Cover Image: The Challenger

The Challenger

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Member Reviews

For anyone who absolutely loves Taran Matharu's writing and other series, you'll be excited for The Contender series! The Challenger is book two and it is fast paced, great story that you won't want to end and the characters really shine! Thank you Netgalley and Macmillan for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Once again, as I'm sitting here reviewing this book and typing this up, I'm trying to remember what happened and characters names.  

This is a book, that while reading it is phenomenal and I root for certain characters, but once I put it down and take a step from it, I just can't remember what was going on.  This makes me feel bad, especially as I type up the review, but I was given the ARC for my honest review.  

I will try other Taran Matharu books, since they are well written and the world building is great, just unfortunately it doesn't stick with me.
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Really enjoyed this one and cant wait for more by this amazing author! He just does a great job telling his stories! Was completely into it until the very end! Love these characters!
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No book 2 fatigue here! This book is fast-paced and dare I say even better?!  Higher stakes, character development, strong story line....if you haven't started this series grab book 1 now!
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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.
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I truly just could not get into this installment. I tried, I got more than 100 pages into the 295 e-ARC, but I just couldn't. I only gave book one 3 stars and I just knew that even if I finished this, I wouldn't give it any more than 2 stars. The writing and characters are too basic and juvenile for my taste and the large section of this book that I did read was just not enjoyable enough for me to continue. It upsets me because this series has so much potential and I wish book two was just as much of a guilty-pleasure read as book one, but reading it became more like a chore and I didn't want to waste my time. I hope that I might continue with this story in the future and if I do, I will definitely update my review on here but for now, I had to DNF.
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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

** I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley and am voluntarily leaving a review. **
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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.
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Thought this was a good continuation of the series and gave me some answers to questions I previously had. I found it to be a little slow in some parts but all in all it was a good read.
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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
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This book was a really good read that I enjoyed. It kept me interested and I wanted to see how the characters solved all of their problems. I do wish that I had read the first book as I had some things that I wasn't sure what was going on and that would have been helped had I had access to the first book as well.
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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.
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I was super excited to read the sequel to the contender. Both the contender and the Challenger snuck up on me - In that day started off slow and strong and then became faster and stronger. At first it took me a long time to get into both books but they were both well worth the read. At first it took me a long time to get into both books but they were both well worth the read. Cade’s character developed even more into a leader that I’d follow (if I found myself in his group, you know, trying to save earth from extinction). Mixing science fiction and history, both books are fantastic and I can’t wait to read the third book or anything else by Taran Matharu.
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This book picked up after book one and man I could not put it down.  I loved the story and this authors stories never disappoint.  This book was wonderful from the characters to the fast-paced plot.  I love how the demons are incorporated in the story and I think that if you are a fan of Matharu's writing then this one is going to be right up your ally.  But man that ending killed me!
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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.
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This picks up right where the first book left off. Cade and the surviving kids from the battle with the monsters at the end of the last book are trying to figure out what comes next since they have to face whatever challenge Abaddon throws at them next. To prepare some of the crew decide to head out in the jungle to find armor to help in the next battle. There they are captured and taken to New Rome where they will be fighting in the Colosseum. Interesting battles and a predictable outcome occur.
It was slow starting out for me, but about a quarter of the way in it picks up steam and doesn't let off. Sometimes the prose is too simple and the situations utterly predictable, but it still an entertaining read. It's nice to see a book where the kids aren't going off on social justice tangents and are just having an adventure. I will definitely order this one to go in the library at school whenever we get to reopen.
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In a world of dinosaurs, slavers, Romans, and objects transported from earth, Cade and his team must fight as gladiators for the emperor of New Rome. While this wasn't in the plan, or so they thought, perhaps earth's crazy god is actually preparing them for the challenge. They are learning new skills and gaining strength. Cade even gets the armor of Sir Francis Drake. So he will be as ready for the challenge as he can be. A good book for teens and new adults who like fantastical adventure with some gore.
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The second book in the series maintains a fast pace. With much of the world building provided in book one, book two moves us quickly through a series of challenges in which protagonist Cade must prevail. Some violence and  just an inkling of teen romance is present.
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Wow! Book 2 really surpasses the first book (and I liked book 1). Lots more character development, interesting history trivia, and plenty of action. I appreciated the diverse characters and some of the "deeper/theological" moments. Very interesting concept.
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