Someone's put a bounty on Emika's head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn't all that he seems--and his protection comes at a price.
Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?
Synopsis from Goodreads
When Warcross came out last year, I was so excited to read about this futuristic sci-fi world where people can physically play this game; by the end of the book, I was a bit more undecided about my feelings. While you can read my full review of Warcross here, basically while I liked Emi and the concept of the book, I wasn't a fan of Hideo and didn't buy the whole "make the world good by mindcontrol" thing (it was all very rushed), which is why I was interested to see where its sequel, Wildcard, would go. I also really wanted to know more about Zero (he was the most compelling character to me). So, here are my thoughts:
The Tech is Cool But Still Confusing
There was just too much jumping into the Dark World, Darkcross, Warcross games, etc and we are expected to keep up with something that doesn’t really have a real life comparison to ground us. One of the key aspects of compelling fantasy or sci-fi novels (for me) is that they make sure to include something from our contemporary world to ground us in this alternate reality or future. I didn’t find that Wildcard had enough of this and I was constantly having to stop reading to try to figure out what was happening to the characters. I found that I had to force myself not to jump over the chapters where Emi is in the game and get back to the rest of the story (which is obviously hard since a lot of the story happens in these virtual worlds). I still think the concept of this game-obsessed future is really cool, but I don’t think we are given enough information to fully understand how it all works (again, this is just my opinion and readers who are gamers might feel otherwise).
Like Warcross, this book is working on a tight timeline (8 days) and yet it takes almost half the book before something actually happens. For someone who is incredibly worried about the Championship Games, Emi spends the first 1/3 of the book reminiscing about her great (*ahem* wasn't it only days?) love affair with Hideo. I never really bought their relationship to begin with, so the amount of time she spends reflecting on it felt forced. HOWEVER, once Emi and Jax actually have a real conversation, the story begins to move fast and we have to hang on tight to find out what will happen. With so much backstabbing, secret agenda's, and personal beliefs competing for dominance, it's not clear until the end if we should be supporting Hideo, Zero, Dr. Taylor or Jax. I actually found that more exciting because the story could really go anywhere and leaves Lu a lot of possibilities to work with. So while the beginning of this book was incredibly dreary, the second half was really well done.
Hideo is a Bit More Interesting
The biggest fail for me in both books is understanding Emi's interest in Hideo. He's withdrawn, boring, repressed, and incredibly judgmental. I just didn't see the draw in Warcross and why Emi is so obsessed with him. In Wildcard we finally get to see a slightly more passionate version of him. Maybe it's because we know all his secrets now, but I found I was slightly more interested in him. All the Hideo and Emi scenes seemed forced and very unromantic, but Hideo's saving grace is his love for his brother. His determination to find out what happened to Sasuke and ensure that something like that never happens to other children and families is actually admirable (even if what he's doing is illegal), and definitely humanized him. I wanted him and Emi to end up together because it's clearly what she wants, but I'll be honest and say that if something bad happened to him it wouldn't have bothered me either way.
Zero’s Backstory was So Good!
It took FOREVER to find out what happened to remake Sasuke into the person he becomes, but I was so happy when we finally got there! His backstory was so interesting and I loved how it was told through Jax's memories; it added a level of emotion and gave us many different viewpoints to learn about his past (Emika as she learns about it, and the fact that she's learning about it from Jax herself). Zero was a big draw from me in the first book and I was really excited to figure out who he was. Learning about what happening to him was completely unexpected and everything about his storyline was really well done.
Overall, this was a nice end to the series, but I wish the first half of the book was reduced to a few chapters. It took longer than I cared for to get to the interesting moments in this story and the beginning really felt like it was dragging on. If you get through the first half, the second half of the book was well done and ties up the loose ends from Warcross. The ending was different than I expected, but was still a nice way to say goodbye to this world. I'd recommend reading Wildcard if you liked Warcross and want to know how Emi's story ends!
FINAL RATING: 3.5/5
Hi, I'm Alexandra! I love reading (largely YA fiction, but sometimes I'll read "adult" books), playing board games, Nutella, and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix with my husband.
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