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The Fall Gauntlet: BEAR (Book 1)

The Fall Gauntlet: BEAR (Book 1)

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Benji and Soren will do anything to save their family, but the Crown isn’t going to make it easy ...

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Format: Paperback


Book Synopsis

Ten years after his mother was thrown into her off-world prison, Benji finally has a chance to save her. All he has to do is win the Fall Gauntlet, a fight-to-the-death tournament on the planet of Calypso, designed to please the gods and goddesses and keep them at bay. Benji’s success will usher in a new era of science and innovation, and he’s come too far to lose now.

But the Crown is three steps ahead. They’ve orchestrated every move, pushing Benji to the victory that will serve their own agenda. Winning the deathmatch will grant his wish to save his mother, but the Crown has other plans and won’t let go of Benji so easily.

As Benji learns the truth about the Crown’s desires, he is forced to make impossible choices, especially when he learns that his final opponent—the hulking young man behind the bear mask—is his brother, Soren.

J. A. Merkel’s Bear is part of The Fall Gauntlet, a dystopian sci-fi short story collection about Benji and Soren’s misadventures to outsmart the Crown and save a family lost to them, all while learning how to be brothers again.

Paperback Details

  • Number of Pages: 82
  • Time To Read: 1.5 Hours
  • Word Count: 13118
  • Series: The Fall Gauntlet Collection
  • Paperback Size: 5" x 8" (147mm x 243mm)


The Fall Gauntlet is also available as a complete eBook Bundle, which includes all 3 books in the series.


Meet The Author

I write to give others hope and the same kind of second chances that writing still gives me. Second chances about what, you may ask? Well . . . I can’t reveal all my secrets here. It’s certainly a big part of why I wrote The Fall Gauntlet series.

If you want to embark on your own reading quest and experience the series yourself, then pick up the gauntlet.

I appreciate your interest in my work.

Read my story

Customer Reviews

Based on 31 reviews
Amazon Customer
I’m hooked!

Not my typical genre to read but a friend recommended it and I’m hooked with this first book of the series! Imaginative with a perfect blend of adventure, suspense and great characters! Vivid storytelling. Looking forward to reading the series!

Kam B.
Great start to the series!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.Ten years ago, the Crown imprisoned Soren and Benji’s mother for treason. Seven years ago, the Crown jailed their father and separated the two brothers. Now, the Crown is forcing Soren and Benji to fight in the Fall Gauntlet tournament, where only one will win, or so that was the Crown’s plan.Thanks to D, a guard, Benji was notified his opponent was none other than his brother, Soren the Bear. Benji could never take his brother’s life and had to devise a way to unveil his identity to Soren. Representing the lynx, Benji was a genius when it came to technology. Through his apprenticeship with Master Gherus, he furthered his understanding of the principles of physics and helped develop weaponry and tech for the Crown. He used his knowledge to find a way to break the technologically advanced mask he wore in battle and turn the tables on the Crown.For sci-fi or tech fans, you’ll love the author’s attention to detail when they describe what the arena sees when looking at the opponents: “two masked humans representing both a bear and a lynx, human-shaped with the ability to walk upright, but phospho-imaged to imitate those beasts, our masks morphing and sprouting hair, and our gauntlets growing retractable claws and fur.” The platform is impressive, as intimidating as the opponent standing before you: one hundred feet off the ground with spikes jutting into the air like giant shark teeth as deadly as a Megalodon’s. Fans of this genre will also love the fighter’s two prime weapons. Lynx carried a 6-foot-long gem staff while the Bear wielded a massive spiked club that could slaughter a whale."The Fall Gauntlet: BEAR" is a non-stop thrill ride featuring exhilarating fight scenes and futuristic tech. It’s a novella I know gamers will want to see made into a game so they can play it for hours and hours. Brother versus brother. It’s a story that would captivate teens and adults on the big screen!With the humorous final line of dialogue and cliffhanger ending, you’ll be ready to tackle the next book in the series ("The Fall Gauntlet: Rat").J. A. Merkel is a master of imagery and a terrific storyteller. I recommend giving this new series a chance!

Seany P.
This book is a page-turner and had me staying up way past my bed time!

Loved all three books in their own special way! I'm a huge fan of sci-fi novels, and especially those set in a bleak dystopian hellscape like this one! Without saying too much, our main hero is Benji who must use his wits (and mask-tech) to overcome the oppressive regime known as the Crown (love this name!) Not only is the world building excellent, characters well-developed, with deep themes throughout, but it was Merkel's prose that had me coming back for seconds:"Pre-dawn light filters through the one barred window and casts deep shadows on her pale face as our planet tilts and opens itself to our star for the day"I have now read all three books in the Fall Gauntlet Series, and cannot wait for the next book(s) to drop! Until then I hope they make the first three into a TV series, because I would binge watch that just like the books! Highly recommend!

Scott C.
Great writing with awesome action.

This book starts right at the point of crisis and never lets up. The story of Benji and Soren pulls you in and doesn’t let go. Great writing with awesome action. It’s a truly fun read and an exciting adventure.

A Creative and Fast Paced Dystopian Ride

The Fall Gauntlet BEAR surprised me with its hit-the-ground-running plot. The action is thrilling and clear. Still, the story is character driven and, while the world and city of New Phasia that Merkel created is fascinating, the relationship between the estranged brothers is the most intriguing part. The first person narration does a lot of the expository heavily lifting but it provides a heart felt three dimensionality to the characters that would have otherwise been missed. Also, the scientific inventions are not only futuristic and incredibly visual, their descriptions are almost expectant of the reader to have some sort of pre-requisite understanding of sci-fi elements. So you’re gonna need to keep up. Finally, I loved that BEAR was also mature in its approach to science, showing how it is perceived as a threat to its world full of uneducated masses. I am excited to read the next entry not just to learn what happens to the brothers, but to learn more about this dystopian world and their omnipotent opponent, the Crown.