I recently read Warcross by Marie Lu on a recommendation from Epic Reads. I read The Young Elites and wasn’t impressed. But, I wanted to give Lu another chance because many people really love her books. So, I made the purchase with confidence and proceeded to finish reading it in a day.
I’m not saying it was perfect. But I do think that it had an interesting cast of character, premise, and overall take on technology. I believed the world, wanted Emika to succeed, and enjoyed the mystery along the way.
The ending didn’t surprise me. However, I still enjoyed the journey that the book took me on. And, that’s not something I can say for all books. It’s easy for me to predict what’s going to happen. Most of the time it’s because I know stories so well. Occasionally, it’s because the clues are over-obvious. In this case, it may have been that the mention of the lost brother was a dead giveaway. But, I liked what that set up for the next book more than I was upset at the lack of surprise I experienced.
That said, this book did have some issues with overall structure. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment, but it makes for an interesting assessment of what’s going on. I’m curious to see what a sequel might hold.
Here’s your warning: Spoilers Ahead. Proceed with caution.
1. What is the Global Genre?
The first thing I discovered when trying to write this post is that Warcross falls into many different genres. Depending on your interpretation, the story could turn on life and death or power and impotence. And, that’s not even including the obsession love story or the internal content genres. Overall, I’d say Warcross is a long form, arch-plot, science fiction, drama.
External Content Genres
I’ll start with the easiest: the love story sup-plot. I’m calling this an obsession love story rather than a courtship (think Great Gatsby vs Pride and Prejudice). This is because Emika and Hideo start out hot and heavy and don’t know each other well enough to build a successful relationship. Neither commits to the other once their true selves are revealed.
I initially considered this a performance story. But from Emika’s perspective, the climactic performance of the competition turns more on life and death than respect and shame. That left political or an action savior plot where the hero is up against someone trying to destroy society.
Because Emika doesn’t know the real stakes until it’s revealed to her, I lean toward the action savior plot. However, Hideo and his brother are pitted against each other in a battle for power which could be interpreted as a political drama. For the purposes of this post I’m going to analyze it as an action savior plot.
Internal Content Genres
As for the internal genre, I’m going to say it’s a status sentimental plot. Emika shifts from being seen as a weak protagonist (though she has skills, she lacks resources) and succeeds against all odds. That does lead to her disillusionment with the world and system, but I think that the her shift is mostly in status.
2. What are the Conventions and Obligatory Scenes?
Take a look at my previous posts for an in depth look at obligatory scenes and conventions, but as a highlight, Warcross includes most of them for the action savior plot. Notably:
- The hero is Emika, the victim is the entire population watching the games, and the villain is an unknown figure called Zero
- The hero seems to be vastly more powerful than the hero, though she has her skills
- Emika doesn’t know what the villain wants and the revelation of that is actually a commentary on what it means to be human, which I found to be interesting
- The All is Lost moment is probably the weakest of the obligatory scenes because there is never really a moment when I’m worried Emika won’t succeed. If I had to pick one, I’d say the moment the building blows up and she realizes that she has to ask for help if she’s going to succeed
- And, she sacrifices herself for the good of everyone and the setup for the next story comes from her sacrifice not being rewarded, but rather being the cause for everyone’s enslavement
3. What it the POV/Narrative Device?
The book is told through Emika’s perspective as the events are happening to her. She does explain some past experiences, but, for the most part, everything takes place in real time. This sets up the surprise at the end when Hideo switches from the hero to the villain.
4. What are the Objects of Desire?
Hideo wants to stop Zero and enlists Emika’s help to do so. Her motivation is the money she’ll receive from the bounty, but also that she wants to help people. She wants Hideo romantically, or at least she thinks she does. And, what she needs is to realize that she can’t succeed without help. Additionally, it turns out that Hideo really wants to control the whole population so that no one ever commits another crime again.
5. What is the Controlling Idea/Theme?
Obviously, the ending plays at the idea that we are human because of our free will. When that’s taken away, even by someone who only does so so that no one ever suffers again, that’s not ok. Another idea I played with is technology’s role in our lives and how much we let it control us.
But, from the perspective of an action savior plot, the controlling idea would be something like: people are “saved” when heroes sacrifice themselves for the greater good. I use saved in quotes because the revelation at the end proves that, instead of being saved, people are striped of their free will.
6. What is the Beginning Hook, Middle Build, and Ending Payoff?
Emika is recruited and hired by her billionaire hero to stop the mysterious Zero from ruining the Warcross championship games and harming the audience watching.
Emika must train for the games, balance a budding romance with Hideo, and try and figure out who Zero is all at the same time.
Though she’s realizes the stakes she’s up against, Emika decides to recruit others to help her take down Zero in the championship game, only to realize she might not know the full extent of what’s going on.