About a year ago, my cousin sent me a series of texts telling me I have to read this book NOW. She knows the kinds of books I like, so I knew I’d read anything that came with her recommendation.
Only, I didn’t read the book last year. We were amid another big move (yes, it’s been a year) and were up to our eyeballs in things that needed sorting out. Then, as things go when we don’t read the book immediately, I forgot all about it.
Lucky for me, I found this amazing outlet bookstore in Canada, Book Outlet (not a sponsored post), and Warcross was one of the books I bought at a bargain price. (Still not a sponsored post, but man, I wish it was.)
This is a spoiler-free review.
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.
The Plot and Characters
I’d call this book the love child of Ready Player One and Ender’s Game. Only better. And that’s high praise, as I really enjoyed both the ‘parent’ books.
The game of Warcross is a simple capture the flag, red VS blue, kind of thing. What makes it spectacular is the near-perfect virtual reality, because these VR headsets use the user’s brain to create the virtual worlds.
The concept that the brain is basically the best graphics engine out there is fabulous. As someone who often loses hours in VR, the idea of small, normal-looking glasses replacing the front-heavy VR headsets of today, while using my own imagination to create fantasy worlds is extremely exciting.
Unlike both Ender’s Game and Ready Player One, Warcross is set in the not-too-distant future, which makes it all the more relatable. It’s a world and setting we understand, a place we can imagine, and it feels like home.
Meanwhile, Emika is a wonderful narrator. She’s got a bit of a shady past, but her heart is in the right place, and Marie Lu does a wonderful job of winning us over to Emika’s cause early on.
I love that Emika is not your typical heroine. She’s a rainbow-haired, tattoed hacker slash bounty hunter, who fights to survive, and gets the job done. Her backstory is revealed to us in bursts throughout the story, and each time you think you have her figured out, another layer is revealed. I really enjoyed getting to know her.
We also get to know Hideo slowly. Now here’s a complex character. I think the way Hideo is revealed to the reader, and the emotions those revelations cause, are great testaments to the author’s ability.
I think you can already tell I’m besotted with this book. The plot is punchy and twisty, the characters are wonderfully flawed and believable, and the setting was so spot on.
I love the various cultural aspects of this novel. The food, the smells, the sights. Additionally, the way old and new are woven together really excited me.
Most of all, though, the plot twists. Friends, you think you have this story figured out, but you really don’t.
There is one thing I think is a tiny bit predictable (no spoilers) but it’s still delivered in such a way that you don’t care that you knew it was coming. Initially, I thought I had the antagonist, Zero, figured out. But even as you discover more about this character, you really don’t know what you think you know.
And I love that in stories.
I finished this book with an urgent must-have-more burn in my chest. I can’t wait for the sequel to arrive on my doorstep, because I MUST KNOW what happens next.
An easy 5/5 star read.