The Challenger

Feiwel & Friends. (Contender: Bk. 2). Aug. 2020. 400p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250138729.
Gr 8 Up–In this second installment of the “Contender” series, Cade Carter has survived the qualifying round of Abaddon’s twisted games, but he and his friends have little time to rest or grieve. A new trial, a duel, has been set for Cade. With a little over a month to prepare and with the fate of Earth in his hands, Cade and his friends learn more about the mysterious world of Acies and its deadly inhabitants. However, after being captured by slavers, they are taken to New Rome, where they are forced to compete in gladiatorial games. If Cade dies in the Colosseum, he cannot compete in Abaddon’s duel and Earth will be destroyed. Matharu presents a unique world with fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction elements. The interesting blend of ancient Roman history, mysterious AI computers, dinosaurs, and demons works because of Matharu’s coherent world-building. The climactic ending feels rushed and highlights some uneven pacing; however, the action scenes are riveting and in perfect balance with the characterizations, as the diverse group of teens reacts realistically to the violence and horror around them.
VERDICT A complex, well-blended mix of plot and characterization, perfect for fans of fantasy battle royale stories.

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