Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Emika Chen is a hacker and a bounty hunter, trying to make ends meet as she pays off debts left by her father.
When she accidentally hacks into the biggest Warcross tournament, a game that millions were watching and attending, she catches the attention of Warcross's creator, Hideo Tanaka. Soon, she gets the opportunity of a lifetime to make a difference and pay off her debts.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Marie Lu has been one of my favorite authors ever since I first read the Legend trilogy way back in 2014. Since then, I've kept up with all her books, and the only one I haven't read is her DC Universe Batman book (I really do need to get on that).
I knew very little about this before going into the book, but I've found that I often prefer that with her books. Not knowing anything about her stories make them so much more enjoyable, and that was definitely the case with this book too. All I knew was that the main character was Asian, so going along and finding out everything at the same time she did was really fun.
One thing that I really love about Marie Lu's writing is how action packed and plot driven it is. She does a really great job of balancing the plot with her characters. I love how she moves her plots forward and drops hints along the way that there are greater works at play. I never felt bored while reading this, constantly wanting to read and find out what's going to happen next. It's been a few months since that's happened, and I'm so glad Marie Lu was the one to make me feel that way again.
There's only one other book about video games that I've read, and I didn't enjoy that nearly as much as I enjoyed this. I think it's hard to write about video games and virtual reality in a way that makes it understandable and intriguing at the same time, but Marie Lu did a really good job with that. I really enjoyed learning about Warcross and the NeuroLink, especially with how they worked together in a way that I think is a totally feasible future for VR. This is probably one of the best fictional interpretations of VR that I've come across, and I commend Marie Lu for that.
I also really enjoyed seeing how the story unfolded. Everything was so well-paced and well-balanced, it was really exciting to see the events unfold as the story progressed. The video game aspect of Warcross and the stakes involved not only in picking teams, but also playing the game, was so captivating and made me wish that it was real so that I could try it (I'd probably suck a lot, but it'd still be fun). I also enjoyed following Emika's journey as she tried to balance life after hacking into Warcross and how she navigates the opportunities she's been given. It was just so easy to read and so much fun.
The romance took some time to grow on me. At first, I was kind of confused as to whether it was supposed to happen, but as the chapters went on, I began to see the attraction between them deepen and become more tangible. It was really sweet to watch them get closer to each other and grow in their relationship, and very refreshing to see a romance featuring two Asians that wasn't written in a stereotypical manner. While it did seem kind of superficial at first, but as it grew over time, I could really see the connection between them and how their similarities drew them together in a really meaningful manner.
As the book came to the end, I did call the big reveal. I think I just picked up on too many of the clues too quickly for it to be a surprise. I was looking for it, but I was hoping that there would be a couple more red herrings. It wasn't super obvious by any means, I just think I've read too many mysteries at this point.
I really loved Emika and her storyline. It was really cool to hear her talk about her love of coding and how that came to be, and how she used it as a bounty hunter. Her voice reminded me of a mix between Day and June from the Legend trilogy, which I also enjoyed. Seeing her character progression from the beginning of the book to the end was also really great, especially because a lot needs to happen in a duology when it comes to character development.
Hideo was a really refreshing love interest. He's the third love interest I've read about who is fully Asian, and it makes me really happy to see that kind of representation in literature. I liked getting to know him at the same time Emika did, and I enjoyed hearing about how he designed Warcross and the NeuroLink. His genius was really cool to read about and I liked that he was more than the typical stereotype of a smart Asian man.
Many of the Warcross players were also really interesting to read about, as they all had such different backgrounds and reasons for playing Warcross and making a profession out of it. My favorites were definitely Asher and Hammie.
5 stars. I highly recommend this to everyone, even if sci-fi isn't usually your thing. It's a really great duology for anyone who likes Ready Player One.