My previous exposure to Justin’s writing was his Mr. Blank and City of Devils series, which are both tongue-in-cheek noir tales set in Los Angeles, so I wasn’t entirely certain what to expect from his League of Magi books. I knew he’s a strong writer who can create a compelling story, but would his interpretation of fantasy work for me as a reader?
To be honest, I didn’t love each of the stories in The Daughter Gambit; however, as I progressed through the book, I realized that the stories that didn’t speak to me focused on characters I didn’t personally connect with very well. For example, Anansi’s tale left me a little cold, because his obsessive love for a forbidden partner carried no resonance for me. The snapshots into different groups intrigued me, though, and the tonal changes between each addition to the book provided clear distinctions between groups and characters. I particularly enjoyed Kaeru’s tale at the end of the book, because it combined several elements I enjoy: Japanese culture, horror movies, and well-timed revenge all blended together with a Justin Robinson twist.
Personally, I think that The Daughter Gambit could be read as a standalone in the League of Magi series, although some of the hierarchical structure might be a little confusing. Also, the seeds of the bond between Coldheart and Teotl, the focus of the titular novella, were planted during their first encounter in Book One. Fans of the original should definitely pick up The Daughter Gambit, and anyone who enjoys complex, international fantasy and intrigue will definitely enjoy it ,as well. Not every story will hit the mark for every reader, but the strong writing and detailed world building kept me turning the pages until the end.
4.5 Familiars, Servitors, and Magi out of 5