I received this book for free from YA Bound Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Title: The Last Gambit
Author: Om Swami
Pub. Date: March 8th 2017
Publisher Diamond Books
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Success by design is infinitely better than a win by chance. Vasu Bhatt is fourteen years old when a mysterious old man spots him at a chess tournament and offers to coach him, on two simple but strange conditions: he would not accompany his student to tournaments, and there was to be no digging into his past. Initially resentful, Vasu begins to gradually understand his master’s mettle.
Over eight years, master and student come to love and respect each other, but the two conditions remain unbroken – until Vasu confronts and provokes the old man. Meanwhile, their hard work and strategy pay off: Vasu qualifies for the world chess championship. But can he make it all the way without his master by his side?
Inspiring, moving and mercurial, The Last Gambit is a beautiful coming of age tale in a uniquely Indian context.
I signed up to read The Last Gamit because I haven’t read much fiction set in India, it sounded like #ownvoices, and while I can’t play chess, I was hoping for a geeky, cute coming of age story.
The Last Gambit follows Vasu from his first tournament when he meets his master up to being an adult and taking on international opponents. Along the way, Master imparts chess-tinged life lessons as Vasu grows and struggles with chess being his one and only focus.
If you’re not into chess, or cannot understand it like me, don’t worry. The moves and numbers meant nothing to me and didn’t hinder my enjoyment.
I didn’t find any of his life lessons particularly illuminating but I’m over quarter-aged and bitter and white and American. They make perfect sense for the story though and might be useful for others.
My favorite part: all the character progression. 💙
Vasu feels a bit stunted for a while as everyone accommodates his obsession and dream. He does mature and own his mistakes, eventually. But I was more taken with everyone else’s progress TBH. No one gets left behind. Even the romance interest’s family felt unusually dynamic though they didn’t actually appear in any scenes.
Sweet & Adorable..😊
I was so happy to have a supportive, present family on the page. It goes sideways for me later on, but *spoilers* and it’s still better than most YA books. I adore his sister SO MUCH and his brother sounds like bro turned good.
The romance is def. cute and geeky. It’s not the main focus –that’s chess, of course. It didn’t have as much courting as I was expecting but I’m impressed. I cared and rooted for them both, they had issues and worked it out, and minimal angst. She wasn’t a cut out or a reward.
Most Surprising was…😲
finding out Chess has endorsement contracts. Everything really is commercialized.
Most Interesting Was…🤔
Finding out the background and history of the Master, Vasu’s family, and his girlfriend’s family. I was itching to get back to the passages that expounded on these and they were well spaced out to keep me intrigued and reading.
Throughout the whole tale I couldn’t help but notice how strong, giving, and selfless the women were or had to be. They were the backbone of every family, and while Vaus and his Master had moments of realization, there isn’t enough love and appreciation for them, IMHO. The ending could’ve been slightly altered to do it, but it closes the loop, which I’m sure others will appreciate as well.