Review by: Paige
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Synopsis: For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life.
The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.
Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.
Review: Marie Lu always has a way of toying with my feelings whether I like it or not. And in this latest release, she has once again delivered a novel nothing short of exhilarating. Though I’ve always held her novels in such high esteem for their character-driven nature, I found myself just as engrossed in Warcross despite its more explicit focus on plot and (impeccable) worldbuilding. But even then, her characters still held my attention and will keep me intrigued for far longer than anticipated.
I’m not entirely sure what I expected from this novel, but it’s not what I was given – and that’s a good thing. I was skeptical of the video game element, but still intrigued by the idea of a society built on virtual reality. Given what we’ve already seen in bits and pieces in Legend, a lot of my draw to this story was through questioning how and why the society we see in Legend could have come after such a rich, fantastical world like we see in Warcross. I found the story a bit slow in the beginning, but I saw why it was so necessary to develop the world first before the action could really heat up. And once it did, I could barely put this book down. I was eagerly anticipating every twist and turn, and at each impasse, Lu delivered.
While I loved Emika, there were times when I really felt disconnected from her. I wanted to see her engage her emotions more, and while given glimpses of that through her relationship with Hideo, I felt that her emotional draw was just a bit lacking. However, her intense focus on the jobs she was given and the deft way in which she used her coding skills thoroughly impressed me, and I loved how hyperaware and focused she was on everything in her life. But the character I came to love most was Hideo, in a convoluted sort of way. Though the script was flipped in the end of the novel, Hideo was such an intriguing character and I really look forward to seeing where he goes in the next novel. There is so much to unpack in him, and all of it changes your perception of the man as a whole, and to create such a character is quite the feat.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel immensely. The plot was fast-paced, the characters constantly evolving and shifting, and the worldbuilding nearly perfect. I loved seeing how elements of Lu’s own life were incorporated so effortlessly (ahem, corgis) and I could tell this novel was crafted with true love for the subject matter. I cannot wait to see where it goes next.