by - 10:03 AM

Hey beautiful readers! I hope you're having a wonderful day and that you're ready to get to this because I so am? I have been so ready to share with you this post the day Cake Literary asked me to host this lovely Q&A with author Karuna Riazi. I have been so excited because I love Karuna and her books and I simply wanted to share the love about this new title she has called The Battle. So let's not delay this and get to it, right?

Book: The Battle
Author: Karuna Riazi
Release date: August 27, 2019
Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books

The game begins again in this gripping follow-up to The Gauntlet that’s a futuristic Middle-Eastern Zathura meets Ready Player One! 

Four years after the events of The Gauntlet, the evil game Architect is back with a new partner-in-crime—The MasterMind—and the pair aim to get revenge on the Mirza clan. Together, they’ve rebuilt Paheli into a slick, mind-bending world with floating skyscrapers, flying rickshaws run by robots, and a digital funicular rail that doesn’t always take you exactly where you want to go.

Twelve-year-old Ahmad Mirza struggles to make friends at his new middle school, but when he’s paired with his classmate Winnie for a project, he is determined to impress her and make his very first friend. At home while they’re hard at work, a gift from big sister Farah—who is away at her first year in college—arrives. It’s a high-tech game called The Battle of Blood and Iron, a cross between a video game and board game, complete with virtual reality goggles. He thinks his sister has solved his friend problem—all kids love games. He convinces Winnie to play, but as soon as they unbox the game, time freezes all over New York City.

With time standing still and people frozen, all of humankind is at stake as Ahmad and Winnie face off with the MasterMind and the Architect, hoping to beat them at their own game before the evil plotters expand Paheli and take over the entire world.

Add on Goodreads | Pre-order at Simon & Schuster | Amazon | IndieBound

The Book Voyagers: Hi Karuna! So happy to have you here and thank you for coming to my blog. Let’s talk about The Battle. Can you tell us a little bit more about this book? What can we expect and are there more dangers than in the first installment? 

Karuna Riazi: Hi Sil! Such a pleasure to be on the blog! The Battle picks up a few years where The Gauntlet left off, and with a different Mirza as our protagonist: Ahmad, Farah's precocious younger brother who got sucked into Paheli previously. He's now a middle schooler himself and will face down the Architect and his new ally, The MasterMind, alongside his classmate (and, he hopes, friend) Winnie. You can expect a video game twist instead of the traditional board game, more scheming from the Architect and other cool things like flying rickshaws and holographic shops!

TBV: One of the things that I found fascinating in the blurb is that this new novel is more futuristic! The evil game Architect has a new partner in crime a.k.a. The MasterMind. And they rebuild Paheli with lots of new things like robots *chef kiss* Tell me a bit more about your inspiration for this book.

KR: Well, as you know, Jumanji was part of my original inspiration for The Gauntlet. Jumanji's sequel is Zathura, which - particularly if you are considering film canon - is more futuristic than Jumanji. We decided to go for video games as the futuristic aspect instead of outer space, and I went from there! (I'm a video game fan myself so this was a lot of fun for me.)

TBV: I love board games and as you said The Gauntlet is inspired by Jumanji. Which board games are your favorite now and which were your favorite when you were a kid? And if you had the chance, would you go into the game like Ahmad and Winnie? 

KR: My favorite board games as a kid were Clue, and these two really educational ones (I was homeschooled). One was called Take Off, and it was dedicated to teaching geography, so you had a fleet of airplanes and you had to get them to a certain airport - if I recall correctly - before the opposing players' planes did. The other was Herd Your Horses - yes, I was a horse girl in middle school, down to the riding classes - and my sister and I used to carry it to our local stables for summer day camp so everyone could take a turn playing it. In terms of going into a game, I'm...a very anxious person. I think all of Alex's nerves in the first book were very autobiographical. I would spend most of my time in a game just like him: worrying, wondering if we'd made a huge mistake and freaking out over every little surprise. So I think I would honestly not want to go into a game!

TBV: Friendship is so important in your books. Can you tell me about the creation of these characters, Ahmad and Winnie, and how they form the perfect partnership? 

KR: Of course, readers will be familiar with Ahmad from The Gauntlet - but, in the way authors often do with hindsight after the book is released, I realized that Ahmad was not given as much of a chance to show his inner spirit and character as his sister was. A lot of readers described him as bratty or difficult for no reason. So, in this book, once I knew he was going to be the protagonist, I wanted to show another side to him: the boy who wants what his sister has, good friends, but is not sure of how to do that or where to even begin. I wanted Ahmad to have a friend he deserved, even if he didn't know it: someone fun, and smart, and loyal, and also another kid of color who believes strongly in sticking together and facing the world together. I think Winnie is all that and more and I love her and hope that I've been able to do her justice and make her spirit shine as strongly as his. (I will also note that, even if he doesn't realize it yet, Ahmad has all those same characteristics, but he's less confident in them than Winnie is, which is why she's the perfect partner to draw it out of him!)

TBV: As a last question, I would love to know which books would you recommend reading for fans of your books! 

KR: Hmm, this is a very good question. As a kid, I loved The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin and I still want to write a book with as much depth and mystery as that book - so readers, if you haven't, get on that! If you want to understand me as a person in general, read Ella Enchanted and Howl's Moving Castle because those titles are the reasons I write. In general within middle grade, I love my Cake sister Anna Meriano's Love Sugar Magic titles, Anne Ursu's middle grades (like, every single one of them) and anything by Mike Jung. I'm sure I'm forgetting people!

Karuna Riazi is a born and raised New Yorker, with a loving, large extended family and the rather trying experience of being the eldest sibling in her particular clan. She holds a BA in English Literature from Hofstra University, and is an online diversity advocate, blogger, and educator. She is a 2017 honoree on NBC Asian America's Redefining A-Z list, featuring up and coming talent within the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, and her work has been featured on Entertainment Weekly, Amy Poehler's Smart Girls, Book Riot and Teen Vogue, among others.

Karuna is fond of tea, Korean dramas, writing about tough girls forging their own paths toward their destinies, and baking new delectable treats for friends and family to relish. The Gauntlet (S&S/Salaam Reads, March 28, 2017) is her middle grade debut, with a forthcoming companion, The Battle.

You May Also Like