Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee – Review

Cover- Ninefox Gambit

Published: June 14, 2016

Publisher: Solaris Books

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 384 (Paperback)

My Rating: 3.0/5.0




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.

When I requested Ninefox Gambit from Solaris Books/NetGalley, the only thing I knew was that it was science fiction and the synopsis sounded interesting. I’m glad I had the opportunity to give this a shot because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. Those TBR’s get overwhelming you know.

The story focuses on Captain Kel Cheris, who gets herself tangled up in politics and ends up fighting a battle that seems impossible. The story was overwhelming at first due to a heavy amount of unfamiliar military and societal jargon, which was my biggest problem with this book as a whole. Rather than showing the reader what something looked like or how it functioned, a term would be thrown out there with little in the way of descriptives. By the end of the book I was only beginning to grasp the purpose of a calendrical and mathematically based society and why exactly it was so bad to have heretical groups screwing with said calendar, which was almost the entire basis of the book. I was flailing, drowning, gasping for air and trying to figure out what was going on (a bit overly dramatic and not really that crazy). Despite this, I was desperate to find out what would happen next.

I was astonished to find that I was invested in Kel Cheris and her shadow Shuos Jedao, a general 400 years dead, convicted of the highest treason against society, but too valuable to throw away. These two alone kept the story afloat. I was interested in seeing how things would play out between them- would Jedao drive Cheris insane? Would he somehow go rogue? And the real question… Who’s really the villain in this story? The letters between from one of the besieged fortresses intelligence people to the heretical leader were amusing and informative of the situation within. I also liked the few bits featuring the servitors, which were surprisingly insightful and humorous.

While I found the bones of the story enjoyable, the intricacies of the society were unclear and overwhelming. This book would have benefitted from a glossary, a guide to the society, or even conveniently placed info-dumps. Anything would have helped keep me from wanting to throw up my hands. Eventually I stopped trying to understand and just went with it. After that, I liked the story and the interactions between characters, but I still felt like I was missing out on the subtleties of the society that Yoon Ha Lee built for her readers.


4 thoughts on “Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee – Review

  1. I love learning about the novel’s different cultures, and with sci-fi, I LOVE learning the tech and science; That calendrical and mathematically based society sounds awesome, but too hopefully to hear that Lee doesn’t do the best at explaining it.


  2. Yes, we did have similar thoughts! I found the premise to be really creative and unique, but my excitement was overshadowed by it being too confusing. The characters were great though, I totally agree that their relationship kept the story afloat!

    Liked by 1 person

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