ARC Review – Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Renegades (Renegades, #1)
Renegades
by Marissa Meyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brilliant beginning to a new series from Marissa Meyer. It’s packed full of all the best super hero cliches making it a really fun read but the real highlight is the wonderful writing and twists and turns which make you question just who’s the superhero and who’s the villain. I can’t wait for book 2.


THE BLURB

Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.


MY REVIEW

I’m a huge big fan of Marissa Meyer’s and a huge big fan of all things super hero so this should have been a match made in heaven for me and for the most part it was.

The writing is as always wonderful and Meyer certainly knows how to create brilliant and complex characters who are kind of morally grey but it was maybe that little bit too long and had a bit too much going on for me to love it.

The story itself felt very X-Men, two groups of people with super powers (the Renegades and the Anarchists) who have very different ideas about what’s best for society and end up at odds. Nova (or Nightmare to use her super villain name) has been raised by the Anarchists following the death of her family at the hands of a gang. She feels the Renegades let her down and is determined to bring them down at any cost.

Adrian (aka Sketch) is a Renegade and, while he’s not wholly on board with the way some of the Renegade teams operate, he believes in the cause and wants to protect all of those who need it. His mother was one of the original members of the Renegades and after she died in mysterious circumstances he’s been determined to find out what happened to her.

When an attack by the Arnarchists on the Renegades goes wrong Nova decides her best chance to defeat them is to become one, going undercover to destroy them from the inside. Adrian however is obsessed with tracking down Nightmare as she seems to hold the clue to just what happens to his mother. Like Nova though, he also has a secret identity to protect.

I absolutely loved how twisty this story is. Pretty much every one seems to have some kind of secret so there’s a lot of mystery and reveals. The whole secret identity thing is just so wonderfully superhero-y. Although, like Superman, I found myself wondering just how no one could spot it was the same person with a change of clothes/mask/pair of glasses.

There are in fact a lot of the best cliches from the super hero movies, tragic backstory, discovery of powers, changing allegiances, double crosses, ya know all that good stuff. It may not be wholly original but it’s fantastically good fun. What I loved most however is how Meyer manages to take something that should be black and white and make it grey. As the story progresses it become increasingly difficult to work out just which side are the baddies and which are the goodies and I think I ended up with more sympathy for the villains than the heroes.

I really, really liked both Nova and Adrian as characters. Nova is a wonderfully strong character. She begins with some very strong convictions but finds herself questioning them. She does come across as a little naive (especially considering she’s part of the Anarchists) but I can let that go. Adrian is just very sweet and awkward and extremely gallant. He just wants to save everyone.

I absolutely adored the relationship between them. It’s a little bit Romeo and Juliet although Adrian is completely clueless that Nova’s there to destroy his family and she’s completely clueless about his secret identity too. It’s frustrating as hell (why don’t they know) but it’s also totally addictive reading.

The other characters are very well done and many of them surprised me. One in particular I was completely shocked to find myself feeling sorry for but it’s just a mark of how good the authors writing is that I was almost in tears when this horrible character got their comeuppance.

If I had one big gripe about the story it’s that there is possibly too much to keep track of. There are a lot of characters and I have to admit I struggled throughout to keep them straight in my head. Each one has a real name, a superhero name and a super power and it was all just too much for my feeble memory. I kind of hope there’s some kind of character list with all of this information, their relationships to each other and affiliations in the physical book and with a bit of luck in the next book too as I’m never going to remember.

I also think it was maybe a little bit on the long side. There were a few moments in the first half of the book which were on the slow side to allow for all of the world building and scene setting. I can completely understand why it was needed and by the second half I couldn’t put it down but I do wonder if it could have been done differently.

All that being said though I do think this was a brilliant start to the series. Towards the end I was finding it incredibly difficult to put down and ended up staying up till 1am wanting to know how it was going to end and it was totally worth it. That ending was wow and now I don’t know how I’m going to wait for the next book, I need it now.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

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ARC Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

ArtemisArtemis by Andy Weir

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An absolutely brilliant heist story set on the moon. Full of detail and, like The Martian, a lot of science but it’s a fascinating and fun read with a great cast of characters and a lot of action.


THE BLURB

Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of Jazz’s problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself – and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even more unlikely than the first.


MY REVIEW

So it’s safe to say that I have a rather complicated relationship with sci fi. I always say that I don’t really like it but there’s a surprising number of books in the genre that make my all time favorites list. When it works best for me I think is when it’s light on the science and heavy on the fiction. Long winded descriptions of how things work and why are a big turn off, I honestly don’t care.

This wariness of books heavy with science is in fact the reason I have never read The Martian. I heard there was a lot of descriptions and decided to stick with the movie (which I absolutely love btw). However, having now braved Artemis I think I may need to reconsider.

Very much like The Martian, Artemis is heavy on science, however this time rather than one astronaut trying to survive alone on Mars we have a whole colony living everyday life on the moon. All of them completely dependent on a myriad of systems that let them breathe, eat, drink, move around and keep them safe from any number of threats. It’s absolutely fascinating just how complicated these systems are and how everyday things are just a little bit different in such an environment. There is a lot of description in this but I absolutely loved it.

I have no idea how much is accurate or “real” science but it feels incredibly real and detailed and so well thought out. It’s never too overwhelming though and for someone like me it’s not too heavy and works around the story which is much more heist like in nature. Think Ocean’s Eleven on the moon.

Jazz is a porter and smuggler on Artemis and desperate to raise a very specific sum of money so when she’s offered a less than legal, highly risky job with a potentially huge reward she can’t resist. It all goes wrong however and she ends up on the bad side of some very dangerous people and the law. She’s forced to use her smarts and call in every favor she’s owed from her friends to pull off one more job which just might get her out of trouble or possibly even further in.

I have a feeling that Jazz will not be quite as popular as Mark Watney. She’s abrasive, has dubious ethics and despite being highly intelligent (possibly genius) she’s always looking for the highest reward for minimal effort. She keeps everyone at arms length, reader included, but despite some initial reservations she did grow on me. I loved her rebellious attitude and smart mouth and some of her comebacks really made me laugh. She’s a risk taker and is completely unpredictable which always makes for good reading.

The supporting cast of characters also make for great reading. Some are a little bit stereotyped in places but there’s something very likable about them and I loved the way they bounced off each other. The moments where they’re bantering were probably my favorite parts of the whole book.

The story is a little complicated in places (and not only because of the science) but it’s pretty fast paced and there’s plenty of action. There is the odd moment where it slows down but it did hold my attention throughout and it’s incredibly impressive the amount of detail and work that has clearly gone into it.

Overall, I’m really glad I gave this a go and it’s definitely one I’d recommend if you like a clever heist story.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC, as always all views are my own.

Review: The Empress by S.J. Kincaid

The Empress (The Diabolic #2)The Empress by S.J. Kincaid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I may not have been sure I wanted a sequel to The Diabolic but I’m so glad we got one. It’s completely unpredictable, full of action and a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Nemesis is an absolutely brilliant character and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

*Spoiler Alert* This is second book in a series so while my review has no spoilers for the book both it and the blurb contain major spoilers for The Diabolic.


THE BLURB

It’s a new day in the Empire. Tyrus has ascended to the throne with Nemesis by his side and now they can find a new way forward—one where they don’t have to hide or scheme or kill. One where creatures like Nemesis will be given worth and recognition, where science and information can be shared with everyone and not just the elite.

But having power isn’t the same thing as keeping it, and change isn’t always welcome. The ruling class, the Grandiloquy, has held control over planets and systems for centuries—and they are plotting to stop this teenage Emperor and Nemesis, who is considered nothing more than a creature and certainly not worthy of being Empress.

Nemesis will protect Tyrus at any cost. He is the love of her life, and they are partners in this new beginning. But she cannot protect him by being the killing machine she once was. She will have to prove the humanity that she’s found inside herself to the whole Empire—or she and Tyrus may lose more than just the throne. But if proving her humanity means that she and Tyrus must do inhuman things, is the fight worth the cost of winning it?


MY REVIEW

I was a huge big fan of The Diabolic (it was one of my favourite reads of 2016) but have to admit I thought it was a standalone. I wasn’t too sure what to think when I heard we were getting a sequel. I liked the ending to The Diabolic but I was quite excited at the prospect of finding out what’s next for one of my favorite characters.

The story picks up almost immediately after book one with Tyrus on the throne and Nemesis by his side but while it seems they’ve gotten everything they want they’re in a very precarious position. The other senators are not happy with Tyrus’s radical ideas and aren’t overly keen on the idea of Nemesis becoming Empress. Add to that there’s something uneasy about the relationship between Tyrus and Nemesis. Neither fully trusts the other and they are so very different it’s difficult to see how their relationship can survive.

I kind of wish I’d re read The Diabolic before I picked this up as it took me a little while to get back up to speed on the world, it’s characters, the governance system and just who killed who. This is definitely not a book you can just pick up without reading the previous book and even then there’s a lot to remember. The author does a pretty good job of bringing you up to speed without info dumping though so it wasn’t long before I was fully immersed in this world of political maneuvering, deceit and violence.

Rather than going over old ground however the focus of this story is in moving things forward and questioning all that we seemingly know. She builds on the structure already in place adding so much more depth and detail but also bringing in so much new information on their religion and history. There are a few surprises in store for both the readers and the characters.

With this increasing focus on the religion the author asks some very powerful questions such as what does it actually mean to be human. Can someone who was created in a lab from various bits of DNA really be considered human and do they have a soul? It also raises issues around if and where a line should be drawn on genetic engineering and technological advances and is controlling technology and knowledge a way to control the masses. All things which I find fascinating.

Based on what I’ve said so far you’re probably thinking oh god this sounds so boring but it’s anything but. From almost the very first page you’re straight into action and it never lets up. It’s violent, horrifying and often heartbreaking and it’s completely unpredictable. Every time you think you know where it’s going some huge great spanner gets tossed in.

It’s safe to say there’s a lot of death and destruction, the scale of it is immense and it’s often sudden and shocking. What can you expect I suppose when your main character was grown in a lab with one purpose, protect a certain person at any cost.

I really, really love Nemesis. She’s such a wonderfully unique character. Due to her upbringing she has absolutely no empathy and no conscience. She’s very stab first, ask questions later when it comes to protecting those she loves. There’s no questioning her actions or indecisiveness which is incredibly refreshing.

What I love though is how she’s developing over the course of the series and in this book in particular. She’s becoming more human and learning what that really means. The contrast between her and Tyrus is fascinating to watch. He’s much more of a thinker than a doer so they balance each other out in a lot of ways but also often end up at odds when she wants to act and he doesn’t. I do love them together though. They get a really rough ride in this but the moments when it’s just the two of them are some of my favorites.

The differences between her and some of the other characters are also interesting. She’s considered a monster but she’s actually very naive in a lot of ways and sees the world in very simple terms. Those around her plotting and scheming and committing terrible acts could be considered far more monstrous than she ever is.

The pacing of the story is pretty much spot on and it’s definitely a very readable book. I more or less read the whole thing in a few hours. It’s so unpredictable and so packed full of twists it’s difficult to put down and the conclusion when it came was truly epic. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. As always all views are my own.

Review: Spandex and the City by Jenny T. Colgan

Spandex and the City

Spandex and the City by Jenny T. Colgan

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars for being so hilariously funny, brilliant and a little bit mad.


THE BLURB

LOCAL GIRL SWEPT OFF HER FEET

Mild-mannered publicist Holly Phillips is unlucky in love. She’s embarrassed beyond belief when the handsome stranger she meets in a bar turns out to be ‘Ultimate Man’ – a superpowered hero whose rescue attempt finds her hoisted over his shoulder and flashing her knickers in the newspaper the next day.

But when Holly’s fifteen minutes of fame make her a target for something villainous, she only has one place to turn – and finds the man behind the mask holds a lot more charm than his crime-fighting alter-ego.

Can Holly find love, or is superdating just as complicated as the regular kind?


MY REVIEW

This book is out of this world…

Or should that be “involved in some kind of industrial accident that gave it super powers”??

I really, really loved this book. I am a big fan of Jenny Colgan but I’m an even bigger fan of Jenny T Colgan. This book has the usual mix of fun, humour and romance but with the added bonus of Ultimate Man. Yep we’re in super hero territory.

Have you ever wished you could be involved with a super hero or have you, like main character Holly, realized that actually being romantically linked to a man who wears a purple costume and is on a mission to use his superpowers to save the world is a little bit rubbish. Saving the world is admittedly more important than going on a date but being ditched is no fun, the costume is kinda naff (does everything really need to be purple) and let’s face it you’re going to end up as the damsel in distress. On the other hand though, if you’re single in the city with not many options you could probably do worse.

I absolutely loved how Colgan poked fun at the whole superhero world (in the most affectionate of ways) and how completely unimpressed Holly was by Ultimate Man. It had me giggling away on more than one occasion but is oh so true. Holly was a brilliant character and very relatable. She’s a little bit ditzy and seems to spend an awful lot of time embarrassing herself but she knows what she wants and despite having no powers she’s willing to get stuck in.

The romance is pretty sweet and funny as you would expect but there are also a few unexpected complications and bit of a love triangle which makes it a little bit unpredictable. It’s by no means certain how it’s all going to end. The whole superhero vs his nemesis storyline is fun and I loved how Colgan managed to sneak in a little dig at our current obsession with technology. If I had one minor niggle (and it is very minor) it’s that I thought some of the action scenes could use some work. It may just be me but I found it a little confusing trying to figure out what was going on.

Overall though I absolutely loved it. It may not be for you if you’re looking for Colgan’s usual cosy food related romances but if you don’t mind something a little bit different and a lot funny I’d definitely recommend.

I received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. This has in no way influenced my review and if it helps I also bought a physical copy.

The Dazzling Heights by Katherine McGee

The Dazzling Heights (The Thousandth Floor #2)The Dazzling Heights by Katharine McGee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for. I thought The Thousandth Floor was fantastic but with that cliffhanger at the end I really needed this, the second book, as soon as possible and it really doesn’t disappoint.

All of the things I loved about the first book are there but now that a lot of the world building is out of the way the focus is much more on the characters and story. There’s yet another fantastic hook at the start to keep you reading and more twists and turns than a twisty turny thing. The highlight for me though was definitely the development of the characters and their relationships. Now the wait is on for book three.

I should add a warning here that as this is the second book in the series there are spoilers from here on in for book one so if you haven’t read it go do that or have a read at my review.


The Blurb

All that glitters is not gold.

New York City, 2118. Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a breathtaking marvel that touches the sky. But amid high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, five teenagers are keeping dangerous secrets…

Leda is haunted by memories of what happened on the worst night of her life. She’ll do anything to make sure the truth stays hidden—even if it means trusting her enemy.

Watt just wants to put everything behind him…until Leda forces him to start hacking again. Will he do what it takes to be free of her for good?

When Rylin wins a scholarship to an upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being there also means seeing the boy whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return.

Avery is tormented by her love for the one person in the world she can never have. She’s desperate to be with him…no matter the cost.

And then there’s Calliope, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who arrives in New York determined to cause a stir. And she knows exactly where to begin.

But unbeknownst to them all, someone is watching their every move, someone with revenge in mind. After all, in a world of such dazzling heights, just one wrong step can mean a devastating fall.


My Review

Yet again this book kicks off with a killer hook, there’s a body in the water. Did they drown or just happen to end up there? Was it an accident, was it deliberate or was it murder? Most important of all, who is it? With a beginning like that it’s very difficult to walk away from this story and, even though the author did exactly the same in the first book, I found myself unable to put it down until I got answers.

Unfortunately it’s a long and frustrating wait as the story jumps back in time to a few months earlier picking up shortly after the shocking events at the end of the previous book which have left everyone (me included) reeling.

The narrative follows a similar style to book one with the chapters rotating through the points of view of each of the main characters all of whom are dealing with things in their own unique way. Some are grieving, others wracked with guilt and some are out for revenge or trying to cover everything up. It’s like one of those TV drama’s about the rich and famous (think Revenge or Gossip Girl) but set 100 years from now.

I thought I would struggle to get back into this series and the world but it actually came pretty easily. It all felt very familiar. All of the same characters are there and it felt like coming back to people I knew, or at least thought I did as the author does a wonderful job of developing them. I found my opinions of them shifting and changing throughout the story.

Similarly, the relationships between them that began in the first book continue to evolve and change and I found my view of them starting to shift a little bit too. There was also a new and surprising relationship which I have to say I fully support but there was one in particular I really wanted to work and so far that hasn’t happened, oh well, maybe in book three.

As well as the familiar the author also adds a couple of new characters to shake things up a bit, the main one being Calliope Brown. I have to admit though that while I can understand why she was added she wasn’t my favorite and her whole storyline kind of bugged me. The mother and daughter con artists thing seems to have been lifted directly from the movie Heartbreakers (one of my fave films btw). There’s one scene in particular in the hotel lobby that seemed to have been almost lifted word for word. I probably would have been ok with a con artist type story but it just didn’t have any originality.

The story itself, is wonderfully addictive just like in the Thousandth Floor. The pacing is absolutely spot on and the mysterious death in the beginning really draws you in. The author keeps you guessing and throws in so many twists and red herrings that you don’t have a hope in hell of figuring it out until the very end. It’s frustrating but absolutely brilliant. I found myself on the edge of my seat on more than one occasion only to be screaming in frustration the next when I realized I wasn’t finding out what happened yet.

The futuristic setting and sci fi elements do add an interesting aspect to the story but as most of the world building took place in the first book there is definitely a lot more focus on the characters and story this time around. Similar to my biggest gripe with The Thousandth Floor though, I do still think the author goes a little bit too far in terms of the tech and gadgets. Just because it’s set in the future doesn’t mean everything has to be super high tech and gimmicky. When they started with edible lights in the icing of a cake I was ready to throw my kindle at the wall. No one messes with cake. I kind of feel, just let icing be icing or a blanket be a blanket. Not everything has to be different. Anyway, as you can probably tell the cake made me very angry but, I’m over it.

Overall, despite my cake related issues, this is definitely a book and a series that I’d recommend. It’s a completely addictive read with more than a few twists and surprises.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all view are my own.

Review: Invictus by Ryan Graudin

InvictusInvictus by Ryan Graudin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Perfect for fans of TV shows like Firefly, I absolutely loved this story about five teens travelling through time stealing artifacts.

There’s something instantly engaging about Graudin’s writing and as someone who isn’t generally a fan of historical fiction I absolutely loved the mix of history and science fiction. There’s plenty of action, a few unexpected twists, a teeny tiny bit of romance and a fantastic cast of characters.

The only bad thing about this book is that it’s a standalone and not the first in a series.


The Blurb

Time flies when you’re plundering history.

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.


Review

Have you ever started reading a book and known from the very first page you were going to love it? That was exactly what happened to me with Invictus.

I’m a big fan of time travel stories so this was always going to be right up my street but there was something instantly likeable about Graudin’s writing style and I loved the cast of characters she created. When it comes to TV I’m a big fan of sci-fi shows like Star Trek, Doctor Who and Firefly and this definitely has that kind of vibe about it. It really reminded me of Firefly in particular with the crew of the Invictus travelling through time stealing artefacts and trying to avoid the authorities.

I loved each and every member of the crew but most of all I loved the camaraderie between them. There’s a good mix of personalities represented from Farway, the self assured, risk taking captain who can adapt to pretty much any situation to Gram, his quiet and genius best friend and engineer, to Eliot who always seems to be a step ahead and full of secrets. My favorite character however had to be Imogen, Far’s cousin and the historian on the crew. She’s just so bright, positive and devoted to her fur baby, Saffron the red panda. They definitely bring the joy and fun to the story. Medic Priya was probably the hardest to warm up to but I think that was simply the nature of her character, calm and a little detached.

The story is told from the POV of each of the crew members as well as brief chapters from a couple of other characters so you definitely get to know them all well. Personally I loved Imogen and Gram’s chapters the most but I would happily hang out with all of them and just really want to join the crew.

The story itself is fast paced and takes a few unexpected turns. I was drawn in from the very beginning and found it almost impossible to put down. I do love stories with time travel but I get the feeling most writers avoid them because of the sheer volume of work involved. There are multiple time periods historical and future as well as the scientific theories and rules to get right. Honestly I’m exhausted just thinking about it but the author handles it brilliantly.

Everything hangs together beautifully. Every time period visited is created with care and feels real. The sci-fi elements are handled especially well. A lot of thought and research has clearly gone into the science and theories behind time travel (As well as the other tech). It all makes sense and even complex theories are made understandable to non science readers like myself.

I thought the author picked the perfect time periods to visit too. I loved that a big chunk of the book is set in Rome, ancient and future. It’s just such a dramatic and epic time period and the fact that you get to experience the gladiators fighting in the arena is incredible. There’s just so much emotion about the whole thing and it literally had me on the edge of my seat.

Despite being very fast paced and action packed the author has done an incredible job of packing in plenty of emotion. I found myself very attached to the crew of the Invictus and was rooting for them all the way. There’s a little bit of romance but it doesn’t take over the story and is very sweet and believable (I totally shipped it). There is also a lot of humor and some truly heart breaking moments (I cried, on the train).

Basically I loved it from the very start to the very last page. Definitely one I’d recommend particularly if like me you’re a big fan of time travel and aren’t scared of a little bit of scientific theory.

 firefly malcom reynolds GIF

OK I couldn’t resist a Firefly Gif 🙂

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all thoughts are my own.

ARC Review: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad, #1)Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

An enjoyable and read with a brilliantly diverse and complex cast of characters. I found it quite an addictive read and incredibly difficult to put down.

It’s let down a little by having too many similarities to other books and not moving the story on quickly enough but it’s definitely worth reading.


Synopsis (GoodReads)

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden–a planet that Babel has kept hidden–where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.


My Review

This book seems to get a lot of rave reviews but I have to confess I’m not sure it lives up to the hype.

It’s kind of like a mash up of Enders Game and Divergent with a little bit of Ready Player One thrown into the mix. As a result there isn’t much that’s really original about it. There is a diverse cast of characters and it is an enjoyable read but I doubt I’ll remember it in a month or two and I just don’t have that pressing need to get my hands on the next book in the series.

The author has created a brilliant main character in Emmett. He’s not the type of hero you usually find in these kinds of stories. He’s a POC for a start. He’s not the smartest, the strongest, the fastest or even the one with the most troubled upbringing. He’s actually pretty average and I’m sure relateable to a lot of people.

He’s agreed to compete because his mom’s ill and they have no money for treatment. Similar to most of the others, he’s desperate and this makes for fascinating reading as he tries to decide how far he’s willing to go to win.

The other characters are similarly diverse and complex and many are not what they initially appear to be. What’s especially great is the way that they develop and change over the course of the story. This is a group of teens in exceptional situations and the author does a fantastic job of making their actions seem very real and completely believable.

The story itself is pretty familiar. Bunch of teens have to compete against each other in a series of individual and team challenges. There’s a leader board to track their progress (although I couldn’t follow the scoring) and if by the end you’re below a certain point on the board you get cut. The contest is however run by a massive corporation with highly dubious motives who keep changing the rules.

From the very beginning the whole contest thing and the reasons for it seemed very unconvincing. They’ve discovered another earth like planet that they want to go strip mine but the native aliens aren’t happy about it unless it’s children as they like children and will let them do whatever they want….hmmm. Unfortunately that is not the only unconvincing thing in the story.  There were a few things that just didn’t make sense to me (what the heck is Nyxia?) and I think there could have been a bit more explanation of elements but I suppose you’re supposed to feel as clueless as the competitors.

I did really enjoy the whole competition aspect. I loved the changing dynamics of the group as they form and break alliances and friendships, stab each other in the back and hold grudges. There’s even some romance between competitors. I do think however it was dragged on a little too long (it’s literally all that happens in the story). I wanted some answers and it looks like the only way I’m going to get them is to read the next book in the series. Unfortunately I’m not sure I care enough.

Overall an enjoyable and quite a quick read but just too many similarities to other stories to be a stand out.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC.