NEO BEIJING, 2201. Two years after the Battle of Neo Seoul, eighteen-year-old telepath Ama works by day in a cafe and moonlights as a lounge singer in a smoky bar at night. She’s anonymous, she’s safe from the seemingly never-ending war, and that’s how she’d like to stay. But then PHNX, a resistance group specializing in espionage and covert missions, approaches her with an offer to expose a government experiment exactly like the one she fled. Soon, Ama is traveling with PHNX on a series of dangerous assignments, using her telepathic powers to aid the rebellion against the authoritarian Alliance.
As the war ramps up, PHNX is given its most dangerous mission yet: to infiltrate the base of the Alliance’s new war commander, a young man rumored to have no fear of death. But when Ama sees the commander for the first time, she discovers his identity: Alex Kim, the boy she once loved and who betrayed her.
Now, Ama must use her telepathic abilities to pose as an officer in Alex’s elite guard, manipulating Alex’s mind so that he doesn’t recognize her. As the final battle approaches, Ama struggles with her mission and her feelings for Alex. Will she be able to carry out her task? Or will she give up everything for Alex again—only to be betrayed once more?
Part heist novel, part love story, Rogue Heart is perfect for fans of Marie Lu’s Warcross and Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series.
Check out my review on GoodReads over here!
Axie Oh does it again with another scintillating spi-fi tale that spans time and dimensions. Set two years after the events of REBEL SOUL (which you can find my glowing review over here), ROGUE HEART returns us back to a technologically-advanced future and beloved characters that are still alive, against all odds. With Oh’s beautiful writing and complex characters, ROGUE HEART is an adventure that will capture readers’ hearts and souls as we follow the adventure of Ama and her path back to justice, and the boy she loves.
“Even in a world where I was a government experiment, where the boy I love betrayed me and broke my heart, I still wanted to live in it. I wanted to survive, I wanted to live, I wanted to love again.”
There’s a lot of layers to ROGUE HEART. It’s a sci-fi adventure, yes, but also a politically-driven story as Ama gets recruited by a rebel faction, PHNX, to infiltrate the Alliance and learn its secrets. But what she ends up seeing when she becomes a new trainee is the old love of her life – Alex Kim – who seems to be having a grand time without her. After all, who would miss a girl who is presumed dead? At the end of REBEL SEOUL, Alex rejected Ama to protect her, and thinks she is dead because of an accident on her transport vehicle. The government is creating more Amas and Tera’s to finish their mission of creating a super soldier. And Ama’s pseudo-brother, Tsuko, is itching to finish the fight between the rebels and the Alliance by himself – at the sake of any life. The plot is ever-moving and changing, but what lies at the heart of it is Ama’s self-discovery of what she can do, and what she can offer to the world.
First, I do have to say that sometimes Ama got so caught up in her feelings with Alex (and in general) that she made some questionable decisions. While I was annoyed with her while reading, I think it was justifiable and I’m happy that she followed what her heart wanted. So Ama, boo on you, but also good job. :’) Next, I wish we got to see more of Alex’s emotions (he’s quite closed off throughout the book) and progression instead of seeing his reactions from the biased view of Ama. I felt like he was more of a supporting character than anything. That is fine, but it defeats the point of Ama’s growth when he remains such a stagnant and dull character. Alex – I expected more from you.
The plot moves at an exceptionally rapid pace, which is really great story-wise, but sacrifices character-writing (see above example with Alex). Even so, readers get a strong sense of Ama’s struggle of staying complacent and “safe,” or taking a stand in what she believes in. What is also present is her lack of self-worth, as her powers of mind-control are more invasive than anything, and not as showy or ‘effective’ as the physical prowess of Tsuko and Tera. I enjoyed seeing these internal struggles, among others, as Ama finds her confidence and strength to stand with the best of the best soldiers. She may be kind-hearted and warm, but that strong bit of sunshine will allow her to succeed in unknown ways. I loved her warmth in REBEL SEOUL, but in ROGUE HEART I love her determination and newfound confidence. Because while the power was always within her, she had to find the strength to grab it.
“My enemy, my beloved. In order to win, I must get close to you. In order to win, I must destroy you. Is it a betrayal if you were the one who betrayed me first?”
I think the romance is a lovely added bit, but not the most important part of the story. Ama’s characterization, in my opinion, was the highlight of ROGUE HEART, even though the romance does play out a bit like a soap opera. It’s a second-chance romance. She’s presumed dead, while he’s living with the guilt of rejecting her for her own sake. She thinks he never loved her, while he has moved on to becoming a stellar soldier on the side of the war that’s not quite fighting a just fight. Their chemistry is still palpable, but put on the sidelines for Ama’s own emotional development.
ROGUE HEART made my heart full, as it follows up on the explosive action of REBEL SEOUL with the continuation of soulful, kind-hearted Ama’s story. I loved both returning to the world, and seeing it from her point of view. She goes through so much growth in this story, and it was incredible. While some scenes were bogged down with repetitive romantic sentiments of old but still present feelings between her and Alex, ultimately, ROGUE HEART stayed fast-paced and fun-filled. Definitely recommend this East Asian-centered sci-fi to science fiction readers that are tired of Western battles and seek a refreshing new concept. Oh’s writing delivers, and you’ll soon find characters that will stay true to your heart, as they did mine.
child cruelty, physical assault, mild violence
Thank you Tu Books and Edelweiss for the review copy!