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Publisher's Summary

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' career isn't the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the Hexarchate itself might be next. Cheris' 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.

©2016 Yoon Ha Lee (P)2016 Recorded Books

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Just too confusing with enough context

I listened to the whole book because I really wanted to give it a chance, but I just couldn't enjoy it.

The technology described in the book is confusing and the author fails to give enough of a description or context to help the reader understand what he heck they are talking about. Those description of the entire society structure is confusing and never contains enough information to help the reader understand what is the purpose of it all or what the characters are even talking about. I'm as clueless now as I was at the beginning, but now I'm frustrated. By the end I just wanted the damned thing to be over so I could move on to a better book.
I have the give the narrator credit, she did a good job and if not for her, I might not have bothered to finish the book at all.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Outstanding Plot and Wonderful Narration

What did you love best about Ninefox Gambit?

Emily Woo Zeller's narration made the book come alive, she is a treasure. Only made better by a well-written and expertly plotted story.

Any additional comments?

A must-read for science fiction fans. The book is tightly plotted and intricate, dropping the reader right into an unfamiliar future, with any explanation and context shown in glimpses, bits, and gradually over time. As alien as the technology and society are, the humans are still human, enmeshed in intrigue and camaraderie, betrayal and power struggles. Though the book is short (under 400 pages), it has all the feel of a sweeping space opera, but in the vein of Herbert's Dune, with Machiavellian political maneuvering, and a dash of Starship Troopers or Forever War in a certain glee of military planning. This is the first in a series and though left in a cliffhanger, the story of the initial book is nicely wrapped up so you aren't left completely in exquisite anticipation. I cannot wait for the next entry.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • a
  • Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • 06-29-16

Sails similar waters to the Ancillary series

Any additional comments?

I had to re-listen to this book to figure out whether I liked it or not (I was already impressed by the language and characters).

That sounds like faint praise but for me it means that the book was complex enough that I needed another go round to understand everything.

It's definitely worth a listen if you like the Ancillary books (although AI plays a very minor role).

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Romances of the three kingdoms and Discrete mathematics had a baby

Like an ancient Chinese military history set in a universe driven by laser weapons, endless war, geometric religious orientation, heresy and plots within plots. Buckle up kiddos, it's a wild ride

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Space opera and intrigue

Captain Kel Cheris is disgraced, having won a battle against heretics using unconventional tactics. Her only chance at redemption is to retake the star fortress called the Fortress of Scattered Needles, recently captured by heretics.

She has a plan. It's a desparate plan, involving reviving an undead tactician who has never lost a battle, General Shuos Jedao. Of course, in his original life, Jedao went mad and wiped out two armies, one of them his own, and he's a famous traitor, but if Cheris didn't believe in taking risks, she wouldn't be in this situation to begin with.

What follows is a battle of wits not just against the enemy, but against her chosen ally, Jedao, and even against the high command of the Hexarchate she serves. Because as vital as it is to retake the Fortress of Scattered Needles, lest the Hexarchate itself fall, they are strangely reluctant to share with her vital information that could make the difference between victory and defeat. She's fighting blind, and her only real ally is Jedao.

Jedao might be mad.

Or Jedao might be perfectly sane, and have her own agenda.

There's lots of action here; it's a campaign to retake a captured fortress. There's also a carefully textured unfolding of the characters of Cheris, Jedao, and the nature of the Hexarchate itself. The technology here calls to mind Clarke's Third Law, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," and at the end of this first book of the trilogy, I'm not at all clear on exactly what calendrical heresy consists of. That's not really the point, though. The real questions here are whose values will prevail, and how Cheris can decide who to trust.

The characters and the challenges completely pulled me in. Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Magical mathematics, not mathematical magic

but still a fun ride. the world is very new and fresh, but the warfare and math is spoken in more poetic terms that realistic terms. I wish the protagonist would protag more, and the ending and "twist" were obvious almost from the first "mysterious" dream sequence, but the pay off was worth the short coming. worth the read just for the unique philosophical stance.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Derek
  • Gatineau, QC, Canada
  • 11-11-16

very good

i loved yoon ha lee since i listened to battle of candle arc at clarkesworld. i love what lee has done here to continue this incredibly inventive science fiction/fantasy story. the calendrical warfare is original and evocative. and i love the twists and turns and layers within layers.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

engaging

gets you hooked quick and keeps you throughout the book! cant wait for next book

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Dave
  • Whittier, CA
  • 04-25-17

Dizzying Prose? I'm Your Gun

I like it when prose makes me a little bit dizzy. When the story is something I can almost grab onto, but just as my fingers try to latch onto it, I find I'm grasping smoke and shadow. And I love it -- I love the magic and the illusion of it all. It's like getting a buzz from prose.

That's essentially what Ninefox Gambit did to me -- made me feel like I'd had a nice night (or week) drinking. I can't tell you exactly what I was doing while I was drinking -- I can't explain the mathematics or the science or the way either plays with magical realism, but it was a fun time. Mainly, that's because I wasn't just left swimming alone with Yoon Ha Lee's prose. The story's anchored by a great relationship between the young and ambitious Captain Kel Cheris -- a soldier's soldier who wants to be all that she can be -- and the undead ghost General Jedao -- a war criminal and master strategist who is either looking for redemption or revenge. The tension and relationship between Cheris and Jedao kept me anchored when the prose on its own might have lost me.

The boo's not without its issues. I realized before listening this is part of a trilogy. Unlike Ancillary Justice, this book doesn't stand on its own very well. The end is, unfortunately, very much a set up for what is to come. Additionally, while Cheris and Jedao's characters are well drawn, the supporting characters get pretty minimal development and as such receive little emotional attachment.

This is the second book I've heard Emily Woo Zeller narrate, and I think I'm kind of smitten by her readings. Her voices are a little bit limited (there's a lot of tough sounding military types in this book and after a while some of them sound the same), but her performance really made Cheris and Jedao's relationship pay off, and might've helped ground the prose too. She did a really solid job with this book, and I look forward to hearing more of her work.

I can imagine fans of Ancillary Justice and the Expanse enjoying Ninefox Gambit. It's a unique take on military science fiction that is lush and intoxicating. The combination of smoke-curling prose and honest relationship made for a delicious cocktail. When the second book comes out, I'll be back for another round.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

very complex

I can tell something I like after some time in the story though others are repulsive before the end of the first chapter. this was really good but I could not stand the performer. It's not that she's bad, her enunciation is just so hard to listen to. and her speech cadence is so fast. I wonder if she paid too much attention to saying entire sentences with a single breath that she skips over adjatives or clobbers them into a single word. The writing is so detailed that I really wished she spent more time saying the words clearly, but I also blame the editing rather than her. as for the story bizarre but good.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • midian
  • 07-29-17

A difficult novel

This came highly recommended. It 's focus on one key battle, and the people and influences creating around this scenario. It is quite original in its intense focus on this.

I enjoyed how well women were represented - I was shocked at myself when I realised how many times I assumed a character was male until he stated their gender was female. Also characters are graced with a sensual, sexual fluidity which is seldom seen in scifi.

It is also a bit grim with an extraordinary amount of graphic violence and gore as it is centred on the military and war.

However too many things just left unexplained and hanging which was very annoying in the beginning. It seems this is the writer's style not to divulge too much and just hope that you catch on. It is a fine line between not wanting to spoon feed the reader and giving practical information that highlights the significance of an event or action. I often just wanted more explanation so I could understand the point being made.

I suspect that it might have been easier to follow if it was a book not an audio recording. I tend to listen when driving so I don't get the opportunity to stop and refer back. I am sure I only understood half of what was going on. My comprehension picked up towards the end so maybe better on second listening?

Overall, I have mixed feelings. So many things to admire but I was often found gasping with annoyance (asking myself, "what does that mean?") as well. Recommended if you feel like a challenging listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Teorgian
  • 02-22-17

Poor, robotic narration

Would you try another book written by Yoon Ha Lee or narrated by Emily Woo Zeller?

I didn't think there was enough story here to justify a full-length novel, but I'd definitely check out Yoon Ha Lee's shorter fiction.

I would actively avoid other books by this narrator.

Has Ninefox Gambit put you off other books in this genre?

Military SF isn't quite my thing anyway. This hasn't put me off entirely, but it doesn't encourage me to explore further any time soon. It felt repetitive enough as it is.

Would you be willing to try another one of Emily Woo Zeller’s performances?

No. I found her to be robotic and stilted in delivery, almost like she was reading this for the first time and never quite knew where it was going to go or what her inflection should be.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

There was some interest in the relationship between the protagonist and the dead general inserted into her mind, but this was explored less than I would have expected.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • R. Maines
  • 07-26-16

Go with the flow

The novel was initially hard going but once I wrapped my mind around the concept that maths and beliefs can distort reality, really started to get into the story.

Narration was good but had to drop it down to X1.5 playback speed to understand the narrator.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • jesjaspers
  • 08-09-18

American women narrators

what is it about American women narrators? Their voices are too high, their tone too sharp, their intonation appauling. After suffering it for 8 chsptets of and on I have gone fully over to reading the Kindle version instead

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • L
  • 05-02-18

Mixed Feelings

In a lot of ways, this is a very good book. It's got really exciting, interesting concepts, and I loved the protagonists.

In other ways, not so much. By not explaining any of the rules of calendars, or how technology works, it feels both like: a) Lee is deliberately keeping information back for no reason other than to be obscure, and b) as if Lee is doing it so he doesn't have to live by any rules, and can make up whatever he likes. I like rules in my universes, even just a few, to give the world limits.

I really liked the narration, though, and may still listen to the second book. But not as essential a novel as the awards might make it out to be.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • James Koch
  • 02-04-18

good

its slow and has hard to follow conepts but was a good story and tried alot of new things

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Dr Stephen P Lowis
  • 01-14-18

Dull

I found it impossible to engage with this. A fragmented plot narrated with excessive intensity. Pointless.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • bishboria
  • 11-06-17

Really not for me

Found the narration quite painful, and the story wasn't to my taste.

Couldn't finish this book

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • L J Newsholme
  • 06-12-17

Fresh and original sci-fi

This is such an original concept that was refreshingly different. It tells the story of the Hexarchy and a rogue general. The narrative is really well paced and compelling with well drawn characters and I thoyght that the narrator did a really good job of bringing it to life.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • MR
  • 07-17-16

Brilliant, complex, advanced level scifi

A wonderfully imagined world, interesting characters with fascinating discussion on ethics, strategy, society. The two main protagonists are both rich, three dimensional characters struggling realistically with the paths that they have chosen in a setting that they don't agree with, and several 'vignettes' provide great incite into the story with just the taste of other characters.

For someone used to reading Scifi, a delight, but I can imagine that, for one unused to holding so much unknown terminology at bay, this may be a difficult read. Terms are often delivered without immediate explanation, if ever explanation arrives, and so the reader is often left to feel how the world is rather than being provided a blueprint.

If youre happy to dive into a different world though, well recommended.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kristin
  • 08-04-16

Math and Space Battles and Intrigue Oh MY

One of the best creative and compelling sci-fi books to come out in 2016. Right from the get go the reader is immersed in a compelling, original universe where faith can be measured and used by the Hextarcate's official calendar and it's soldier's loyalties are 'improved' by formation instinct. This is a world and a story that feels fresh and very well thought out. Lee does not talk down to the reader and the story benefits from it. A must read.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful