Ninefox Gambit Review (Military Sci-Fi)

Book cover for Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

The first installment of the trilogy, Ninefox Gambit, centers on disgraced captain Kel Cheris, who must recapture the formidable Fortress of Scattered Needles in order to redeem herself in front of the Hexarchate.

To win an impossible war Captain Kel Cheris must awaken an ancient weapon and a despised traitor general.

Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics. Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.

Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.

The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao–because she might be his next victim. – Goodreads


Ninefox Gambit Review

There are some books that demand your full attention and dedication to reading the monster, but they pay off in the end. They’ll never be books you rave about, but you’re glad you read them for one reason or another. (Aurora, 2312, etc.) And there are books like Ninefox Gambit. They demand full attention and dedication to reading it, but at no point ever provide a payoff.

Even though most math makes me run screaming in the opposite direction, I did like the premise of a math-based system of fighting. Too bad it just feels like the author took your basic fantasy mage skills and substituted math words instead of spell words. And that ticks me off. The first fight that we see Cheris and her troops in completely caught my attention. I was entranced and ready to dive in. And then the magic, pardon the pun, started slipping away. It became just another variant (sorry) of the stuff that bores me in fantasy novels.

Fans of the Divergent series by Veronica Roth will find familiar ground in the faction-separated systems in Ninefox Gambit. However, unlike in Roth’s series (which I did not finish, just to be clear), there are no heroes to root for. The characters in Ninefox Gambit are pale imitations of human beings shoved into the roles needed for the author play out his epic battles. I think I was supposed to care about Jedao’s backstory, but I didn’t. Even at the end it was very much “That’s nice, dear” instead of “Oh, that explains it all!”

I’m willing to admit that part of my problem with Ninefox Gambit is probably a lack of cultural understanding. The closest I’ve ever come to understanding any Eastern culture is regular visits to the local noodle house. So I don’t understand the calendrical naming system, the emphasis on presentation and conformity, etc. I don’t understand how things could develop to the point they have in this novel. And the sheer amount of calm discussion and introspection in lieu of action in this book made me want to fall over and start snoring.

The sad thing is that about midway through chapter fifteen, Ninefox Gambit actually started to catch my interest again. Even amuse me. But it’s yet another one of those cases where it’s too little, too late.

Overall, Ninefox Gambit just felt like a colossal waste of time that didn’t satisfy me on any level.

Ninefox Gambit (The Machineries of Empire, #1)

Title: Ninefox Gambit | Series: The Machineries of the Empire #1 | Author: Yoon Ha Lee (site) | Publisher: Solaris | Pub. Date: 2016-6-14 | Pages: 384 | ASIN: B01EBE05X2 | Genre: Military Science Fiction | Language: English | Rating: 2 out of 5 | Source: Library | Purchase on Amazon