Warcross introduced a sleek, semi-virtual world where an international competition of VR Capture the Flag is the setting for an intriguing mystery. Wildcard took the potential of the first book and…just…kind of…did something with it.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed Wildcard just as much as I did Warcross, which was actually quite a bit, but I do think it didn’t live up to its own potential. For starters, the most interesting thing about Warcross – which was, you know, the actual game of Warcross – is startlingly absent from its sequel. Even though much of the book builds up the final, all-star Warcross game that ends the tournament, it’s never actually played.
Instead, we focus on the mystery introduced by the first book – that the hacker Zero is actually Hideo’s long-missing brother, Sasuke, and that Hideo intends to use the Neurolink to control people’s actions. Most of Wildcard focuses on Zero and what happened to him and what he and his group of ruffians intends to do to take down Hideo, which is actually quite fascinating and at times downright terrifying. The plot has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, maybe, if you’re like me and not very quick on the uptake. It very much reminded me of a television show where the villain in the first season seems like the worst thing ever, until you get to season two and that villain is even worse.
Emika is even more bland in the second book, which I didn’t think was possible. Usually, characters get more interesting as a series goes on, and an author has time to explore them. However, in this case, our heroine is extremely passive; she reacts, rather than acts. She sees things happening to other people, and overhears conversations that other people have. She just doesn’t do a whole lot in this book, and that’s supremely disappointing.
Likewise, Hideo is similarly sidelined. After the way Warcross ended, I was expecting more from him, but his character is just as thinly-developed in Wildcard as he was in the first book. He just sort of drifts through the story, being there without actually doing anything.
As disappointing as the main characters are, the side characters were actually pretty great, and definitely a saving grace for this book. The rest of the Phoenix Riders are far more compelling as protagonists than Emika, and they prove it by being completely and totally awesome. Because of the nature of the climax, we are able to learn a little bit about each of them, but by far the most interesting thing to me was the exploration of Roshan and Tremaine’s relationship. Honestly, Tremaine did more for the plot than Emika, and he only popped up a few times.
The conclusion is expected, but ultimately unsatisfying; because of the way we get there, I just couldn’t get any pleasure out of the way things ended up working out.
Wilcard by Marie Lu is published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers and 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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