Review // Warcross by Marie Lu

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For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game – it’s a way of life. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. 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 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. 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.

Becky’s thoughts:
Wow. I loved this book so much that I read it from cover to cover in just a few hours!
For me, Warcross had everything I needed to make it a five star read – a relatable, interesting main character, an action packed plot, a unique sci-fi/fantasy aspect, witty and emotional dialogue, a plot twist I didn’t anticipate, and a love interest I was invested in. I really liked Emika as a main character – despite her job as a bounty hunter for people betting on Warcross and her sudden jump to fame, she was definitely a relatable character and I loved the accurate poverty representation – even when Emika is flown to Tokyo and given everything she could ever want and more, she is still always super aware of the world around her, the cost of the extravagant life she’s suddenly found herself in, and how precarious her situation is. The best thing about Emika though is that we weren’t constantly told how tough, talented or generally badass she was – we were shown this with her actions throughout the story, and the spontaneity in some of her decisions was still well thought out and well executed rather than rash and dangerous like the actions of so many other YA main characters.

Warcross also had some really strong secondary characters and there’s also a lot of diversity – Emika herself is Chinese-American, Asher, the captain of Emika’s Warcross team the Phoenix Riders, is paralysed from the waist down and is in a wheelchair (and it was great to see a disabled character in such a prominent role in this sci-fi world!), two of her other teammates Hammie and Roshan are Latinx and Indian respectively, Hideo is Japanese, and many of the other Warcross competitors are from countries around the world. I loved Roshan’s caring nature and Hammie’s attitude, and of course, I adored Hideo. I’m not usually the biggest fan of the billionaire love interest trope, but Hideo was such a well fleshed out character with a strong back story (plus he will do anything for the people he cares about – his story on how and why he created Warcross definitely made me tear up a little), I couldn’t help but ship him and Emika.

It took me a long time to pick this book up because I’m not the biggest gamer and I definitely prefer fantasy to sci-fi, however, Warcross is written in such a way that you don’t need to have a lot of gaming knowledge to understand and enjoy it, and the sci-fi being mixed in with almost a modern contemporary feel definitely worked in the books favour.

Overall, Warcross was such an action packed book and the Warcross world was so well built that I could easily imagine it. This combined with the relatable, diverse group of characters made it an easy five star read for me!

Angharad’s Thoughts:
Despite being an avid gamer and a fan of Marie Lu (I’m one of the rare people who loved The Young Elites trilogy. Shout out to my girl, Adelina!) it did actually take me a while to pick this up. However, that was due to a slump, not the book itself. I finally got it after Becky read it and said, ‘Angharad, why the hell haven’t you read this book?’ So I ordered it and read it in one sitting. I was hooked from the very first page.
My standout was definitely Emika herself – she is strong, sassy and extremely clever. As Becky said, she isn’t necessarily described as these things but through her actions, we ourselves learn these traits about her. I could just picture her with her rainbow hair and her electric skateboard – she’s definitely somebody you’d want to be friends with. She has a difficult history and when we meet her, she is living in poverty and we really feel her desperation. Even when she is then chosen to enter the games and thrown into a life of luxury, she is still aware of her background but doesn’t come across as being ungrateful.
Both the Warcross games and the futuristic city of Tokyo are both described in vivid detail to the point that I felt I was there myself. I loved the games and the way virtual reality was a major thing in everybody’s day to day lives. The gamer in me was just freaking out at the fact you could ‘gain points’ and therefore level up, just by going somewhere for the first time. I haven’t visited past or present Tokyo but after reading this book, I felt as though I had. It’s hard to believe Marie Lu created this futuristic world so vividly!
The secondary characters really play an important part in this novel and to Emika’s journey. Asher, the Captain of her Warcross team, is a ray of sunshine – even when he woke Emika up each morning by continuously ramming his wheelchair into her bedroom door. I was scared Hammie, being the only other girl in the team, would clash with Emika but they really hit it off and supported each other and Roshan was just a little puppy and I love them. The creator of Warcross and Emika’s love interest, Hideo is a very complex character and doesn’t fall into the ‘cocky billionaire.’ He has a tragic story to tell and it heartbreaking to see how his past has affected his every action in the future. Like Becky said, this was a very diverse bunch of characters – from race, sexuality, disability and so on.
Overall, I just loved this book. I read it in around two hours and didn’t realise it was part of a series until I got to the cliffhanger!! You can just imagine my face. The book is fast-paced and keeps you on the edge of your seat, yet manages to develop important friendships and relationships. The world-building and character development are second to none and the games themselves are just fun (I’m aware of the rhyme.) I’d definitely recommend this book if you’re interested in a YA book with a diverse cast of characters and an interesting and tense storyline.

Have you read Warcross? If so, what did you think?
Lots of Love,
Angharad & Becky

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