Last Updated on February 12, 2024
A Gamble of Gods is the highly imaginative, world-hopping debut by Mitriel Faywood. With this ambitious novel, Faywood has established herself as an exhilarating new voice in speculative fiction.
Faywood’s debut is a genre-defying story, impossible to categorize using conventional literary classifications. The experience of reading A Gamble of Gods is more like watching a blockbuster movie: a hugely entertaining, immersive experience, where the heart-pounding action is balanced by a cheerful levity and even some romance.
The story is told from the first-person perspectives of three main characters who come from very different worlds spanning both science fiction and fantasy.
First, Kristian del Rosso is a university lecturer from a futuristic planet. Kristian’s sci-fi world is teeming with robots, artificial intelligence, and even teleportation. Kristian lives a reclusive academic existence, unable to move past the trauma of a friend’s death several years ago. But when his entire research group is mercilessly slaughtered by an identity-changing madman, he must leave the university to hunt down the killer. Kristian’s no-nonsense, matter-of-fact attitude is a bit reminiscent of Philip Marlowe from the works of Raymond Chandler.
In marked contrast to Kristian’s serious demeanor, Conor Drew is an effusive playboy adventurer who hails from a more traditional medieval-type fantasy world. Conor is tenacious in his quest for treasure and perhaps even more relentless in his pursuit of women.
The third point-of-view character is Selena Soto, an office worker from a near-future London who is seeking therapy for her anxiety attacks. She lacks self-confidence in both her professional career and her personal life. Of the three main characters in A Gamble of Gods, Selena undergoes the most satisfying growth over the course of the novel.
Mitriel Faywood has created a distinct voice for her three main characters, making it easy to identify the narrator of each chapter without even looking at the chapter headings. I particularly enjoyed seeing how the paths of the three characters intersect and how their relationships evolve over the course of the book.
Faywood is best known to the grimdark community as the long-time beta reader for Mark Lawrence. Given her extensive work with Lawrence, it is natural to expect some influence on Faywood’s debut. Mark Lawrence’s influence is most evident in Faywood’s crisp writing style, especially in the chapters narrated by Conor Drew. Conor’s womanizing and exuberant sense of humor reminded me a lot of Jalan Kendeth, the narrator of Prince of Fools and the rest of Lawrence’s Red Queen’s War trilogy, but with Jalan’s cowardice replaced by Conor’s assured bravado. Like Jalan, Conor does not try to hide the significant shortcomings of his personality.
Kristian’s mentor, Dr. James Montgomery, also reminds me a bit of Lawrence’s recurring character, Dr. Elias Taproot, the time traveling physicist extraordinaire. In a fun Easter egg, Faywood even quotes Dr. Taproot’s catchphrase, “Watch me!”, in the latter part of her novel.
But the similarities stop there. While it’s also tempting to compare Faywood’s blend of fantasy and science fiction to that of Mark Lawrence’s trilogies, the two authors take very different approaches. Whereas Lawrence’s work typically focuses on the fantastic elements sitting atop a more subtle sci-fi core, Faywood immediately brings the sci-fi elements to the forefront in A Gamble of Gods.
Overall, Mitriel Faywood has done a great job absorbing a broad range of influences but then turning them into something so original that I cannot really point back to say that the book follows anyone’s particular mold or style. Her approach reminds me of the movie title, “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” but of course, with a completely different plot.
Faywood somehow keeps up the fast-paced action throughout A Gamble of Gods without ever having a dull moment. There is truly something here for everyone, and I particularly enjoyed the lighthearted comedy throughout much of the book. I laughed so hard during one scene at around the 75% mark that it almost caused me bodily injury. Let me just say that you should definitely look a gift horse in the mouth, especially if that horse is an AI-powered robot.
In the end, A Gamble of Gods gives the reader a satisfying conclusion while still setting up for a sequel. Faywood’s worldbuilding is full of details that will reward multiple rereads. My only minor complaint is that many aspects of the worldbuilding are not fully explained. You just need to accept them and enjoy the ride. A book spanning so many genres—science fiction, high and low fantasies, comedy, romance—could easily have become an unfocused mess. But Faywood pulls it off brilliantly, making A Gamble of Gods a joy to read.
So, grab yourself a big vat of popcorn to munch on as you enjoy this blockbuster debut. A Gamble of Gods is a rollicking good time.