I remember even before I read this that I wanted to read it. I mean, I love a good science fiction thriller!
Summary: 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 players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing 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.
Story: 4/5: I LOVED this idea. I mean, it’s part sci-fi. It’s part thriller and mystery. Totally my kind of genre mix!
This follows a bounty hunter and hacker named Emika Chen. The bounty hunting business is tough and fiercely competitive, which leaves Emika with the very real threat of eviction. This is made worse when it’s shown she has around thirteen dollars left. So while hacking Warcross probably wasn’t the smartest idea, I can see why she was so desperate. Anyway, after her hack glitches and makes her famous overnight, she is recruited by the creator of Warcross, the young billionaire Hideo Tanaka. There’s a security problem with Warcross, and he wants Emika to be a spy in one of the teams to find the source of the problem.
This succeeded with it being total fun. It was one of the most fun books I have read this year, which was a major component in my whizzing through this book. I also loved how the science and the mystery went hand in hand. Too often in genre blends, one genre dominates the other. But this time, they were perfectly balanced.
My only complaint is that I predicted the plot twists too easily. Even one that was incredibly well covered up (though I did guess the twist that I think most people predicted too…). However, I don’t completely dislike that; the way the twists were written and revealed was still really well done, and were interesting.
Characters: 4.5/5. The characters were so memorable! Even the minor ones. Days after I finished this book, I still remembered most of them.
Emika is a great lead. She’s smart, independent, and brave. She may not be the most “physically” strong protagonist, I think she’s just as awesome as any of them. When things get tough, she remains strong in her convictions and doesn’t allow her heart to sway her. She’s not just smart technology wise too, she has people smarts as well. She’s an awesome protagonist.
Hideo was interesting. While I didn’t care for his character at first (I feel like mysterious billionaire has been done so many times) the twists and turns he went through were very fascinating and well thought out. He has a lot more going on underneath the surface.
I loved the side characters, especially Hammie and Roshan, two of the Phoenix Riders. Hammie is a great friend and leapt off the page, while Roshan was very quiet, but just as dynamic. Asher was a cool leader, and I like how disabilities were handled with him (he’s in a wheelchair). I also found Tremaine, one of the rivals, interesting as well. The antagonist, Zero, a cyber-terrorist, is also very intriguing.
Writing: 4.5/5: The details! The details! I could envision everything, from the characters to the world of Warcross and Tokyo, without it being overboard! A problem I see in YA is either a lack of description, or so much description it gets boring. But this was the perfect balance. I could see everything and I loved it, and it didn’t drag on.
One thing I noticed in both this and Legend is just an air of professionalism. You get the sense that Lu has a plan for her story and knows exactly how she wants to get to it. It’s just…crisp, stylish, and elegant. My one complaint is the many, “I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding” kind of sentences. They’re overdone a little, but I still liked the writing.
Details: 4.5/5: Yep. I already went over details, didn’t I? I also didn’t notice many, if any, major distracting plot holes. Sure, there’s stuff I wanted more exploration on, but that’s what the next book is for, right?
World building: 5/5: Warcross is such a creative idea. It’s such a unique world, and the way it’s described is amazing. Small things like the NeuroLink (devices that connect to Warcross) were explained well too. Everything fits together into an interesting, out of the box digitalized world.
- Fun genre blend: The science fiction, the thriller and mystery were all perfectly balanced. No genre overdid the other, and they all shone.
- Diverse: This is how to write diversity. First, we have two Asian leads. The leader of the Phoenix Riders is in a wheelchair, another character is Latina, and at least two characters are members of the LGBT community. The best part is that these things are introduced naturally, like they casually mention someone’s in a wheelchair as they would mention someone who can walk. They bring up a gay relationship like you would a straight relationship. It’s not shoved in our faces, it’s subtle but clearly there. It’s treated as normal, which I love.
- Fun, but serious: This was fun. Nearly every scene (when appropriate) had a lot of energy throughout. But when there were serious scenes, they definitely got to me. They were emotional and impactful.
- I kind of wish the romance was more slow burn. In a way, I think if it had just been subtext (as in, they obviously had feelings for each other but wouldn’t say it) it would’ve made certain parts more emotionally impactful.
- Could be slow: The pacing was good for the most part. But there were scenes, like when Emika was talking about her past, that were slow. They didn’t detract from the story, but I felt like they could’ve been shorter.
- Also, some plot twists were a little too easy to figure out, one in particular. I sort of guessed the other, but not fully. I still liked how they were revealed, but I wished they were better hidden.
Grade: 4.5/5. This story was definitely my thing. It had an amazing world, interesting and well written characters, and some solid twists (even if they could’ve been hidden better). It had some stuff I didn’t like as much, but overall, I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait for the next one.