YA Review: Warcross by Marie Lu (a.k.a. my reading disappointment of the year…)

Warcross by Marie Lu
Warcross #1  416 Pages  Young Adult

TASCHIMA’s Verdict:
Two Stars
Publish Date: September 12th, 2017

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.

I have never felt so betrayed. I really wanted to like Warcross (it is Marie Lu! Sci-Fi, virtual reality, video games!) but it is just not for me. Warcross seems like Arena’s [by Holly Jennings] younger brother, who is really trying to be like big bro but it is not quite there yet.

Warcross is full of LIGHTS. The way Japan is described it is LIT UP and everyone is fabulous and connected to their virtual reality. To me, however, it all sounded just very superficial, like we barely scratched the surface of our surrounding. When in America, Emika was mainly subjected to the impoverished parts of town; she is a bounty hunter and that job is not exactly stable. She hunts for people the police has no time for, as it seems crime is at an all time high (specially with gamblers who like to place bets on Warcross-the reality game this books evolves around). But once Emika is “discovered” by Warcross’ developer, dreamy Hideo Tamaka, she is transported into a world of wealth.

Hideo hires Emika for both her bounty hunter skills, and her hacking skills. Someone is threatening the foundation of Warcross, a hacker who goes by Zero, and it is Emika’s job to catch him/her. To do this she is to join the Warcross games as a “wildcard” and compete among much more experienced players to see which one of them exactly is a double agent.

This all sounds interesting, sure, but I felt like every single aspect of the novel was barely explored. The only characters that have a well established background are Emika and Hideo. Emika because she is the main character so we get to learn how she got to where she is. Hideo is the love interest and developer of the world’s foremost technological advance. I liked Emika, thought nothing of Hideo. He seems kind of a boring character to me. Hideo is reserved, aloof, with a tragic past, and even so he seemed very bland. Other than Emika’s childhood crush on him, I do not see what she sees in the guy quite honestly.

I wish I could say the rest of the characters were interesting, but I can barely remember their names. they are just there to fill the “teammate” roles, or other necessary roles, but they did not feel real. At the end they even help Emika save the day, and then they become a sort of real team, but even then it is like they do not have opinions of their own, they just go with whatever it is necessary for the plot.

Warcross, the game this all revolves around, has its rules of course, and other intricacies, I just find them very hard to believe. “Wildcards” are introduced unto every tournament; “wildcards” are pretty much not professional players that get drafted into playing the game. An already established team then has to add them into their rooster and somehow find a way to learn how to work together in a very small time frame. I find all of this hard to believe, specially since I watch gaming tournaments now. This is something that in reality would never fly, and a rule that was created for the sole reason to add Emika to the games.

I gave this book two stars though, because at the very end it does present us with an interesting conundrum/question regarding the lengths we will go to to achieve world peace. In this world, ruled by virtual reality and games, what would you give up to see the virtual benefits (like for example, people don’t die in the virtual, there are very clear established rules) being totally reflected in the real? What is worth giving up? Who’s in charge of this decision? And is it worth it? It is a very interesting question, one I don’t know exactly in which side I fall of the argument.

I guess I am spoiled because I read Arena before reading Warcross, and that book really takes the topic of virtual reality by the balls. It explores a lot of different factions of it, and it is very satisfying. Warcross does not. The romance is forgettable, I guessed some of the big twists coming a mile away. I will not be picking up the sequel. It is all glitter, and no substance.


4 thoughts on “YA Review: Warcross by Marie Lu (a.k.a. my reading disappointment of the year…)

  1. Awww, sorry this one fell flat. Kind of surprising, since there have been rave reviews, but I guess if ARENA is somewhat similar then it makes sense. Oh well. Onward to better books, right? Great review 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah a lot of people seem to enjoy it!! And Arena wasn’t even spectacular, but it handled the whole “virtual reality” game a lot better and it tackled it from various angles; in fact if compared to Ready Player One neither book holds up. So it really depends on what you are comparing it to. For young adults it would be a good introduction, just not a complete one since it relies more on the detective aspect of “who is hacking the game?” and “uuh Hideo is so dreamy”.


  2. OH I’m so sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy that one as much as you thought you would. I feel like everyone is raving about this book lately, and I’m eager to read it just as well. It’s actually good to read your point of view, gives me some more perspective and lessen my expectations a bit, which is probably a good thing for sure! 🙂 Also, if you’ve read a similar book, it’s understandable that one fell flat a bit, if the first one was done a bit better in terms of world-building. Great review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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