magical contract binding her to the God of Lost Things and Missed Opportunities. You see, the gods hold a contest once every one hundred years to determine who will be the emperor of heaven and control the overall bent of human history for the next century. Yuu must scour the country and collect more divine artifacts than her rival champions, ascend an insurmountable mountain, and present her findings to the court of heaven itself. Along the way, she dodges relentless bounty hunters, clockwork assassins, organized crime monks, monsters, spirits, and a cranky sway-backed horse. Easy, right? 

Photo by Johannes Plenio on

Despite that rogue’s gallery of a list, The Art of War is different from the other, more action-oriented named heroes in this series. Rather than destroying her enemies with blade and chi-magic, she unravels their plans with her mind. Yuu’s clever plans and surprising gambles never fail to delight.

Why This Book Is For You…

I have a whole two data points to refer to, so you can trust I know what I’m talking about when I say this is truly a Rob J. Hayes book. He does nothing big when he can do it even more bigger-er. The over-the-top stakes and action juxtapose nicely with the deeply moving character arcs and quirky side-characters. 

If you’re a fan of action SF/F anime or wire-fu shows like Into The Badlands, you will love the Mortal Techniques series. 

Where Can You Find More? 

Check out the author’s website for the latest and greatest, and see what other readers are saying over on Goodreads. 

It’s good to be back. 🙂 Happy reading, folks.

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