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Contender #2

The Challenger

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The stakes are higher than ever in The Challenger, the second book in the Contender YA trilogy by the New York Times bestselling author of the Summoner series, Taran Matharu.

The first battle is over, but the Game is just beginning...

Cade Carter and his friends have survived the qualifying round of the mysterious overlords' twisted games, decimated by the loss of so many of their comrades during the fight. But they have no time to mourn, for the next round of trials is about to begin.

When the group discovers that their next foe will be even more ferocious than the last, Cade leads them on a quest out into their strange new world to find anything that might give them an edge. But what they find in the wilds could prove to be even more dangerous than the impending battle...

The stakes are higher than ever in this thrilling sequel to The Chosen.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published August 11, 2020

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About the author

Taran Matharu

24 books3,963 followers
Taran Matharu is the New York Times bestselling author of the Summoner series, which has been translated into 15 languages and has sold over a million copies in English. He was born in London in 1990.

Taran began to write the SUMMONER series in November 2013 at the age of 22, taking part in ‘Nanowrimo 2013’ and sharing his work on Wattpad.com. The shared sample of the story went viral, reaching over 3 million reads in less than six months. THE CHOSEN is his first book in his new CONTENDER series, out now.

His books are published by Hodder Children’s (Hachette) in the UK, Australia and Commonwealth, Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan) in the US and Canada, Hachette Jeunesse in France, Heyne in Germany, Planeta in Spain, Crown in Taiwan, Record in Brazil, EKSMO in Russia, Jaguar in Poland, Ecliptic in Bulgaria, Alpress in the Czech Republic, Ithaki in Turkey, Forlaget Forar in Denmark and Unieboek in the Netherlands.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 98 reviews
Profile Image for Brithanie Faith.
262 reviews164 followers
August 1, 2020
5/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

As much as I loved book one in the Contender trilogy, book two was even better- and that's not something that I get to say often! You're not being lied to when people say that the stakes are higher in The Challenger!

You can expect to see more character development in this one- as well as the introduction to some exciting new characters, the exploration of the world that this story takes place in, and the prehistoric beasts that inhabit it!
Profile Image for Dianne.
6,766 reviews590 followers
June 30, 2020
Fierce battles to the death for entertainment, teens forced to kill or be killed and it all takes place on a strange new world where monsters really do live and survival is paramount. THE CHALLENGER by Taran Matharu continues his Contender Trilogy and book two shines like a beacon of Young Adult fantasy reading as Cade and his group must face both the loss of their friends and an impending battle designed to leave no survivors.

Taran Matharu is back and he has once again nailed action, adventure, loss and heroics as one young man must lead his group, come of age and reach beyond anything he could have imagined himself capable of. Dark, brilliantly choreographed action, epic battles, and a group of teens who are forced to adapt to the unimaginable.

THIS is what will make young readers lifelong readers! Positive examples of what a person can do when backed against the wall, concern for others, and inner strengths beyond the imagination! Cover to cover, this one is a keeper as it thrusts readers into a dark and twisted world!

I received a complimentary ARC edition from Feiwel & Friends! This is my honest and voluntary review.

Series: Contender - Book 2
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (August 11, 2020)
Publication Date: August 11, 2020
Genre: YA Fantasy Adventure
Print Length: 400 pages
Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
For Reviews, Giveaways, Fabulous Book News, follow: http://tometender.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Jenny (Bookbookowl).
559 reviews232 followers
May 13, 2020
Thank you so much to Hachette Australia for sending me a copy of Contender: The Challenger, in exchange for an honest review!

***As The Challenger is book 2 in the series, there may be spoilers for book 1, The Chosen, in my review!***

There are some things I am all the way there for in books, and prehistoric creatures is firmly in that box.  I really enjoyed the first book, The Chosen, but I absolutely LOVED The Challenger! I think I said it before in my review of the first book, but an author who not only includes dinosaurs in their book, but actually writes about more than just a T-Rex, has my whole heart (not that there's anything wrong with T-Rexes, of course, just that we rarely get to see some of my other favourites, such as Megalodon and Kronosaurus - this book had both of those and more!)

But, before I get totally sidetracked just fangirling over dinosaurs, let me also say that this book had a brilliant story line with non stop action and adventure.  Where book one felt a little like information overload at times, The Challenger threw us directly into the action.  After the last battle at the end of book one, the remaining characters are trying to recover and find out what they are supposed to do next.  When they discover one of them will need to engage in a terrifying battle, they set out to find armour to give them some advantage. With friendships now firmly formed, I was much more invested in the characters and their fate too.  

Once again there were plenty of really interesting history tidbits (I don't often pause to look things up while reading a novel, but I did a few times here, simply because my interest was piqued over some subjects and I wanted to know more).  With some truly epic battles and more than a few heart pounding moments, I'd recommend picking this series up if you're looking for something a little different (or simply need a dinosaur fix, like me )



Profile Image for donna.
937 reviews2 followers
August 4, 2020
Thank you for MacMillan the free arc via edelweiss. I really enjoyed this book. Think of a cross between The Hunger Games and The Maze. There were so many distractions in the book I did not think we were really going to get to the main objective, but we did. Excited to see what happens next as I am not ready for this to end. Not much romance but surprisingly I did not care. That tells me how engaging the story is.
46 reviews1 follower
May 5, 2020
I received an advanced digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Challenger is the second book in Matharu's The Contender series and it does not disappoint. Cade finds his precarious situation quickly becoming even more tenuous, The challenges the characters face become even more complex and deadly with increasingly higher stakes. The characters themselves continue to evolve and mature, in an impressively realistic manner. The ever evolving relationships between the characters is what drew me in the most however. As the characters figure out how to face new challenges, it is their relationships with one another that help determine their success or failure. You find yourself emotionally invested in these characters and the decisions they make.
Profile Image for Fredrick Danysh.
6,844 reviews158 followers
November 7, 2020
A gripping tale of a band of teenagers from different eras and countries forced to fight monsters in alternative universe. The prize is the fate of earth itself. Throw in gladiators and slavers and you have an interesting read despite a few typos. This was a free review copy through Goodreads.com.
Profile Image for Anais (atrailofpages) .
519 reviews13 followers
May 22, 2020
I received this ARC from a giveaway I won on Goodreads. Thanks to the publisher for sending me this book!

This is more of a 3.5 star rating for me. I would say I enjoyed it more than the first. Mostly because the kids didn’t bother me as much as the first one. They kind of irritated me in the first book.

It did take an odd and random turn when they get caught and have to fight in a coliseum. I just thought it was out of line of the story, but in the end, it did make sense why the story when the route it did.

The kids definitely grew up in this book. I think they really realized after the end of the first book that this was real, they were stuck, and had to actually start taking things more seriously. They learned to work together, be a team, and help each other get through the situation.

The ending was very fast. I was actually really surprised in the end when it just ended. I thought the point of this book was a build up for the next book for the next battle Cade had to face as contender, but it happened and finished at the end of this book. So, makes me wonder what happens in the next book then 😅
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Bo0kSLoth.
1,440 reviews39 followers
July 13, 2020
Get ready for more action, thrilling entertainment and a return to this strange, wonderful world.
Monsters and survival is paramount for Cade and his group. They will encounter loss and so much more. There is a lot going on in this book and it has much to offer. There are times will it will seem predictable, but overall it is a great addition to this trology
Profile Image for Susan.
608 reviews18 followers
August 15, 2020
Look. Of all the books? This is one where the MC (Cade) should not have ever asked or thought- "What fresh horror could they have prepared?"

But he did. And I screamed- NO DON'T ASK THAT. And Taran Matharu cackled. And I thought... DAMN IT, CADE.

link: Full Review at Novel Lives

July 2, 2022
Much better than the first book and a really interesting world building as you get more explanations in this book.
Profile Image for Dreximgirl.
1,053 reviews23 followers
August 22, 2020
I didnt love this as much as the first one. I think it struggled a bit being the middle book. The characters were still good and some of the new ones were amazing but the plot was a bit messy and too much time spent in one area and not enough in others. Also that ending was a massive cliffhanger!
Profile Image for Beth Mendelsohn.
186 reviews
June 24, 2020
Thank you to NetGalley and McMillan Children’s Publishing Group for this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I was sooo excited to see this sequel pop up on NetGalley! I really enjoyed the first book. The Challenger picks up shortly after the events of The Chosen. Cade and his friends have just survived their battle when Abaddon, their keeper, informs them that there is more to come. It is a competition among the immortal beings using the intelligent life forms from various planets to battle each other and move up the leaderboard, like a lethal form of soccer or tennis. To prepare, Cade, Scott, Quintus, Amber, and Grace go into the jungle looking for useful remnants, like armor. They are soon captured by slavers and taken to New Rome and trained as gladiators, fighting other “moderns” to the death. The winners get their freedom.

As I mentioned before, I was super excited to read this and Matharu did not disappoint. The slow spots were quickly transformed by the action and the ending, of course, will leave you hanging as this is a trilogy. I would definitely recommend this for readers grade 7 and up.

#TheChallenger #NetGalley
Profile Image for Karen Barber.
2,533 reviews60 followers
May 18, 2020
Talk about leaving you hanging! A frustrating (yet fitting) end to a cracking story.
Picking up not long after the events of Book One, Cade learns that he is to act as the representative in a much bigger battle. It’s a threat he is ill-equipped to deal with, so the priority for the group at the start is to find armour.
Unfortunately, while searching for what they need the group are taken by slavers. Cade has to barter for his freedom - resulting in them being forced to participate in the emperor’s gladiatorial games.
What follows is fraught with danger, but wholly believable. Seen from Cade’s perspective we are made to witness a number of awful battles as he strives to complete the tasks put in front of him to secure what he needs to have a chance of success. We get a lot of awful scenes, but Cade’s honest reactions to these mean we never see them as anything other than a very necessary step towards what he needs to do to get home (or be in with a chance to).
There’s hints of romance, which you could see coming a mile off. There’s deepening bonds of friendship and there’s a clear sense that these characters we come to care about are mere pawns in a much bigger game.
I am so grateful to NetGalley for granting me access to this in exchange for my thoughts. Now I need to dig a little and see what the plans for part three are...I have questions that I’m really hoping will be answered!
Profile Image for Paige.
1,723 reviews79 followers
June 6, 2020
Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from netgalley. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: The Challenger

Author: Taran Matharu

Book Series: Contender book 2

Diversity: Middle Eastern main character and deaf/hard of hearing side character

Rating: 5/5

Recommended For...: Adventure, male lead, History facts

Publication Date: August 11, 2020

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Pages: 400

Recommended Age: 16+ (slavery tw, death, violence, gore)

Synopsis: Cade Carter and his friends have survived the qualifying round of the mysterious overlords' twisted games, decimated by the loss of so many of their comrades during the fight. But they have no time to mourn, for the next round of trials is about to begin.

When the group discovers that their next foe will be even more ferocious than the last, Cade leads them on a quest out into their strange new world to find anything that might give them an edge. But what they find in the wilds could prove to be even more dangerous than the impending battle...

Review: For the most part I thought this was a well done book! I loved the concept and the plot kept me intrigued throughout the whole book. The world building was marvelous and I felt that the action scenes were well scripted. Overall, I loved this sequel.

However, I don't think the author did as well for character development as he did in the first book. The book also had a little less history than the first book.

Verdict: Solid sequel.
Profile Image for Emily.
642 reviews4 followers
January 4, 2022
Honestly this was an interesting book, but I feel like it lacked the sucker punch of the first book. And these books are incredibly short. While that is nice for a quick read, I feel like so much more could be flushed out and developed. Cade and Amber. Quintus. Tsuru.
Profile Image for Atlas.
687 reviews27 followers
December 20, 2020
* * *
3 / 5

Eh. It was okay. I think my main problem with this is series is that the concept is just ... weird? Weird alien god type things pitting different worlds against each other where the god thing for Earth just plucks people out from different timelines and just, I don't know, leaves them? It weirdly reminds me of the Maze Runner in that it just doesn't really make any sense??

The main redeeming feature of this book for me is that I LOVE a good gladiator setting with absurd epic battles in arenas and free for all brawls and weird-ass tactics on both sides, and The Challenger did manage to deliver on this account. In fact it took up the majority of the book. I definitely dug it.

The writing is fine, the characters are fine, some of the ideas are pretty cool. This is a fine book and it is basically the first one but with arena fighting.
Profile Image for Lauren loves llamas.
816 reviews61 followers
August 10, 2020
Content warnings:

This series is straight-forward history-geek action adventure, and I am all here for it. This is the second book in a series, and I wouldn’t recommend reading it before the first.

Still grieving the deaths of his friends in the last battle, Cade and the other teens on the planet Acies have been given even worse news. Cade’s been chosen to battle one-on-one with another world’s contender, and losing will mean that the Earth will be destroyed. But what can one half-starved and injured teenager hope to do against an alien race armed with tentacles and claws? Cade decides their only hope is to find some sort of relic for himself, so he, Quintus, Scott, Grace and Amber leave the keep to explore, leaving behind Yoshi and the twins Bea and Trix. But there’s more danger outside the keep than just dinosaurs, and they soon find themselves taken captive. Will Cade and the others survive, escape and make it back to the keep in time…. only to lose their chance at returning home to Earth forever?

“I’m sorry,” Cade said. “It all happened so fast. I didn’t ask to be the one who makes decisions. Trust me.”
Amber’s look softened. “It’s done now,” she said. “Just . . . try to keep us in mind next time.”
But he had. Every choice he made weighed heavy on his soul. But he didn’t begrudge their frustration. He knew what it felt like to have his fate decided by others. Perhaps more than most.”

Even before being chosen as the contender, Cade’s been the de factor leader of the group. For the most part, I think Cade acts exactly like a real teen would in his circumstances – he gets angry and makes stupid mistakes sometimes, but he’s also very aware of the consequences of his actions. He’s weighed down by guilt and the knowledge that the fate of not just his friends but the whole world basically rests on him. The smaller group means more time spent on the dynamics between the five of them. There’s especially a lot of time on Cade’s relationship with Quintus and also his budding romance with Amber. It’s a sweet but very tame romance – nothing more than a kiss – but it did add a little more dimension to their characters. There’s new characters as well, and I especially loved Tsuru and her story.

There’s less exploration in this book than the first, but that doesn’t mean less action. The story is non-stop from the moment they decide to leave the keep until the end of the book. Given the cover, I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that the teens end up being trained as gladiators. I found the bits of actual history (how the ludus works, the weapons, the other characters’ backstories) intriguing and well-integrated into Cade’s story.

“You’re allowed to feel sorry for yourself. You’re allowed to be scared. But I won’t let you take their deaths on your shoulders.”
Her finger jabbed out at the dark jungle.
“You think we’d have lasted this long out there?”
Cade shrugged, and wiped his face a second time.
“I’m alive right now because of what you did. Me and the others. Not to mention countless souls back on Earth. Leaders make hard choices. Sometimes you don’t get to save everyone.”

There are several unanswered questions from the last book – who were those people who had captured the girls and Cade? what happened to Finch? – that are explored more in depth here, though more are also raised. Why does Abaddon seem to favor taking teenagers? What does he have planned next? The book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I’m absolutely desperate for the next one.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the next one!

I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Profile Image for Johanna Burton.
275 reviews62 followers
May 2, 2022
It's almost scary how much this book was made for me. There were dragons and pirates and gladiators and a whole load of other stuff that I love but never thought would work together in the same book. However, I was proven wrong. The plot was structured similarly to the first one in that the whole book is basically leading up to an event that lasts only a page or two but this time I didn't mind that as I knew what to expect and really enjoyed all the action leading up to it.

One thing I've found that I really appreciate about this series is that the author, who's a man, does a great job of portraying the females in his books, especially Amber. In the past I've read some books where the female characters written by men are just so cringe. But that wasn't the case here and it helped to make the character dynamics so genuine. I haven't found the time to pick up a lot of sequels lately but I'm really glad I was able to read this one and as soon as I finished reading it I reserved the third book from the library! I'm so glad I discovered this series and can't wait for the finale! Happy Reading :)
Profile Image for Nick Stine.
155 reviews26 followers
January 1, 2022
"It's time to play."

And that is officially my final book of 2021. The Challenger is a fast-paced sequel to the massively underrated The Chosen and I loved every second of it. Honestly, I don't know what about this book made it feel so fast, but I just wanted to keep reading. I didn't want to put the book down. (Of course, trying to read this in two days also helped motivate my reading a bit.)

The Challenger picks up two months after the events of The Chosen and Cade and friends are admittedly bored and starving. They know something is coming, they just don't know what until Cade pokes and prods at Abaddon who reveals that Cade will face off against a monster alien in just over a month. The contenders have to prepare, but where do they even start?

Their plan to scavenge a suit of armor from the jungle quickly derails when Cade, Scott, Grace, Amber, and Quintus are captured by slavers and taken to New Rome, a civilization that's sprung up in the caldera over the past several hundred years. Now they have to fight for their survival in a colosseum just so they can get back home to prepare to fight the monster alien challenger.

The story never slows down which, for the most part, I enjoyed. We moved from one action to the next and for the story, it makes sense. Our characters don't exactly get a lot of free time to just chill out, but I definitely wouldn't have minded more quiet bonding moments between friends. We know that everyone became closer over the past two months, but all of that is summed up in a paragraph. I didn't feel as emotionally attached to some of the characters as I'm sure I could've been. The pace makes perfect sense, but more quiet moments would've been appreciated.

I also enjoyed the glamorization of Cade's "chosen one" status. Cade doesn't want to do half the things he ends up doing in the story. Several times he volunteers other people but for one reason or another, it always ends up begrudgingly being him. Realistically, it would've made sense for other characters to share some of the load, but for plot purposes, it obviously had to be Cade. And Cade did not enjoy that.

The story that Matharu is creating in this series is one that could infinitely go on and on, but I'm happy for the characters' sake that the next book is the last. They deserve a break, they deserve to go home, they deserve their lives back after risking everything to save the Earth. I can't wait to find out what happens next.
"Leaders make hard choices. Sometimes you don't get to save everyone."
Profile Image for Catsbooksandcoffee.
612 reviews60 followers
December 20, 2021
Arena byder på hårde kampe til døden for underholdning, teenagere tvunget til at dræbe eller blive dræbt og en mystisk ny verden hvor monstre er virkelige og kampen for overlevelse altafgørende. Gør dig klar til mere action, flere spændinger og valg, der ofte betyder liv eller død beslutninger.

I forhold til seriens første bind, bliver udfordringerne her mere komplekse og dødbringende – med stadig højere indsatser. Den medrivende handling, det fantastisk skabte plot og den realistiske dialog møder vi igen – og lidt til. Vi finder mere karakterudvikling og introduceres for nogle nye, spændende karakterer.

2 måneder er gået, men Codex har ikke ændret sin melodi. Der tælles ned, indtil den endelige kamp begynder – om kun 33 dage. Regler forklares, højere adgang til Codex gives. Men det kan kun betyde én ting: Vær meget forsigtig med hvad du ønsker dig. For med yderligere information og adgang til mere, så kommer kampen for jordens eksistens nærmere og nærmere.

Efterhånden som vores karakterer finder ud af hvordan de skal møde de nye udfordringer, så går det op for dem at det er deres indbyrdes forhold der vil bestemme deres succes eller fiasko. Karaktererne udvikles grundigt på individuel basis, og når de interagerer som gruppe. Også historiens bikarakterer er fænomenale i deres baggrundshistorier og deres betydning for vores gruppe.

Matharus verdensopbygning er igen fuldstændig fantastisk og fantasifuld. Gennem en række forskellige tidslinjer møder læserne et væld af landskaber, skabninger og forhindringer. Som vi også har set de i de tidligere bøger, så møder vi også i denne behandling af sociale uretfærdigheder, herunder racisme og egoisme overfor selvopofrende handlinger. Igen behandles dette på en fantastisk og letforståelig måde.

Det har været et skønt gensyn med denne mærkelige og underlige verden. En bog, der bestemt var ventetiden værd.

Velkommen til New Rome – spillet er lige begyndt
Profile Image for Mara.
220 reviews12 followers
August 26, 2020
4/5 stars

While the series still does not live up to the love I had for Matharu's other series, I found this book much more enjoyable. The plot started much sooner and the cast of characters was kept limited, which made me somewhat attached to them. Not an awful lot, but more so. I wished that the plot had taken a slightly different turn since the goal now felt like the means to an end. The second challenge the kids had to face was only a minor part of the story, yet it starts the book and it ends it. Also, I wished that there was a little more conclusion at the end. The amount of history was, at times, a little too much. At times, it felt like I was reading Wikipedia pages.

But I love the historical vibe of the book and the way the characters interacted with one another. While I don't adore Cade as an mc, I loved most of the supporting cast. I was terrified of their safety since they technically were disposable. I'm happy that the female characters weren't considered weak and that they fought as well as the rest. Only the romance made me go 'why'? Admittedly, I'm not big on romance. I like the possible side paring but I'm not to keen on the main romance, especially since it serves little purpose. I don't feel like the characters are all that close for romance in such a situation.

Overall, I liked the plot and characters better, but I couldn't find the 'spark'. But I at least want to read the last book in this series to see how it ends. After all, there is only one more book left and in the past two books, they only managed the qualify themselves and stay in the top six. There are still two major battles to go, probably.
Profile Image for Elise (Bookpopwonderland).
322 reviews13 followers
May 21, 2022
Contender is such a fun series by Taran Matharu.

In a world far from our own, where enemies come in many forms, the ultimate battle for survival continues... Cade Carter has been chosen. In a realm of monsters and warriors, Cade is an unwilling contender in a deadly tournament controlled by the brutal alien overlord Abaddon. Cade may have won the first round but the fight isn't over yet. For his next battle he must duel a seven-foot-tall clawed monster - the reigning champion of an alien race. Losing will lead to Earth's destruction. Desperate for anything that may give him an advantage, Cade sets off on an expedition into the jungle to scavenge weaponry to help him win. But there he is captured by gladiators, and before he knows it he finds himself participating in a deadly new game where the prize is his freedom. Round two is about to begin...

The stakes were even higher The Challenger. There was more danger, battles, and challenges to overcome. This is a very epic YA trilogy. Book two took me to ancient Rome, but in the future and on another planet. It was like a sci-fi version of Spartacus.

Cade is a fantastic MC for young readers. It's a nice change to read a YA book with a male MC as it feels like such a female dominated genre. He is part Indian, which is also refreshing. I do feel that the YA market lacks Asian characters.

Overall this was an exciting read and it's left me looking forward to reading the next, and final, book in the Contender trilogy.
Profile Image for pinky.
40 reviews
October 21, 2020

I have always loved Taran matharu’s books. This series was the second on my list because it has our history in it. The polish Kings armor, the spoken Latin (which isn’t a language anymore but some speak it through Europe. Even in our schools), the girls are from Europe anyhow. How the pirates slash slavers found out that Cade and his friends are 21st moderns. New Rome is Rome from Italy with their coliseum of death.
I love the weapons they used in the games. Old time weapons are cool and neat. There are some gore moments but there are not bad.
I laughed a lot in the middle of the book. Cade is funny I think and I like quintus the best. A relationship is going on in here...
codex, abaddon, sounds like Luna lovegood from Harry Potter or nebula, gamora’s sister from the guardians of the galaxy. Like Scott, snoutlot from how to train your dragon.
Only his books are doable like this any other I would put down and not read. Well, holly black did good too.

Near the end of contenders, it made me shudder at the though of how huge these dinosaurs are. Zeeb is different though. How gruesome these vicious Dino’s are, I would not meet one. The end of the trials...
Taran matharu done so great on this book, thank you.
Profile Image for Ricky.
Author 8 books159 followers
November 29, 2020
Taran Matharu's back with the second book of his second trilogy - well, that's a bit misleading since Summoner has a full-length prequel and all, and who knows if he'll follow up this series with a prequel novel as well? For now, though, we're continuing to explore, through Cade's eyes, the mysterious world on which he and his schoolmates, and a few 80s girls, and a few Roman legionnaires, find themselves stuck, now facing some major new threats - most memorable among them, Caesarion, son of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, who of course rules this world with a lot of the ancient bread-and-circuses, gladiator-fighting playbook. (And he's managed to pick up English pretty quickly in the space of only a few years too, so there's that.) Though this one does kinda feel like a case of Middle Book Syndrome, Matharu's singular gift for action propels the book at an unstoppable pace as always, and even more than any book since his debut in The Novice, the action simply doesn't stop until the very last page, when another weapons-grade cliffhanger slams Cade and the reader full force. Luckily, we've already got the third book in the series lined up for a 2021 release - and let's just say I'm glad I didn't look at the summary of that one on GR before finishing this one first!
Profile Image for Shane.
Author 5 books14 followers
September 16, 2021
"The Challenger" is a fun, light read for those who like action books.
Matharu and I clearly have the exact same interests: Roman history, random trivia about people and objects that disappear from the historical record (several times the book referenced something and I would look up the story). Throwing in Caesarion was a good touch.
The action is good, and the characters--especially Cade, Amber, Quintus, and Tsuru--are well-done. Cade is developing nicely as a protagonist; a hero not because he is inherently strong or bold but because he does what needs to be done, no matter how tough.
The plot is exciting and did make sense in the end, but I am a bit confused on the story structure. Through two books now, we've spent very little time in what I would have thought was the premise--fighting in an otherworld against alien species--and instead most of it interacting with altered versions of human society and/or creatures. It's fine, but we've done fairly little actual "contending" in the great intergalactic game. There were a few other details I don't think worked, such as how the gladiatorial games were set up (why waste all that training and money of over half your gladiators in a free-for-all first bout that only lasted like 15 minutes?).
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124 reviews
October 16, 2020
In this second volume of the trilogy "Contender", author Taran Matharu re-presents the teens and young adults that fought against almost impossible odds to survive in the first volume of the trilogy. The main character is Cade, whom we met at the beginning of the story: a teen who was neglected and abused as a child, somehow framed for an impossible theft at his school and sent to a reform school where he endures more abuse. But Cade has an acute sense of justice. He learns to defend those whom he had abandoned out of fear in the past.

In "The Challenger", Cade discovers that he and his friends must fight off monsters in order to save the Earth. They are unsure how they can do this but the challenge draws them closer. They discover that sorely needed weapons are hidden near their encampment, but when they set out to secure these weapons, they are captured by slavers who soon sell them to political leaders of the central city, a place called New Rome. They must first gain their freedom and then return to fight the monsters that surround their original encampment.

This is a story about friendship, of facing shortcomings and enemies, and coming of age.
March 8, 2021
I think that, even now, Matharu's writing continues to surprise and amaze me. This book was a really quick read without seeming to be rushed or have any left-out details. I did start it sometime between October-November of 2020 and then I had to take aa break and re-started it and finished it today. It is a really good balance of heavy themes with instances of humor, love, and hope shining through. I really appreciate how the romance is not overplayed or pushed onto the reader; as many books can make it too romance-focused and it ends up overshadowing the actual plot. Definitely not the case here which I am very thankful for. The cliff-hangers are, however, BRUTAL. The fighting was intense, in the best way possible. I can really see how much Cade and the others have grown and hardened; and still keeping their youthful minds at times. They really turned into a family and it is a beautiful relationship between all the bloodshed that makes it a lighter read. The cover is also gorgeous (a theme in all of his books) which is dually noted and really made me excited to pick it up.
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