Arena by Holly Jennings
Series: Arena #1
Published: November 1, 2016 by Ace
Genre: Science Fiction
The RAGE tournaments the Virtual Gaming League’s elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a fight to the digital death. Every kill is broadcast to millions. Every player leads a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.
And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.
Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world until one of her teammates overdoses. Now she s stuck trying to work with a hostile new teammate who s far more distracting than he should be.
Between internal tensions and external pressures, Kali is on the brink of breaking. To change her life, she ll need to change the game. And the only way to revolutionize an industry as shadowy as the VGL is to fight from the inside.
Holly Jennings has created a great world in Arena and I loved how she really flipped gaming on it’s head. I can totally see this future coming true once the technology is there. Having gamers be the most popular celebrities was a great idea! Jennings does a great job of not shying away from the very real issues that those involved with Virtual Reality gaming are going through. It would be easy to gloss over things but she dives right in with how much drugs, alcohol, and mental instability affect those that are constantly in a virtual world. Reading about Kali struggling with losing her teammate and then leading a team when she doesn’t know what she’s doing is great.
Kali was a very enjoyable narrator because she was real; she makes mistakes, says stupid things, has real emotions and struggles with things just like everyone else. I’m not a big fan of first person narratives but the action and world building kept this story very interesting for me. Kali has some personal issues regarding drug use and addiction but I had a few issues with how her struggle was portrayed.
I also liked the developing love story between Kali and Rooke; not everyone might be happy with this but I normally read Romance and only occasionally stray into other genres. So their story-line was a nice bonus for me! Rooke was very interesting and I wish we could have gotten inside his head too (the main reason why I don’t like first person, single POV books) because he had some deep things going on in his life and I loved how he was there for Kali whenever she needed him.
I would have loved more on the Defiance team members; we get a pretty great look at Kali’s upbringing, history and story, as well as a good look at Rooke. But the other team mates are more superficial. This book is written in first person so it’s understandable that it’s mostly about Kali but I would have loved more development in the other characters.
**Reader Safety: Detailed descriptions of fighting violence; Heroine going through drug withdrawal
4 stars – it was enjoyable
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