Book Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the Sands is the first novel by author Alwyn Hamilton. It is the first in a trilogy. Book two is Traitor to the Throne, and book three is Hero at the Fall.

This book was definitely a cover-buy for me.

When I tell you more of the cover story, you’ll see why that’s kind of coincidental.

Here’s the (UK) cover of Rebel of the Sands, which is STUNNING. I only just found out that it’s the UK cover, more on that later…

Here is the synopsis of Rebel of the Sands from Amazon:

“Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female. Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead.

Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.

This startlingly original Middle-East-meets-Wild-West fantasy reveals what happens when a dream deferred explodes—in the fires of rebellion, of romantic passion, and the all-consuming inferno of a girl finally embracing her power.”

Finally, here’s my review of Rebel of the Sands!

This book was great!

First, the character development was really well done. Characters seemed realistic and had complex flaws. They also had interesting relationships with others.

I also really enjoyed the world-building and setting. It’s certainly unique: as the Amazon review states, it’s “Middle-East-meets-Wild-West” and I couldn’t put it better. This is a far different world than anything I’ve read in a book recently, which was refreshing.

Finally, it’s just a really fun, exciting read. The plot is full of twists and turns, and doesn’t feel too fantastical that I have to shelve my disbelief while reading. I definitely appreciate when it feels like the plot is actually mostly realistic.

As an added bonus, the ending didn’t feel like too much of a cliffhanger, even though it did set up the next book nicely. Bonus!

Now, about those covers…

I ordered my copy of Rebel of the Sands from Book Outlet. I received what I didn’t know was the UK cover. When books 2 & 3 in the trilogy started popping up on Bookstagram (people have been receiving ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) of book 3 recently), I went to Indigo to order book 2.

That’s when I found this.

Ew. My Bookstagram followers agree by a landslide, here’s the results of a recent poll I put up in my Story:

When I first saw the North American cover, I was worried that publishers changed the covers mid-series, but I figured out pretty quick that the UK/AUS covers were still nice. Here’s book 2 (Traitor to the Throne) on Amazon. The only problem is that they seem to only be available in paperback in that format. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem (I am Paperback Patronus, after all), but when I got Rebel of the Sands from Book Outlet, they only had it in hardback. Sigh. Mis-matched series frustrate me.

Anyway, with all that said: overall, 5/5 stars.

This was a really fun, suspenseful, action-packed read. The world-building was really great, and I also liked the character development. I highly recommend it, and hope that the other two books in the series are just as enjoyable!

Happy reading!

– Paperback Patronus

Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval is the first book by writer Stephanie Garber.

Once again, Caraval was a cover buy for me (I’m sensing a trend). It was also a Bookstagram hype buy. Tons of people were talking about this book and how much they loved it. After I bought it, some people started saying they didn’t like it very much, so I went into reading it with a bit of hesitation, and I finished reading it with that same hesitation.

I won’t say more until I include the usual stuff!

Here’s the beautiful cover that made me want the book in the first place:

Here’s the book’s synopsis from Amazon:

“Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.”

And here’s my review of Caraval!

There were two feelings that sort of stuck with me almost the entire time I was reading Caraval. The first, scattered. The second, over dramatic.

Let me explain.

The whole time I was reading, I felt distracted. Normally, when I really enjoy the book, after reading a few sentences, I am in it. Music playing? Can’t hear it. TV on? Not listening. Husband banging pots around in the kitchen? Don’t care. While reading Caraval, my eyes were constantly dancing across the pages, onto the next page, reading ahead, having to go back. And any little sound or distraction had me away from the book. It was strange.

I don’t think that it was because it wasn’t interesting. It still felt like I was reading a page-turner – I loved the suspense and read it really quickly because I was always wanting to know what would happen next. But as I was reading it felt like it wasn’t keeping my attention.

The other word, over dramatic, applies to the main character, Scarlett. She just seemed to overreact to almost everything, and it started to get annoying. Normally I like main characters despite their flaws, but I got tired of her after a while. It will be interesting to see if her character develops/improves in the next book.

I enjoyed it.

It just wasn’t my favourite thing ever. Definitely a page-turner, even if I didn’t like some aspects of it. The concept is very interesting – a magical, mysterious game called Caraval, where the rules are constantly changing. I also liked the main storyline of two sisters trying to escape their unfair life circumstances. It just fell a little flat.

Other Noteworthy Stuff

I really liked that I couldn’t tell who was telling the truth in this story. The narrator, the main character, Scarlett, is definitely reliable. However, two characters in particular, Julian and Legend, are extremely unreliable. As are the rest of the characters, actually.

It makes for a suspenseful romp in which you never really know who to trust. It’s also part of what makes Scarlett feel a bit over dramatic; her inability to trust anyone constantly overwhelms her.

Overall, 3 stars.

Really interesting concept, but lacking in depth. I found it to be over dramatic, and not developed enough in some parts. I’m intrigued enough, however, to want to read the sequel. Legendary, the second book in the series, is scheduled to come out on May 28 of this year.

Happy reading!

– Paperback Patronus

Book Review: Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Everything Is Illuminated is a novel by author Jonathan Safran Foer, who wrote another book that I’ve read (and you’ve probably heard of), Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which was adapted into a movie.

I quite enjoyed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but I hadn’t heard much about Everything Is Illuminated.

Essentially, I bought it because I liked ELaIC (too much to type more than a few times. Foer definitely has some interesting and creative titles to his name.

Here’s the cover of Everything is Illuminated, which I think is pretty nice:

This is the synopsis of Everything is Illuminated from Amazon:

“With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man — also named Jonathan Safran Foer — sets out to find the woman who may or may not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Accompanied by an old man haunted by memories of the war; an amorous dog named Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior; and the unforgettable Alex, a young Ukrainian translator who speaks in a sublimely butchered English, Jonathan is led on a quixotic journey over a devastated landscape and into an unexpected past.

By turns comic and tragic, but always passionate, wildly inventive, and touched with an indelible humanity, this debut novel is a powerful, deeply felt story of searching: for the past, family, and truth.”

Finally, here’s my review of Everything is Illuminated!

This book hooked me from the very first page. It starts with a letter from Alex in the Ukraine to Jonathan in New York. His writes in English as if he translated each word individually from Ukrainian into English and then used a Thesaurus to make each word more interesting. However, it feels as though he disregards all meaning and this makes his writing gut-splittingly funny and charmingly heartwarming.

As the book went on, I became more and more enthralled with the characters and what would happen to them, but I also enjoyed the reading of the story less. It is a difficult feeling to describe.

I also definitely didn’t like the ending. I hate to be like that, but not liking the end of a story really dampens how I feel about it.

Other Noteworthy Stuff

The story was really unique. This is not something you’re going to recognize other storylines in. The perspectives were different and refreshing, and the conflict is particular and quirky.

The narrative structure is different as well, flipping back and forth between narrators Alex and Jonathan. It also includes letters from Alex to Jonathan. I felt this really helped the story along, and if it only had one perspective, it would have felt much more arduous to read.

Overall, 4/5 stars.

I didn’t like the direction the plot took and enjoyed reading the book less and less as it went on. However, I still thought it was an enjoyable and interesting reading experience.

Happy reading!

– Paperback Patronus

Book Reviews: A History of Magic and the Illustrated Fantastic Beasts

Two reviews in one with this post! The first is of Harry Potter: A History of Magic,  put together by the British Library to accompany their exhibition of the same name. The second is of the new illustrated and updated edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander, written by J. K. Rowling and illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill.

First, Harry Potter: A History of Magic!

I essentially buy any book that comes out to do with Harry Potter. I even have multiple editions of the series itself. So, when this book came out, I knew I had to have it!

First, here’s the beautiful cover of Harry Potter: A History of Magic:

And here’s the synopsis from Amazon:

“Harry Potter: A History of Magic is the official book of the exhibition, a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between Bloomsbury, J.K. Rowling and the brilliant curators of the British Library. It promises to take readers on a fascinating journey through the subjects studied at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – from Alchemy and Potions classes through to Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures.

Each chapter showcases a treasure trove of artefacts from the British Library and other collections around the world, beside exclusive manuscripts, sketches and illustrations from the Harry Potter archive. There’s also a specially commissioned essay for each subject area by an expert, writer or cultural commentator, inspired by the contents of the exhibition – absorbing, insightful and unexpected contributions from Steve Backshall, the Reverend Richard Coles, Owen Davies, Julia Eccleshare, Roger Highfield, Steve Kloves, Lucy Mangan, Anna Pavord and Tim Peake, who offer a personal perspective on their magical theme.

Readers will be able to pore over ancient spell books, amazing illuminated scrolls that reveal the secret of the Elixir of Life, vials of dragon’s blood, mandrake roots, painted centaurs and a genuine witch’s broomstick, in a book that shows J.K. Rowling’s magical inventions alongside their cultural and historical forebears.

This is the ultimate gift for Harry Potter fans, curious minds, big imaginations, bibliophiles and readers around the world who missed out on the chance to see the exhibition in person.”

Finally, here’s my review of Harry Potter: A History of Magic!

I really loved the premise of this book. It combines actual real-world history of magic and magical artefacts with the history of magic in the world of Harry Potter.

Also, it was amazing to see the early drawings J. K. Rowling made of her characters (she’s pretty good at drawing!) and the early drafts and edits she shared of the series.

One of the things I didn’t like much about this book was that there was some repetition – first because I read the illustrated Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them a few days prior, and especially in the “Care of Magical Creatures” section, there are a lot of quotes from FB, and second because there is some overlap between the different sections of the book and they often say exactly the same thing twice, but in two different sections. I think this wouldn’t matter as much if you were reading it like a coffee table book, intermittently or in passing. However, reading it in the span of less than 24 hours made it a bit annoying.

Extra-Memorable Elements

I loved the way this book was structured. It has several sections. Each section is a subject at Hogwarts, such as Herbology or Defense Against the Dark Arts. Each section is then themed around the history of magic in that subject.

I also really loved the essays from experts that introduced each section. They were interesting and insightful. Even better, each writer was very creative and seemed to be a fan of the Harry Potter universe themselves.

Overall, 4/5 stars.

Definitely an interesting read for people who love history or the Harry Potter universe, or both. The images and stories are enthralling, and the essays by different experts are very good. However, it is a bit repetitive.

Next, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!

I already have a copy of the original Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but I’m all over anything illustrated. Further, this edition has some new magical beasts in it that weren’t in the original edition. Newt Scamander’s introduction explains that. It even ties in with the recent Fantastic Beasts movie, which I think is awesome.

This is the cover of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (and also a sneak peek of something I’ll be sharing soon):

Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:

“This glorious new edition of Newt Scamander’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (considered a classic throughout the wizarding world) features an extraordinary array of magical creatures, from Acromantula to Yeti via ten different breeds of dragon – all beautifully illustrated in full colour by the brilliantly inventive, Greenaway Medal shortlisted Olivia Lomenech Gill.

Famed Magizoologist Newt Scamander’s years of adventure and exploration have yielded a work of unparalleled importance, admired by scholars, devoured by young witches and wizards, and even made available to Muggles in the early years of this century. With this dazzling illustrated edition, readers can explore the magical fauna of five continents from the comfort of their own armchairs. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is essential reading at Hogwarts.

This new edition features the fully updated 2017 text – which includes new profiles of six magnificent beasts that inhabit North America and a new foreword by J.K. Rowling, writing as Newt Scamander.”

And finally, here’s my review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!

The most obviously amazing aspect of this book is the illustrations. Olivia Lomenech Gill knocks it out of the park.

Listed alphabetically, this book describes the origins and characteristics of the fantastic magical beasts that make up the world of the Harry Potter books and Fantastic Beasts movies.

Even better, the book connects these magical creatures to real-world phenomena, such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Awesome.

Other Noteworthy Stuff

The introduction by J. K. Rowling as Newt Scamander is surprisingly funny. Also, I loved how it tied in with the recent Fantastic Beasts movie. I love that the magic of the Harry Potter universe never dies. It seems to be constantly adapting and evolving. I am so happy that I will likely get to experience the expansion of this wonderful universe for many years to come.

Overall, 5/5 stars.

This is magical book in terms of content, writing, and illustration. So, I highly recommend it for all ages and lovers of the Harry Potter universe.

Happy reading!

– Paperback Patronus

Book Review: Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Wonder is the first book by author Raquel Jaramillo, under the pen name R. J. Palacio.

I’d heard a lot of great things on Bookstagram about this one, and rave reviews about the movie.

Of course, I’m a READ IT FIRST kind of girl. I hate going to movies based on books if I haven’t read the book, because I feel like seeing the movie first ruins the experience of reading the book.

So, I picked it up.

Here’s the cover of Wonder, which I quite like (and was adamant about getting instead of the new movie one that just came out – more on that in another post):

This is the synopsis of Wonder from Goodreads.

“‘My name is August.
I won’t describe to you what I look like.
Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.’
Ten-year-old August Pullman wants to be ordinary. He does ordinary things. He eats ice-cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary – inside.
But Auggie is far from ordinary. Born with a terrible facial abnormality, he has been home-schooled by his parents his entire life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, Auggie’s parents are sending him to a real school. Can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all?
Narrated by Auggie and the people around him whose lives he touches, Wonder is a frank, funny, astonishingly moving debut to be read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.”

Finally, here’s my review of Wonder!

Wonder feels like an honest telling of what goes on at school. I teach grade 8 and 10 at a secondary school, and although a 10-year-old like Auggie would attend elementary school, I think I’ve spent enough time working as a teacher (and more time than I would have liked as a substitute in elementary schools) that I can say that with confidence.

The things that occur in the book are heartbreaking, partly because they are sad and mean and horrible, but also partly because they are real and possible and probable. And that is an important moral truth.

However, I love how hopeful this book is. The tagline for the movie release was #choosekind, and that was clear throughout the story. I especially liked the precepts that Auggie’s English teacher introduced each month. In my opinion, it is the Social-Emotional lessons that are the most important part of a teacher’s job. The things students learn through those types of activities are what make them positive, caring, and contributing adult citizens.

Other Noteworthy Stuff

Not only is Wonder a heart-warming tale of resilience, kindness, and hope, but it is also a harrowing cautionary tale. It demonstrates the kind of hatred and meanness that young people are capable of if they are not taught kindness. It’s an important lesson that needs to be taken seriously, for adults and children alike.

Also, this is the first time I’ve cried reading a book in as long as I can remember. It was wonderfully cathartic. I won’t tell you what made me cry because it would be a spoiler. But any book that can make me cry is certainly worth a read. It really is a wonder.

Finally, I really loved the different perspectives in this story. It starts out from the perspective of August, but switches to other characters in the story that are a part of his life. It definitely adds to the story for it to switch around like that.

Overall, 5/5 stars.

I definitely recommend Wonder! One caveat: I based this rating on the fact that this is a book intended for young(ish) readers.

Happy reading!

– Paperback Patronus

Book Review: The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

The Smell of Other People’s Houses is the first book by writer Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock.

Once again, this was a cover buy for me, but also a title buy. I’ve always had a slight fascination with the striking differences in the smell of people’s homes.  Smells have always affected me strongly. Some can make me nauseated almost instantly. Others can make me cry, and still others make my throat close over (that part is because I’m allergic to a lot of smells). I really enjoyed the fact that this title actually ended up being integral to the plot of the novel. More on that later.

Now, I don’t want to ruin the effect of first seeing the cover for you by telling you what it looks like, but I will say that it has stars on it, and generally anything with stars on it is an instant cover-buy from me.

So, here’s this gorgeous cover I’ve been talking up:

Now, before I get to what I think, here’s the synopsis of the book, pulled from Amazon:

“This deeply moving and authentic debut set in 1970s Alaska is for fans of Rainbow Rowell, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and Benjamin Alire Saenz. Intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation on the edge of America’s Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare talent.

Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.

Four very different lives are about to become entangled. This unforgettable William C. Morris Award finalist is about people who try to save each other—and how sometimes, when they least expect it, they succeed.

Finally, here’s my review of The Smell of Other People’s Houses!

Reading this book was an interesting experience in terms of the meta-thought processes that were going on.

Now that I’ve started reviewing every book that I read, I find myself taking time between reading sessions (or while I’m reading) to think about what I would rate it at any given point.

When I started The Smell of Other People’s Houses, I was thinking I’d probably give it a 3. Pretty unusual for me; I tend to love absolutely everything I read and it’s usually a decision between 4 and 5. While this is relevant to the conversation now, I figure it is also important to let my readers know early on that I’m unlikely to dislike a book and my star ratings might not be terribly helpful. However, by the end of the book…

I was enamoured.

I tend to love novels that include several disparate characters’ perspectives whose connections aren’t obvious until they come together by divine providence or magical happenstance or for a really stupid reason or for no reason at all or for some combination of all the above reasons. This one was no different. Hitchcock artfully stitches together the characters’ stories, slowly and carefully, with just the right amount of suspense. Even better, the ending was perfect and didn’t feel contrived.

Other Noteworthy Stuff

First, I get a bit uncomfortable when I realize that a white person is writing about Aboriginal experiences, but Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock was born and raised in Alaska and consulted several authentic voices on this subject. Also, this was by no means purported to be a true or authentic story; further, from my (admittedly white) perspective, it does feel as though she’s tried to be as truthful as possible, without romanticizing or glazing over the difficult aspects of Aboriginal life as they were in the setting of the book.

That being said, there was some really beautiful symbolism at work in this text. I feel as though saying too much more would be a spoiler. So, I’ll just leave this topic by saying that I think the main symbols in this book are artfully interwoven. They really made the story that much more magical.

Finally: I can’t believe I haven’t talked about it yet. The author crafts the theme of smell wonderfully and explores it with great detail throughout the text. It definitely supports the symbolism as the base layer for the tons of beautiful imagery threaded throughout the text.

Overall, 4.5/5 stars.

Slightly difficult to get in to. Absolutely enrapturing after a little while, and a stunning ending to knit all the narrators’ stories together.

Happy reading!

– Paperback Patronus

Book Review: Columbine by Dave Cullen

Columbine is a nonfiction book by Dave Cullen. It is an account of everything to do with the tragedy, including events before and post, and accounts of many of the people affected by it. It even includes excerpts of Eric and Dylan’s journals and plans.

This is a book that my local Indigo featured a while ago and it caught my eye. I’m a fan of non-fiction and this event was both harrowing and fascinating.

Here’s the cover:

And here’s the synopsis of the book, pulled from Amazon:

“The tragedies keep coming. As we reel from the latest horror . . . ” So begins a new epilogue, illustrating how Columbine became the template for nearly two decades of “spectacle murders.” It is a false script, seized upon by a generation of new killers. In the wake of Newtown, Aurora, and Virginia Tech, the imperative to understand the crime that sparked this plague grows more urgent every year.

What really happened April 20, 1999? The horror left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, but most of what we “know” is wrong. It wasn’t about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia. Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on scene, and spent ten years on this book-widely recognized as the definitive account. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on mountains of evidence, insight from the world’s leading forensic psychologists, and the killers’ own words and drawings-several reproduced in a new appendix. Cullen paints raw portraits of two polar opposite killers. They contrast starkly with the flashes of resilience and redemption among the survivors.”

Finally, here’s my review of Columbine!

This was a tough read. However, I want to be clear that the fact that it was difficult has nothing to do with my review.

What I loved most about this book was the breadth and depth of its storytelling. Not only was the novel about the perpetrators of the killing spree, Eric and Dylan; it was also about the vast numbers of victims, investigators, journalists, first-responders, and their families and friends that were affected by this tragedy.

The research was detailed and in-depth. Like the Amazon review, states, Cullen spent 10 years working on pulling it all together into this comprehensive account.

What I found most important was Cullen’s emphasis on the why of the event. This was much distorted by the media coverage. Many believed the boys were lashing out at people who bullied them such as jocks. They were not.  They also weren’t actually being bullied. Many believed that it was to do with their involvement in the Trenchcoat Mafia, a group at Columbine at the time. It wasn’t. They also weren’t a part of that group. Eric was a psychopath. Dylan had severe depression and suicidal ideation. Their combination of personalities created this great tragedy.

Other Great Stuff

Write here. Talk about how touching the writing was – how many times my heart dropped.

Another thing I found really important about this book was the author’s emphasis on flipping the script from the biggest school shooting in history (at the time) to a complete and utter failure. Not that it would have been better if the boys had succeeded — their plan was to destroy the entire high school with bombs and kill over 600 people — but that the media’s portrayal of the boys at the “top of the list” so-to-speak for mass murders glorified them and made them the “success” they wanted in their last acts, when truly they failed, utterly, at everything they were trying to carry out.

In a similar vein, Cullen also emphasized the important role the media must play in the future of diminishing the time spent covering the perpetrators of these types of crimes, and focusing on the victims and the circumstances. Part of the reason that psychopaths commit these types of crimes is that they love the spectacle of it. They want to be in the spotlight. Reducing their time in that limelight makes the crime less desirable.

One Caveat

I found that the book jumped around a lot. I would have preferred it to follow a more linear timeline. However, I understand the reasoning behind it skipping from thing to thing – there’s just so many accounts to include, and they all relate to different aspects of the event. It could have done a bit better if it was more chronological, in my opinion. You’re often going back and forward in time.

Overall, 4/5 stars. I definitely recommend this one to mature readers, with the caveat that it will likely affect your mental health during and post-reading. Tread with care and take good care of yourself during and after the reading experience!

Happy (ish) reading!

– Paperback Patronus

Book Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross is a new novel by YA writer Marie Lu. You may know her as the writer of the Legend trilogy, which I may have to read now that I’ve fallen head over heels for Warcross. But I’ll get to that in a minute, I can’t be giving away my whole review just yet!

Ever since I first saw the cover of this book on Bookstagram, I wanted it. Yes, I’m admitting it, this was definitely a cover buy. I was sorely disappointed when I realized that the rainbow naked cover is UK-only. Side note: can anyone help me out with this?! There’s a reason I bought this book in hardcover (gasp, AGAIN). Now I’m considering paying $45 to have it shipped from the UK…

Case in point:

This is the UK naked cover, as photographed by @weereader on Twitter.

And this is the cover for North America and everywhere else, as photographed by me on my couch.

This teal IS one of my all-time favourite colours. But it just can’t hold a candle to the rainbow edition, IMO.

Anywho, after the whole cover-buy situation, I started hearing what everyone thought of it, and I could NOT wait to read it. Most people who’ve posted about Warcross absolutely loved it.

Before I get to what I think, here’s the synopsis of the book, pulled from Amazon:

“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 Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. 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.

In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.”

Finally, here’s my review of Warcross!

Like I said, most people really liked this book. I’m going to weigh in with similar enthusiasm.

I think the strongest element of this novel was the main character’s struggle with right and wrong. Without getting too spoiler-y, the main conflict in the novel has a twist at the end. The main character ends up wondering if she did the right thing.

The whole plot seems to be what Margaret Atwood would call “speculative fiction,” something that plausibly could actually occur in the relatively near future. Not only is the plot an exciting romp through a digitally enhanced world with elaborate world-wide gaming competitions, it’s also a warning to the current and future generations. With great power comes great responsibility.

Other Great Stuff

I really loved the character development and world-building in this novel. At least 6 characters got really detailed, nuanced development. It was easy to relate to them, and they were all so distinct and well-designed. The plot was set in both New York and several places in Japan. However, they are futuristic versions of each, in a world dominated by the Warcross empire. They were so thoughtfully and carefully crafted. So much that over the weekend during which I was reading the book, my dreams were taking place in these fictitious renditions of NY and Tokyo.


Also, just like Turtles, I really liked the ending of Warcross. It definitely set things up for a sequel. However, it wasn’t too cliffhanger-y that I was mad. Also, it really added to the books thematic discussion of the ethics which I found so enticing.

Overall, 5/5 stars. Highly recommend, especially to YA readers and those who like sci-fi!

Happy reading!

– Paperback Patronus