Book Title: Game of Strength and Storm
Author: Rachel Menard
Release Date: June 7th, 2022
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance, LGTBQ+
My rating: 5/5 Stars
I am so excited to be participating in the Game of Strength and Storm Tour hosted by TBR and Beyond Tours! If you’re interested in following the rest of the tour, be sure to check out the tour schedule, which I’ve linked to at the bottom of this post.
Victory is the only option.
Once a year, the Olympian Empresses grant the wishes of ten people selected by a lottery—for a price. Seventeen-year-old Gen, a former circus performer, wants the freedom of her father, who was sentenced to life in prison for murders she knows he didn’t commit. Castor plans to carry the island Arcadia into the future in place of her brother, Pollux, but only after the Empresses force a change in her island’s archaic laws that requires a male heir.
To get what they want, Gen and Castor must race to complete the better half of ten nearly impossible labors. They have to catch the fastest ship in the sea, slay the immortal Hydra, defeat a gangster called the Boar, and capture the flesh-eating Mares, among other deadly tasks.
Gen has her magic, her ability to speak to animals, her inhuman strength—and the help of Pollux, who’s been secretly pining for her for years. But Castor has her own gifts: the power of the storms, along with endless coin. Only one can win. The other walks away with nothing—if she walks away at all.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a YA fantasy, but as soon as I saw the cover and premise for Game of Strength and Storm, I knew it was one I’d want to read. And wow, was I right! Pretty much from the first page, I was hooked. As a Greek Mythology fan, I thought it’d be neat to see how a labors of Heracles retelling would go. While I assumed it would be epic, I was not fully prepared for how absolutely amazing this book would be. From very early on in the story, I guessed this would be a five-star read if the ending didn’t change the course of things too drastically, and it did not disappoint. Game of Strength and Storm has officially made it to my current favorites of 2022 list!
To start with, let’s talk about the world building. I’m pretty particular about how I like my world building in fantasy novels. It’s a fine line between too much detail (or my least favorite: info dumping) and giving the reader so little they have no idea what’s going on. My favorite worldbuilding is the kind that’s done through brief descriptions and the interactions the characters have with the world, and that’s exactly what Game of Strength and Storm provided. By the time the book ended, I had a vivid image in my mind of this world and the characters. There were various climates visited through the trials, and I was able to picture all of them with ease.
The magic system was also particularly neat! While definitely a dangerous power in the wrong hands, the StormMakers and MindWorkers were such a clever concept. The way Castor could take a vial filled with a specific type of storm and turn it into a deadly weapon, at first made it seem like a power that could never be used for good. But then, we get to see Pollux and the way he created beauty from the elements. It just goes to show how anything can be used for bad, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be good either.
Out of the two, the MindWorkers power was probably my favorite, though, just because I love animals so much, and the idea that I could speak to them by feeding them a bit of my hair or spit is so cool. The bonds Gen had with all of her animals were so heartwarming, too, especially the whale. I bonded with Argos the most, and I really hope we get to see more of him in future books.
One of my absolute favorite parts of this book was the characterization. I swear, even some of the characters who only appeared for a few moments were so fleshed out that they left impressions on me several chapters after their arrival. Additionally, the three main characters, Gen, Castor, and Pollux were incredibly developed. I felt so attached to each of them, as if I knew them personally. Even Castor, who I didn’t particularly like.
It’s really difficult for me to enjoy stories when I don’t care about the characters, but even though Castor was cold and at times unlikeable, I still cared about her and her storyline. I was engrossed in her chapters and always wanted to know more about what was happening on her side of the labors. Castor is a complex and compelling morally grey character that I loved reading about.
Gen and Pollux were equally as engaging. Out of the three, Gen would be my favorite character, but I’m also so excited that we got to see Pollux’s side of the story, since his thoughts and motivations were such an essential factor in the plot. Personality wise, Gen was standoffish because of her past, but Pollux managed to sneak past her defenses. I loved watching them grow closer and support each other through the labors.
I also particularly enjoyed the dynamic between Gen, Pollux, and Bale. None of their personalities seemed compatible with the other, and it made for some light and funny moments scattered throughout an otherwise more serious plot. Fingers crossed we get more of these three in the next book!
The way this story ended was a bit of a shock, but it made perfect sense, and I am so excited to see where this story is headed!
Game of Strength and Storm expertly combines a compelling and dynamic plot, captivating characterization, and excellent worldbuilding to create a stunning story that I know I won’t be forgetting any time soon. Not a single moment of this book felt like it dragged or was unnecessarily long. Instead, I was constantly engaged and eagerly awaiting the next labor.
For those who love YA Fantasy, Greek Mythology, or fully fleshed out characters and relationships, I would highly recommend Game of Strength and Storm!
Thank you so much to TBR and Beyond Tours for having me on the tour, as well as to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
About the Author:
Rachel Menard was born in New Jersey, raised in Arizona, and then relocated to Rhode Island. Throughout her life she has been a barista, college radio DJ, singer in an alt-country band, marketer, designer, and finally, a writer. Her short fiction has been featured on the Cast of Wonders podcast and her non-fiction has been seen in Writer’s Digest. Her debut novel, Game of Strength and Storm, is coming from Flux Books in 2022.
Check out my last blog post: Blackwater (ARC Review)