A wonderfully diverse and stunningly original novel, Warcross by Marie Lu will hook readers instantly. The level of detail in every moment is remarkable and right off the bat I found myself visualizing every scene. The imagery is intense, but it feels natural and doesn’t bog down the advancement of the plot. I don’t usually like science fiction or virtual reality stories, but I was surprised and delighted by everything about this book.
Warcross follows Emika Chen, a young hacker who accidentally inserts herself into the opening game of the Warcross Championship. Warcross is a sensational virtual reality game, beloved around the globe. She expects to be arrested, but is surprised to instead receive a call from Hideo Tanaka, the game’s creator. He offers Emika a job as a spy inside the Championships because he fears a threat to the game. Action and excitement ensue as Emika navigates her new surroundings. The setting and premise of the world is complex, but Lu manages to introduce concepts completely while avoiding long sections of exposition.
Information is given as needed, but despite how intricate the world is, the principles build on a few new terms which are easy to pick up. There’s no jargon, even when demonstrating how to play the game, so for those who are easily jarred out of sci-fi, Warcross is still for you.
The story itself felt like nothing I’ve ever read before. I was captivated by the descriptions of the Warcross game worlds, the enhancements to everyday life when viewed in virtual reality, and the city of Tokyo, where most of the book takes place. Lu is a master at world-building, which takes this book to a new level because of how different the world in Warcross is from ours.
Emika is fierce, funny and resourceful, and I was pleased with her narration. Her attitude in the face of adversity was refreshing. She learned to accept help and work with others while playing in the Championships, but was also an independent and clever investigator for Hideo.
Speaking of whom, Hideo was a very intriguing character and I loved reading his interactions with Emika. It would be easy for him to seem like a stereotypical rich young mogul, but Lu writes in so many more layers to his character.
Warcross is a global obsession so it was easy for Lu to write diverse characters, and I loved that. It is rare in YA for science fiction books to be truly diverse and not simply have “token characters,” but Warcross had an incredible cast of characters with a variety of backgrounds and stories.
I feel that the one aspect of Warcross that could use some fine-tuning is the pacing. Most of the book progresses evenly, and the action is spaced out well. However, towards the end, everything started to feel a bit rushed. The plot started to take some major turns, but I did feel like some of them were not well explained.
In science fiction, it can be a struggle to find balance between writing likeable characters and having a compelling plot. Warcross excels at this. There is a vibrant world teeming with individuals, and a twisting mystery which keeps readers guessing. The pace of the mystery and Emika’s growth as a character complement each other especially well. I would give Warcross five stars and encourage everyone to pick it up, along with its anticipated sequel.
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.