ARC Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

Author: Marie Lu
Series: Book 1
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Get it Here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

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.


YA books with high video game content? Sign me up anytime, anywhere! Warcross promises an extremely fun adventure as we follow the first person POV of Emika Chen, a Chinese-American gamer who has a lot of debt under her name but magnificent coding skills. She stays alive by being a bounty hunter for gamblers of Warcross, the ubiquitous video game that the world relies on. When a surprising glitch she creates captures the eyes of the media and the creator of Warcross, Hideo Tanaka, she finds herself a new bounty job from the creator himself: find out who’s trying to ruin the tournaments.

Warcross was so fun and exhilarating. There’s never a lull in the plot as events are constantly happening. When Emika gets transferred from her run-down apartment in America to the shiny landscapes of Tokyo, she also finds herself with new friends. She’s known as a “wild card” in the game’s tournament. She’s not famous, is only level 26 compared to the level 80+’s of other players, and plays the game through a hacked version. But despite these drawbacks, her intelligence and ambition make her stand out from the other players. Emika finds a home with the other players of her team, the Phoenix Riders. The Phoenix Riders feature characters from all over the world (yay POC’s!), and we see a very small side gay romance occurring within the games as well.

“I’m used to working alone. Even if I told them everything, what good would that really do? Am I really going to drag them into this hunt with me?”

Overall, I thought that Warcross created an awesome main character (yes for Chinese rep!!) and incorporated video game vibes in a Young Adult story perfectly. I know some readers may have some qualms with how the game is explained, but I wasn’t bothered by it at all. I play games lightly (mostly RPG’s and MMORPG’s, and not much anymore), and I thought the way Emika explains the game of Warcross was easy to follow and maximizes both simplicity and excitement. It may not be technically plausible with certain aspects, but I really did not care. Think of it more like lighter video game vibes, so even readers who aren’t gamers can easily understand and enjoy.

Even though my overall impression of Warcross is awesome with two thumbs up, I have a bit of small things to pick with it. The first thing has to do with the length of the book, which is around 345 pages. I’ve read contemporary books that are longer than Warcross thus far in the year. Because of this length, I feel like a lot of things could have been expanded on. For me, the biggest loss is the camaraderie and developing friendship between Emika and her fellow Phoenix Riders. Because she’s trying to balance both the tournament and her bounty job with Hideo, her time with the Phoenix Riders is cut short. There are glimpses of her teammate’s struggles, backgrounds, and relationships, but I was disappointed with how short they were. A lot of things are hinted from Emika’s POV and I feel like I never really got to know them. I hope this is fixed in the sequel though, and that these side characters get more page time!
Warcross Pic

“Every locked door has a key.
Every problem has a solution.”

My second main problem is the romance. I was superrr ready going into this romance (Hideo is a genius celebrity while Emika is the intelligent nobody), but my main thought when finishing the book was “imbalance.” Hideo remains a mysterious figure throughout the majority of the book because he’s very reticent and hides his feelings well. He had a traumatic event in the past which adds to this shield. Of course, Emika is the only one who can get through it. 😛 My problem with Hideo is that he is introduced as the genius billionaire who can be quite cold at times, and he remains the “genius billionaire” at the end of the book. He hired Emika to capture a supposed criminal, so essentially it’s an employee-boss romance going on. While Lu does take steps to humanize him, I really couldn’t connect as a reader. To me, his character remained flat and I didn’t trust him the whole book. Other than hero worship from Emika’s part, I couldn’t see why she was so enamored of him. Girl you can do better!

The twist that happens at the end is a bit predictable but still manages to capture readers’ attentions with the dramatic and entertaining way it is written. Lu is great at creating suspense to lead up to these twists, even if readers have already guessed it pages ago. There’s a cliffhanger to this one, so you best believe I’m staying for a sequel.

Warcross promises on excitement, action, and a world built around video games. Other than my two problems, I really enjoyed the story overall. I wish I were more onboard with the romance, but hopefully the sequel brings more character development and interaction with not only Hideo, but the rest of the Phoenix Riders and other bounty hunters. If you haven’t picked this book up yet, what are you waiting for?! Lu creates another brilliant novel that will captivate readers with an ambitious main character, morally-ambiguous villains, and a refreshing world that’s bright with technology and color.

CWTW label



Thank you Penguin for sending a review copy!

23 thoughts on “ARC Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

  1. You know how much of a romance reader I am, and Marie Lu’s romances just scare me. The imbalance you mention here is something that would bother me. I’m glad you enjoyed the book for the most part though. I’ll wait for the sequel before I read this one! 🙂

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed this one, sadly I was mostly disappointed. I found the world-building of the game to be too simple and I wasn’t happy with the friendships (which you commented on so well)… and I don’t know how to feel about the romantic aspect anymore.

    Though… can I just say that I would have preferred if Hideo didn’t have an English accent? He didn’t need it… and I would still find him hot without it. I just think this was pandering to readers who don’t like diverse characters a little…

    Great review, thanks for sharing!
    ~Brittany @ Brittany’s Book Rambles

  3. The romance is actually what made me DNF Warcross. I didn’t get that far but the power imbalance was deal breaker for me. Of course, power imbalances can be deconstructed but I could totally sense that wasn’t going to happen with how much Emika idolized him. I don’t tolerate plots like that anymore. And there was the business of the age gap which added to that power imbalance.

    I haven’t seen anyone else discuss that aspect of Warcross in a non-positive way, so I loved reading your thoughts. Glad you liked the book despite that!

  4. Glad to see you enjoyed it quite a lot! I am intrigued with the futuristic and game premise, it seems like tron for me 😀 I heard great things about the romance and the plot, it seems like Marie Lu couldn’t dissapoint in those area 😀

  5. I had NO idea this was gamer’s lit. I have to read it now. I love gamer’s lit. My favorite, of course, being Ready Player One. But I’ve read others and I really enjoy them. Good to know, thanks!

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