“The Last Gambit” is a YA coming of age novel by Om Swami, centered around Vasu, a young Indian boy training to be a master chess player.
Vasu meets a mysterious man who becomes his chess master, on two conditions: the master will never accompany his pupil to tournaments and Vasu must never pry into his master’s past. As Vasu grows into an adult and a world-class chess player, he must decide how his relationship with his master will evolve and learn where chess really belongs in his life.
In the simplest terms, “The Last Gambit” is a treasure. It’s heartwarming, full of culture and cheesy life lessons loosely veiled as chess tips. And Vasu leads the whole story with his endearing enthusiasm, growing from a (fairly annoying, I’ll admit) teenager into a passionate young adult.
It’s a classic coming of age story, one that personally struck home with me, when it came to passion and prioritizing your dream. As his master tells him from the start, Vasu must choose over and over again to continue pursuing chess above all else, in order to be successful.
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And though the novel is centered around chess, and contains plenty of technical information about the game and its various gambits, it reads easily and an understanding of the game isn’t actually necessary.
From a technical standpoint, the book suffers from run-of-the-mill ESL issues; there are odd phrasings and formatting problems on every page, but it honestly adds to the authenticity and heart of the culture in the story. The Indian elements are immersive, both in the specifics of Vasu’s home life and in the characters and their relationships with each other.
The characters are all fairly cliche, but in a positive way. They work well together; family, lover, and mentor all representing virtues and institutions between which Vasu must prioritize. They grow and change with the protagonist, too, creating a well-rounded arc for the entire novel.
“The Last Gambit” is now available for purchase on Amazon!
**Tour hosted by Garima Om**