Warcross isn’t just a game; it’s life. In Marie Lu’s ambiguously set future, Warcross is as ubiquitous as breathing. In present day, Warcross is an enjoyable romp through a partly-virtual world, an entertaining introduction to an intriguing mystery.
While some of the twists are predictable, and a few of the characters are lackluster, I nonetheless highly enjoyed Warcross, which kept me entertained on my holiday flights. Set mostly in Tokyo, Warcross follows young Emika Chen – a bounty hunter by trade, whose hacking skills glitch her into the annual Warcross tournament and make her an instant celebrity. Her skills draw the attention of Hideo Tanaka, Warcross founder and reclusive billionaire, and he contacts her with a lucrative job offer.
This book isn’t perfect. Emika as a protagonist is kind of meh, with not much of a personality. Her general appearance is meant to convey more about her character than her actual character, with frequent references to her rainbow-colored hair, her skateboard, and her well-worn clothes. Emika is an Individual in the way many YA heroines are Individuals. She’s pleasant enough, but fairly bland and not very compelling. Likewise, Hideo is the stereotypical brooding YA love interest. He’s handsome, mysterious, and has a dark past. Even so, I liked him, because if you look at my list of favorite fictional characters, you’ll see that I have got it bad for that broody, mysterious, intelligent bad boy.
Emika and Hideo’s relationship is predictable. It doesn’t feel rushed, unlike so many other romances in fiction, but considering that he’s extremely wealthy while she’s in debt, the power dynamics were skewed in a way that made me a wee bit uncomfortable. Plus, while I can understand that she would fall for him – with her hero worship of him, she’s half there already – Emika herself was so blah that I couldn’t fathom what attracted him to her.
The other members of her Warcross team could be interesting, but we don’t really see enough of them to know. Much of the story focuses on Emika, the job she has been contracted to do, and her relationship with Hideo. This is a shame, because there is some great potential in her teammates that is hopefully explored in future books in the series. There was also some great representation throughout the whole book – there are multiple POC characters (including both mains), a disabled character, and at least two LGBT+ characters (whose past relationship is referenced).
The world-building is quite good, even with the hand-wavy “future” references. I don’t need to know the exact year, but am I looking at a future, an alternate present, what’s going on here? There were some wonderfully vivid descriptions of New York City and Tokyo – enough for me to picture them in my head – but the scope was still sort of narrow. Everyone in this world is obsessed with Warcross, but why? Why does Hideo’s company only manufacture this one game, and why are there no competitors? Are you telling me that with all this insane technology, the only thing people want to do is play this jumped-up VR version of Capture the Flag?
In short, Warcross is an enjoyable read, despite not being particularly ground-breaking. I am invested enough to be anxiously awaiting the next book, and that should say something, at least.
I was provided with a copy by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Warcross by Marie Lu is published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers and is currently available wherever books are sold.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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