All bets are off. This time the gamble is survival.
Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.
Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. 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?
Wildcard by Marie Lu is the second book in the Warcross duology. It was published by Penguin on September 20th 2018.
Trigger warnings; child experimentation, mentions of suicide.
After the cliffhanger Warcross ended on Wildcard was one of my most anticipated releases of 2018. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, to find out what happened next to Emika and the Phoenix Riders and how the story would end for Hideo and Zero. Unfortunately Wildcard didn’t live up to my expectations. Maybe the hype for it was too high, but for me Wildcard didn’t have the same attention-grabbing plot and shocking twists that had me hooked on Warcross.
“Tearing something down isn’t the end; doing something great, or better, something right, is.”
When Emi discovered Hideo’s true intentions for the NeuroLink she fled, and still using the beta lenses she is one of the few people not under the control of the algorithm. She knows she has to stop Hideo, that what he’s using the NeuroLink for isn’t right no matter what he says, but she doesn’t know who to trust. Most of her life Emi has relied on herself, in Warcross she let herself rely on Hideo as a partner, for support, but then he betrayed her and kept so many secrets from her.
In Wildcard Emi did lean on the Phoenix Riders more, which is something I said in my review for Warcross I’d like to see in this second book, but working against Hideo means Emi doesn’t have the resources she did when she was tracking down Zero. Emi allies herself with Zero, knowing that even if their end game is different their goal to stop Hideo using the algorithm is the same, but she keeps him at a distance and tries not to rely on him and his resources the same way she did with Hideo.
“You once said that you were tired of the horror in the world,” I say. “Well, so am I. We can still find a way to fight it, the right way. We can find a way to do this together.”
Zero’s story is one that was really expanded on in Wildcard. In Warcross he was the ‘big bad’, the person Emi had to overcome to succeed, but in Wildcard we realise he’s just a small part of a much bigger plan. At the end of Warcross when Emi discovered Zero is actually Hideo’s younger brother who disappeared years ago, and who is the reason the algorithm exists, the question for Emi alongside how to stop Hideo is what happened to Sasuke?
His story was heartbreaking, but discovering the truth didn’t strike me in the same way that hearing about his initial disappearance from Hideo did in the first book. This is where Wildcard fell down a little bit for me, the truth behind Zero’s disappearance in the context of the rules of this world where the NeuroLink exists seemed too unbelievable.
“I refuse to believe that he’s nothing more than a monster. I can’t watch him sink like this. I keep going because I need to find that boy again, the beating heart buried underneath his lie. I have to stop him in order to save him. He was once the hand that pulled me up. Now I have to be his.”
The underscore of the relationship between Emi and Hideo is still there, and it’s still developed slowly over the course of this story. Despite what he did Emi doesn’t give up on Hideo. She loves him and believes he is still lost after the disappearance of his brother the same way she used to be lost after the death of her father. His grief is something she understands and she believes she can save him the way he saved her.
We don’t see a lot of Hideo in Wildcard, this book focuses mainly on Emi and Zero, but the small glimpses we get of him do show his hesitation over parts of the NeuroLink algorithm. At his core Hideo believes he’s doing what’s best. He wants to help people not hurt them, but he’s blinded by his greater plan, a vision of a world where there’s no crime and no one has to hurt the way his family did, and refuses to see the faults in the algorithm.
I would have liked to see more between Hideo and Zero/Sasuke. We see their history and their bond separately through their own eyes but we get very little of them together, and I feel like that was a missed opportunity. Everything Hideo has done has been for Sasuke, and everything Zero has worked towards has been to stop Hideo which made for some interesting dynamics I felt we never got to see fully played out.
“That’s the difference between the real and the virtual. Reality is where you can lose the ones you love. Reality is the place where you can feel the cracks in your heart.”
Honestly I wanted more from Wildcard. The pacing of the story was well done and the ending was a satisfying one for the duology itself and all the characters, but Warcross was incredible and I was just left feeling that Wildcard suffered from that hype.
Have you read Wildcard, or is it still on your TBR list?
Were you slightly disappointed by this sequel to Warcross, especially after all the hype it seemed to have in the run up to its release? What did you think of the development of Hideo and his relationship with both Emi and Sasuke?
Have you read any of Marie Lu’s other releases, which is your favourite?