Wildcard

Wildcard

by Marie Lu

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview

An Instant New York Times Bestseller!

Return to the immersive, action-packed world of Warcross in this thrilling sequel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu

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?

In this explosive sequel to the New York Times bestselling Warcross, Marie Lu delivers an addictive finale that will hold you captive till the very last page.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399548000
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 09/17/2019
Series: Warcross Series , #2
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 65,751
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 5.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Marie Lu is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Young Elites series, as well as the blockbuster bestselling Legend series. She graduated from the University of Southern California and jumped into the video game industry as an artist. Now a full-time writer, she spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing games, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles with her illustrator-author husband, Primo Gallanosa, and their dogs.

Read an Excerpt

1
 
Eight Days until the Warcross Closing Ceremony  
 
 
Someone is watching me.
I can feel it—the eerie sensation of being followed, an invisible gaze locked on my back. It prickles my skin, and as I make my way through Tokyo’s rain-soaked streets to meet up with the Phoenix Riders, I keep looking over my shoulder. People hurry by in a steady stream of colorful umbrellas and business suits, heels and oversize coats. I can’t stop imagining their downcast faces all turned in my direction, no matter which way I go.
Maybe it’s the paranoia that comes with years of being a bounty hunter. You’re on a crowded street, I tell myself. No one’s following you.
It’s been three days since Hideo’s algorithm was triggered. Technically, the world should now be the safest it’s ever been. Every single person who has used the new Henka Games contact lenses—even just once—should now be completely under Hideo’s control, rendered unable to break the law or harm another person.
Only the few who still use the beta lenses, like me, are unaffected.
So, in theory, I shouldn’t be worried about someone following me. The algorithm won’t let them do anything to hurt me.
But even as I think this, I slow down to stare at the long line wrapping around a local police station. There must be hundreds of people. They’re all turning themselves in to the authorities for anything and everything unlawful they’ve ever done, from unpaid parking tickets to petty theft—even murder. It’s been like this for the past three days.
My attention shifts to a police barricade at the end of the street. They’re directing us to detour down a different block. Ambulance lights flash against the walls, illuminating a covered gurney being lifted into the vehicle. I only need to catch a glimpse of officers pointing up at the roof of a nearby building before I figure out what occurred here. Another criminal must have jumped to their death. Suicides like this have been peppering the news.
And I helped make all of this happen.
I swallow my unease and turn away. There’s a subtle but significant blankness in everyone’s eyes. They don’t know an artificial hand is inside their minds, bending their free will.
Hideo’s hand.
The reminder is enough to make me pause in the middle of the street and close my eyes. My fists clench and unclench, even as my heart lurches at his name. I’m such an idiot.
How can the thought of him fill me with disgust and desire at the same time? How can I stare in horror at this line of people waiting in the rain outside a police station—but still blush at my dream of being in Hideo’s bed, running my hands along his back?
We’re over. Forget him. I open my eyes again and continue on, trying to contain the anger beating in my chest.
By the time I duck into the heated halls of a Shinjuku shopping center, rain is coming down in wavy sheets, smearing the reflections of neon lights against the slick pavement.
Not that the storm is stopping preparations for the upcoming Warcross closing ceremony, which will mark the end of this year’s games. With my beta lenses on, I can see the roads and sidewalks color-coded in hues of scarlet and gold. Each Tokyo district is highlighted like this right now, the streets shaded the colors of the most popular team in that neighborhood. Overhead, a lavish display of virtual fireworks is going off, piercing the dark sky with bursts of colored light. Shinjuku district’s favorite team is the Phoenix Riders, so the fireworks here are currently forming the shape of a rising phoenix, arching its flaming neck in a cry of victory.
Every day over the next week or so, the top ten players of this year’s championships will be announced worldwide after a vote by all Warcross fans. Those ten players will compete in a final, all-star tournament during the closing ceremony, and then spend a year as the biggest celebrities in the world before they play again next spring, in the opening ceremony’s game. Like the one I once hacked into and disrupted, that upended my entire life and landed me here.
People on the streets are proudly dressed up as their top-ten vote this year. I see a few Asher lookalikes sporting his outfit from our championship game in the White World; someone’s decked out as Jena, another as Roshan. Still others are arguing heatedly about the Final. There had obviously been a cheat—power-ups that shouldn’t have been in play.
Of course, I had done that.
I adjust my face mask, letting my rainbow hair tumble out from underneath my red raincoat’s hood. My rain boots squelch against the sidewalk. I have a randomized virtual face laid over my own, so at least people who are wearing their NeuroLink glasses or contacts will look at me and see a complete stranger. For the rare person who isn’t, the face mask should cover enough to make me blend in with everyone else wearing masks on the street.
Sugoi!” someone passing me exclaims, and when I turn, I see a pair of wide-eyed girls grinning at my hair. Their Japanese words translate into English in my view. “Wow! Good Emika Chen costume!”
They make a gesture like they want to take a photo of me, and I play along, putting up my hands in V-for-victory signs. Are you both under Hideo’s control, too? I wonder.
The girls bob their heads in thanks and move along. I adjust my electric skateboard strapped over my shoulder. It’s a good temporary disguise, pretending to be myself, but for someone used to stalking others, I still feel weirdly exposed.
 
Emi! Almost here?
 
Hammie’s message appears before me as translucent white text, cutting through my tension. I smile instinctively and quicken my steps.
 
Almost.
 
It would’ve been easier, you know, if you’d just come with us.
 
I cast a glance over my shoulder again. It would’ve definitely been easier—but the last time I stayed in the same space as my teammates, Zero nearly killed us in an explosion.
 
I’m not an official Rider anymore. People would ask questions if they saw us heading out as a group tonight.
 
But you’d be safer if you did.
 
It’s safer if I didn’t.
 
I can practically hear her sigh. She sends the address of the bar again.
 
See you soon.
 
I pass through the mall and out the other side. Here, the colorful blocks of Shinjuku shift into the seedy streets of Kabukichō, Tokyo’s red-light district. I tense my shoulders. It’s not an unsafe area—certainly not compared to where I came from in New York—but the walls are covered with glowing screens featuring the services of beautiful girls and handsome, spiky-haired boys, along with shadier banners I don’t want to understand.
Virtual models dressed in scanty outfits stand outside bars, beckoning visitors to enter. They ignore me when they realize my profile marks me as a foreigner and turn their attention to the more lucrative Japanese locals navigating the streets.
Still, I pick up my pace. No red-light district in the world is safe.
I duck into a narrow street on the border of Kabukichō. Piss Alley, so this cluster of little walkways is called. The Riders picked it for tonight because it’s closed to tourists during the Warcross championship season. Scowling bodyguards in suits stand at the entrances and exits of the alleys, shooing away curious passersby.
I take down my disguise for a second so they can see my real identity. One bodyguard bows his head and lets me in.
Both sides of the alleys are lined with tiny sake bars and yakitori stands. Through each of their fogged glass doors, I can see the backs of other teams huddled in front of smoking grills, arguing loudly at virtual projections on the walls showing interviews with players. The scent of fresh rain mixes with aromas of garlic, miso, and fried meat.
I pull off my raincoat, shake it out, and fold it inside out into my backpack. Then I head to the last stall. This bar is a little bigger than the others, facing a quiet alley blocked off on either side. Its doorway is lit by a row of cheery red lanterns, and men in suits stand in strategic positions around it. One of them notices me and moves aside, ushering me forward.
I walk under the lanterns and enter through the sliding glass door. A curtain of warm air envelops me.
 
Checked into Midnight Sense Bar!
+500 Points. Daily Score: +950
Level 36 |  N120,064
 
I find myself standing in a cozy room with a handful of filled seats arranged around a bar, where a chef is busy putting out bowls of ramen. He pauses to call out my arrival.
A round of greetings hits me as everyone turns in my direction.
There’s Hammie, our Thief, and Roshan, our Shield. Asher, our Captain, is sitting on one of the stools with his stylish wheelchair folded behind him. Even Tremaine, who technically plays for the Demon Brigade, is here. He keeps his elbows propped up on the bar as he nods at me through the steam rising from his bowl. He’s sitting away from Roshan, who’s fiddling with a bracelet of prayer beads on his wrist and making a point of ignoring his former boyfriend.
My team. My friends. The eerie feeling of being watched subsides as I take in their faces.
Hammie waves me over. I slide gratefully into the empty stool beside her. The chef puts down a bowl of ramen before me and steps out to give us privacy. “The whole city’s celebrating,” I mutter. “People have no idea what Hideo’s done.”
She starts pulling her curls tight into a thick pouf high on her head. Then she juts her chin at a virtual screen playing footage from the Final against the wall. “You’re just in time,” she replies. “Hideo’s about to make his announcement.”
We stare at the screen as Hammie pours me a cup of tea. It now shows a room of reporters with their faces turned toward a massive stage, all waiting impatiently for Hideo to arrive. Kenn, the Warcross creative director, and Mari Nakamura, Henka Games’ chief operating officer, are already there, whispering to each other.
The room on the screen suddenly bursts into commotion as Hideo walks onstage. He straightens the lapels of his suit jacket once as he strides over to join his companions, shaking hands as he goes with his usual cool, careful grace.
Even the sight of him onscreen feels as overwhelming as if he’d walked right into this bar. All I see is the same boy I’ve watched my whole life, the face I’d stop to look for at newsstands and take in on TV. I dig my nails into the counter, trying not to show how embarrassingly weak it makes me feel.
Hammie notices. She casts me a sympathetic glance. “No one expects you to be over him already,” she says. “I know he’s trying to take over the world and all, but he still rocks a suit harder than a Balmain catwalk.”
Asher scowls. “I’m right here.”
“I didn’t say I wanted to date him,” Hammie replies, reaching over to pat Asher’s cheek once.
I look on as Hideo and Kenn talk in low voices and wonder how much Kenn and Mari know about Hideo’s plans. Has the entire company been in on this all along? Is it possible to keep such a thing secret? Would that many people take part in something so awful?
“As you all know,” Hideo begins, “a cheat was activated during the Final of this year’s championship that benefited one team—the Phoenix Riders—over the other—Team Andromeda. After reviewing the matter with our creative team”—he pauses to glance at Kenn—“it seems the cheat was activated not by one of the players, but by an outside party. We’ve decided the best way to resolve this, then, is to hold an official rematch between Team Andromeda and the Phoenix Riders, four days from today. This will be followed by the closing ceremony four days later.”
An instant buzz of conversation fills the room at Hideo’s words. Asher leans back and frowns at the screen. “Well, it’s happening,” he says to us all. “An official rematch. We’ve got three days to get ready.”
Hammie slurps up a mouthful of noodles. “An official rematch,” she echoes, although there’s no enthusiasm in her voice. “Never happened in the history of the championships.”
“Gonna be a lot of Phoenix Rider haters out there,” Tremaine adds. Already, a few shouts of “Cheaters!” can be clearly heard from the other bars outside.
Asher shrugs. “Nothing we haven’t faced before. Isn’t that right, Blackbourne?”
Tremaine’s expression is blank. The excitement of the new game is lost on all of us as we continue to stare at the screen. A rematch isn’t the big news. If only those reporters knew what Hideo was really doing with the NeuroLink.
I’m tired of the horror in the world, he’d said to me. So I will force it to end.
“Well,” Roshan begins, rubbing a hand across his face, “if Hideo’s bothered by anything that’s happened in the last few days, he’s not showing it.”
Tremaine’s concentrating on something invisible in his view and tapping rapidly against the bar. A few weeks ago, I would’ve bristled at being in the same room as him. He still isn’t my favorite person, and I keep waiting for him to sneer and call me Princess Peach again, but for now he’s on our side. And we can use all the help we can get.
“Find anything?” I ask him.
“I dug up some solid numbers on how many people have the new lenses.” Tremaine sits back and huffs out a sigh. “Ninety-eight percent.”
I could cut the silence in here like a cake. Ninety-eight percent of all users are now controlled by Hideo’s algorithm. I think of the long lines, the police tape. The sheer scale of it makes me dizzy.
“And the other two percent?” Asher manages to ask.
“Is made up of anybody still using the beta test lenses,” Tremaine replies, “and who haven’t switched over yet. Those folks are safe for now.” He peers around the bar. “Us, of course, and a number of the official players, since we got the beta lenses before the full version went out. A lot of people in the Dark World, I bet. And the tiny number of people worldwide who don’t use the NeuroLink at all. That’s it. Everybody else is locked in.”
No one wants to add anything to that. I don’t say it out loud, but I know we can’t stay on the beta lenses forever. Word on the street is that those lenses will download a patch that converts them into algorithm lenses on the day of the Warcross closing ceremony.
That’s happening in eight days.
“Seven days of freedom left,” Asher finally says, voicing what we’re all thinking. “If you want to rob a bank, now’s your chance.”
I glance at Tremaine. “Any luck digging up more info about the algorithm itself?”
He shakes his head and pulls up a screen for all of us to see. It’s a maze of glowing letters. “I can’t even find the faintest trace of it. See this?” He stops to point at a block of code. “The main log-on sequence? Something should be here.”
“You’re saying it’s impossible that there’s an algorithm here,” I reply.
“I’m saying it’s impossible, yes. It’s like watching a chair float in midair without any wires.”
It’s the same conclusion I came up with over the past few sleepless nights. I’d spent them searching every crevice of the NeuroLink. Nothing. However Hideo is implementing his algorithm, I can’t find it.
I sigh. “The only way to access it might be through Hideo himself.”
On the screen, Hideo is answering questions from the press now. His face is serious, his stance easy, and his hair perfectly tousled. As put together as ever. How does he stay so calm? I lean forward, as if the few moments we’d had together in our brief relationship were enough for me to see what he’s thinking.
My dream from last night flashes through my mind again, and I can almost feel his hands running down my bare arms, his expression undone. I’m sorry, he’d whispered. Then, the dark silhouette watching me from the corner of the room. The glass all around us shattering.
“And what about you?” Tremaine says, snapping me out of my reverie. “Heard anything new from Zero? Have you contacted Hideo?”
I take a deep breath and shake my head. “I haven’t reached out to anyone. Not yet, anyway.”
“You’re not still seriously thinking about Zero’s offer, are you?” Asher has his head propped against one hand, and he’s looking warily at me. It’s the same expression he used to give me as a Captain, whenever he thought I wasn’t going to listen to his commands. “Don’t do it. It’s obviously a trap.”
“Hideo was a trap, too, Ash,” Hammie says. “And none of us saw that coming.”
“Yeah, well, Hideo never tried to blow up our dorm,” Asher mutters. “Look—even if Zero is serious about wanting Emi to join him in stopping Hideo, there’s got to be some strings attached. He’s not exactly a model citizen. His help might come with more problems than it’s worth.”
Tremaine rests his elbows against the counter. I’m still not used to seeing genuine concern on his face, but it’s comforting. A reminder that I’m not alone. “If you and I work together, Em, we can try to avoid Zero’s help. There have got to be hints about Sasuke Tanaka out there somewhere.”
“Sasuke Tanaka vanished without a trace,” Roshan says. His quiet voice is cool and cutting as he wraps a length of noodle around his chopsticks.
Tremaine glances at him. “There is always a trace,” he replies.
Asher speaks up before things turn more awkward between Roshan and Tremaine. “What if you contact Hideo first? Tell him you found out that his brother’s alive. You said he created all of this—Warcross, the algorithm—because of his brother, right? Wouldn’t he do anything for him?”
In my mind, I see Hideo look at me. Everything I do is because of him. He’d said that to me only a couple of weeks ago, in the steam of a hot spring, as we watched the stars wink into existence.
Even then, he’d been planning his algorithm. His words take on new meaning now, and I shrink inward, the warmth of that memory hardening into ice.
If Zero really is his brother,” I reply.
“Are you saying he isn’t? We all saw it.”
“I’m saying I can’t be sure.” I stir the noodles around my bowl, unable to work up an appetite.
Hammie tilts her head thoughtfully, and I can see the cogs of her chess mind working. “It could be someone who stole Sasuke’s identity. It could be someone trying to throw people off his trail by using a dead boy’s name.”
“Ghosting,” I murmur in agreement. I know the term for it because I’ve done it before.
“Emi can’t tell Hideo something this big if it might not even be true,” Hammie continues. “It could make him do something unpredictable. We need proof first.”
Roshan suddenly gets up. His chair scoots back with a grating clatter against the floor. I glance abruptly up to see him turning his back to us and heading out of the bar through the sliding door.
“Hey,” Hammie calls out. “You okay?”
He pauses to look back at us. “Okay with what? That we’re all sitting here, talking about the technicalities of how Emi should throw herself into a situation that might kill her?”
The rest of us halt in our conversation, words hanging unspoken in the air. I’ve never heard real anger in Roshan’s voice before, and the sound seems wrong.
He looks around at his teammates before letting his eyes settle on me. “You don’t owe Hideo anything,” he says softly. “You did what you were hired to do. It’s not your responsibility to dig deeper into this—into Zero’s past or what happened between him and Hideo or even what he plans on doing to Hideo.”
“Emi’s the only one who—” Asher begins.
“Like you’ve always looked out for what she needs,” Roshan snaps back. My eyebrow raises in surprise.
“Roshan,” Asher says, watching him carefully.
But Roshan tightens his lips. “Look—if Zero’s team is still set on stopping Hideo, then let him do it. Let the two of them go at each other. Step back and remove yourself from this. You don’t have to do it. And none of us should be convincing you of anything different.”
Before I can respond, Roshan turns away and heads out into the night air. The door slides shut behind him with a sharp bang. Around me, the others let out an inaudible breath.
Hammie shakes her head when I look at her. “It’s because he’s here,” she mutters, nodding to Tremaine. “He throws Roshan off.”
Tremaine clears his throat uncomfortably. “He’s not wrong,” he finally says. “About the danger, I mean.”
I stare at the space where Roshan had been and picture his prayer beads sliding against his wrist. In my view, I can still see the last message from Zero sitting in my archives, the letters small and white and waiting.
 
My offer to you still stands.
 
Hammie sits back and crosses her arms. “Why are you going on with this?” she asks me.
“Is the fate of the world not enough of a reason?”
“No, there’s more to it than that.”
Irritation rises in my chest. “This is all happening because of me—I was directly involved.”
Hammie doesn’t back down from the edge in my words. “But you know it’s not your fault. Tell me—why?
I hesitate, not wanting to say it. In the corner of my view, I see Hideo’s profile haloed in green. He’s awake and online. It’s enough to make me want to reach out and Link with him.
I hate that he still has this pull on me. After all, everyone has had that one person they can’t help but obsess over. It’s not like I haven’t enjoyed flings that came and went in the span of a few weeks. And yet . . .
He’s more than a fling or a bounty or a mark. He’s forever bound to my history. The Hideo who has stolen the world’s free will is still the same Hideo who grieved his brother so deeply that it left a permanent thread of silver in his dark hair. The same Hideo who loves his mother and father. The same Hideo who once lifted me out of my darkness and dared me to dream of better things.
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.
 
***
 
By  the  time  we  leave  the  bar,  it’s  well  past  midnight,  and  the pouring rain has dwindled to a fine mist. Some people still dot the streets. The first two all-star players have just been announced, and virtual figures of them now hover under every streetlight in the city. 
 
HAMILTON JIMÉNEZ of USA | PHOENIX RIDERS
PARK JIMIN of SOUTH KOREA | BLOODHOUNDS
 
Hammie barely glances at the images of her best in-game moves now dancing below the light posts. “You should head back with us,” she says, eyeing the neighborhood.
“I’ll be fine,” I reassure her. If someone really is following me, best not to make it so that they’re following my teammates, too.
“It’s Kabukichō, Em.”
I give her a wry smile. “So? Hideo’s algorithm is running on most of these people now. What’s there to be afraid of?”
“Very funny,” Hammie responds with an exasperated lift of her eyebrow.
“Look, we shouldn’t all be traveling together. You know that makes us too tempting a target, regardless of the algorithm. I’ll call you when I’m in back in my hotel.”
Hammie hears the note of finality in my voice. Her lips twist in frustration, but then she nods and starts to walk away. “Yeah, you better,” she says over her shoulder, waving her hand at me as she hurries off.
I watch her join the others as they head toward the subway station, where a private car waits for them. I try to picture each of them before they were famous, the first times they arrived in Tokyo, whether or not they felt invisible enough to take the subway. Whether they felt alone.
When my teammates disappear into the haze of rain, I turn away.
I’m used to traveling by myself. Still, my solitude feels sharper now, and the space around me seems emptier without my teammates. I shove my hands back into my pockets and try to ignore the virtual male model that now saunters up to me with a smile, inviting me in English into one of the host clubs that line the street.
“Nope,” I reply to him. He vanishes immediately, then resets at the entrance of the club and looks for another potential customer.
I tuck the rest of my hair completely under my hood and keep going. Just a week ago, I probably would’ve been walking with Hideo beside me. His arm wrapped around my waist, his coat over my shoulders. He might’ve been laughing at something I said.
But I’m on my own here, listening to the lonely splash of my boots in the dirty street puddles. The echo of water dripping from signs and overhangs keeps distracting me. It sounds like someone else’s footsteps. The feeling of being watched has returned.
A static buzz vibrates in my ears. I pause for a moment at an intersection, tilting my head this way and that until it stops.
I glance again at Hideo’s green-haloed icon in my view. Where is he now, and what is he doing? I imagine contacting him, his virtual form appearing before me, as Asher’s question rings in my ears. What if I did tell him about Zero’s connection to his brother? Would it be so bad to see what happens, even without being entirely sure?
I clench my teeth, annoyed with myself for thinking of excuses to hear his voice. If I just give myself enough distance from him and focus on this whole thing like it’s a job, then maybe I’ll stop wanting to be near him so much.
The static buzzes in my ear again. This time I halt and listen carefully. Nothing. Only a few people are on the street with me now, each a nondescript silhouette. Maybe someone’s trying to hack me. I start an inspection of my NeuroLink system to make sure everything’s in order. Green text floats past my view, the scan looking normal.
Until it skips over running a diagnostic on my messages.
I frown, but before I can examine it closer, all the text vanishes from my view. It’s replaced by a single sentence.
 
I’m still waiting, Emika.
 
Every hair on the back of my neck rises. It’s Zero.

Customer Reviews

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Wildcard (Warcross Series #2) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
alyzzp More than 1 year ago
I think it’s safe to say that I feel underwhelmed. I mean, it’s over 300 pages and I finished it the day I checked it out, but I expected more from Marie Lu. More Warcross. More action, because let’s be honest here, Lu can write high-intensity situations. So I guess there were good things, too, like Zero’s backstory and character development. I also really liked Jax. I don’t know why, but she was so badass, even more than Book 1 Emika. And definitely more than Book 2 Emika. Seriously, does Emika do anything in this book? Other than moan and groan and talk and ponder about whether Hideo was to be trusted? I loved her in the first book. She was awesome and independent and actually had a personality. And now she’s a forgettable cardboard cutout. Character development? Nada. Nothing happened in this book, I swear, other than Emika learning some backstory crap. Even the final battle, if you can even call it a final battle, is anticlimactic. Too much deus ex machina.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this ending. Great writer. Highly recommend.
alyssama121 More than 1 year ago
This book was everything I wished for it to be. I had my doubts going in, because I wasn’t sure where Lu was going to take the story, but it doesn’t disappoint. It continues right from where Warcross leaves off–Emika is left with knowing what Hideo’s plans are for the NeuroLink and has a secret of her own from him that was revealed in the last book. Whereas Warcross mostly focused on Emika’s story and how she ended up where she ended up, this book focuses on Hideo and his family. Emika is still the main character and it’s told in her voice, but through her investigations, we get to piece together Hideo’s past and understand his motivations for creating the NeuroLink. I love how Lu trusts the reader to keep reading as she reveals the information bit by bit. It makes for an intriguing, suspenseful read that kept me wanting more. Wildcard reads more like a thriller than anything else; there is a lot less exploration of the world itself, hardly any Warcross gameplay, and the Phoenix Riders take a backseat to the main story between Emika, Hideo, and the hacker from the previous book. In a way, I liked this because it so perfectly continues the storyline and the action is so ramped up from beginning to end; however, I can see a lot of readers being disappointed that we don’t get to see as much of favorite characters from the first book. I think this series is brilliantly constructed and written; the characters captured my heart and I was with Emika every step of the way in these books. The plot twists and turns and each new reveal makes everything come together brilliantly and helps you understand the characters’ motivations. I absolutely loved this story and think that Wildcard is the perfect ending for it.
Mel-Loves-Books More than 1 year ago
“He’s more than a fling or a bounty or a mark. He’s forever bound to my history.” … Wildcard was an exciting end to the Warcross duology. I enjoyed the gaming element to this series much more than I anticipated, and the roll technology played in the world Marie Lu built was very interesting. I would love to read more about this world. The characters in the story were also very unique, and I was kept on my toes about what everyone was going to do. I do wish that we were able to see a bit more about the virtual reality as part of society that was a part this series. It was so well developed but it left me wanting more. I feel like even more could be explored about the effects it had on the world overall. It opened a lot questions in my mind. I also felt like the ending left me a bit unsatisfied. It was a bit open ended in some regards, which is just hard for me to personally. I give Wildcard 4 stars and I will definitely look into more books by this author.
Take_Me_AwayPH More than 1 year ago
When I read Warcross, it took awhile for me to get into it. And because of that, I wasn't really looking forward to this one. But now after reading it, I am so mad at myself for not wanting to read it! The VERY BEST thing about this book was the plot twists! I thought I was thrown for a loop at then end of the first one, but this one was really a doozie. So many things happened that I didn't see coming and I remember the only thing I could say was WTF. This was definitely a good thing because I was waiting and waiting for these in Warcross, but it didn't come until the end. I loved Wildcard and finding out so much about all the characters. The only reason I didn't give this a full 5 stars, is because I would have liked to have seen more Warcross being played. I get that this one was more about the thing that Hideo was doing, I think this one should have had some of the games as well. Even if they were one of the characters other than the MC's. It just would've been nice to be in the arena again. Lastly, I loved the ending. It was a nice wrap-up to the series. Even with all the huge bomb drops, Lu still was able to wrap up all the loose ends. And let's be honest, if you've read this, you know that couldn't have been easy to do. And the epilogue was super cute too! If you had asked me if I was excited about this book after I read the first one I would've said no, I can wait. But now after finishing this one, I'm glad I didn't wait. I wish there was going to be another book in the series. I loved the surprises that this book brought and I wish we were getting more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was well connected to Warcross it really completed the book. I love how the story was put together and how it was in the modern day world. It really makes your imagination to be explored.
Aditi-ATWAMB More than 1 year ago
Warcross, the prequel to Wildcard, was one of my FAVOURITE books of last year. Marie Lu managed to BLOW ME AWAY with her stunning world, the plot filled with twists and turns and mostly, Hideo and Emika. I didn’t know what to expect after the cover was so… underwhelming, but THE BOOK WAS JUST JAW-DROPPING PERFECTION. I was so nervous going into Wildcard because it’s HARD for sequels to meet expectations, but Marie Lu is a BRILLIANT WRITER and she somehow managed to keep the pace, the romance, the friendship, the game, technology and virtual reality on par with Warcross AND ALSO managed to end it in a satisfying manner. On another, not so zen note, I NEED ABOUT EIGHT MORE BOOKS IN THIS WORLD, CENTRED AROUND Roshan and Tremaine or Asher and Hammie with Hideo and Emika in the background because I love EVERYTHING about this futuristic world. MY THOUGHTS: 1. Wildcard is such a visually appealing book, especially the hardcover. I LOVE the green, black and blue combination! (Sorry. My amateur/ constantly learning graphic designer sensibilities comes out all the time now and is currently making me type this out.) 2. There was SO MUCH I loved about this book, but especially the world-building and pace. The descriptions of what the Neuro-Link, Warcross and Tokyo in general were so futuristic and magical that it was hard not to get sucked in and lose all sense of time and physical surroundings. 3. I LOVED the friendship between the Phoenix Riders, Hammie, Asher and Roshan in particular. They were such loyal, all-in friends and truly amazing characters. I also ADORED Roshan and Tremaine. 4. I went into Wildcard thinking I had all the information I needed and that there would be no twists, because almost everything had been revealed in Warcross, but I WAS SO WRONG. We learnt almost nothing of what really happened all those years ago in the prequel and as Marie Lu un-spun her tale, I kept flipping the pages in shock and awe because, trust me, if you’ve read Warcross, YOU WOULD’VE NEVER SEEN THIS COMING. 5. I’ll just end with saying that Hideo and Emika are life, and I LOVED the way this book ended. Would I recommend it? YES! With the duology complete, it’s the PERFECT time to dive into Marie Lu’s best series to date. A futuristic, fast-paced, gorgeously plotted novel with characters and twists that will make you remember why you fell in love reading in the first place! 5 stars to this book and this series.
BookPrincessReviews More than 1 year ago
This story wasn't close to being as great as Warcross, but it certainly brought its A game, kept me on my toes, and made me actually consider the gaming life for 1/4th of a second. These two books are one of the most visually descriptive books that I read, and if someone doesn't hear the pleas for this to become a movie, then there are no book gods and goddesses in this world. Also, I feel like there is no in between being liking and being Severely Disappointed by this book in reviews. I did a quick scroll through on Goodreads, and it seems like it's either 4/5 stars or 2 stars. So, um, WHAT IS THIS LIFE WHERE I HAVE ACTUALLY GONE ON THE TOP SIDE OF THINGS INSTEAD OF THE BOTTOM? AM I IN THE UPSIDE DOWN? WHERE IS THE Demogorgon?? I gotta run, since I probably need to go talk to Sha with some Christmas lights. One of the shining points of this duology is Lu's writing. I'm not into gaming at all, and I still can't believe this duology has gotten 5 and 4 crowns from me - that's just how good it is. Lu's writing makes me feel as if there is a movie going on in my head. I devour them all because I am captivated and intrigued by what she brings and describes. It's incredibly done, and I just want all the Lu books now. You will feel immersed in this colorful and fast paced world. I also really enjoyed the characters. Emika is still a fabulous narrator. I love reading her voice and her story. She comes off the page, and I love diving into her head. She's strong and messy and captivating. Her team is great as well. I will admit that I didn't remember them at all from the first novel, but I absolutely loved Tremaine and Roshan. Omg, can they have a spinoff book? I loved learning more about their backstory, and even though their relationship was a side one, I still shipped them so hard because the depth behind it. Asher and Hammie were great as well. The new plotline was super unexpected. I didn't get fully behind it because it did seem super out of the blue, but it was still captivating and the pace was fast enough that I wanted to whip through it all. It did feel quite random, and the new characters were a bit messy. It wasn't bad, but I thought it could be a bit better? Maybe because it felt like it was so out of the blue? But it was still super intriguing and took some surprising twists and turns that I was down for. The ending was the biggest thing that really messed with me. I felt like...I felt conflicted. I don't agree with it so much, but also, it did work out in certain points. I don't want to say much because spoilers but I didn't agree with it. However, I feel like it didn't away from all the good that there was in the story. Overall, it's 4 crown read. It was a pretty good addition to the duology although it didn't measure up to Warcross. It was included fantastic descriptive writing, fast pacing, and great characters. Ariel rating!
TheDreamCarriers More than 1 year ago
I tabbed this book so much. There’s not a complex reasoning system behind these tabs. I usually have about four to six colors and each has a different meaning, but for Wildcard, I went for pure aesthetics and just used yellow, green, and blue. Blue was for plot points I found significant. There were a lot of these, but I did fall off marking towards the end just because of the sheer amount of important things that were happening on every page or every few pages. Blue and green were kind of interchangeable. I feel like initially one was for things I liked and one was for things that made me emotional but looking back through them, they definitely blended together at some point. I don’t do a lot of rereads so I didn’t reread Warcross prior to jumping into Wildcard. I found out I didn’t really need a reread! I was quite foggy in the beginning but in the first chapter or two, everything was referenced and I was brought back up to speed. I loved loved LOVED the plot. There was a certain point in the plot that I thought could have been executed a wee bit better, but not enough for it to strongly hinder my enjoyment of the book. I was excited to know what happened and I was gasping at new plot details. I was emotionally invested. I cared what happened and I found myself with a feeling of dread in my chest when things were going wrong and how things couldn’t go wrong and if they did, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. We were introduced to a few new characters and expanded on Zero’s story. Zero’s story was PHENOMENAL. It was written so well and I was so connected. Jax was a wonderful girl, but I feel like a certain characteristic of hers could have been revealed better, but that’s more of a plot issue. Boy did I love the romance. I really liked it in the first book and I liked it even more in Wildcard. I also may have feelings for Hideo but that’s beyond the point. Anytime Hideo and Emika interacted, my whole heart was screaming for them. As for the ending, it fit. Was it what I wanted? Not exactly but it made sense. That being said, I want another book so bad. I’m sad that this is the final book and I’m never going to get to see more into the world of Warcross and all of our characters. I want more of Emika. I want more of Hideo. I want more of all the Phoenix Riders. I want more of Jax. I want SO MUCH more of Sasuke. I loved Wildcard and I'm sad I'm not going to get more books in this world with these characters.
TheDreamCarriers More than 1 year ago
I tabbed this book so much. There’s not a complex reasoning system behind these tabs. I usually have about four to six colors and each has a different meaning, but for Wildcard, I went for pure aesthetics and just used yellow, green, and blue. Blue was for plot points I found significant. There were a lot of these, but I did fall off marking towards the end just because of the sheer amount of important things that were happening on every page or every few pages. Blue and green were kind of interchangeable. I feel like initially one was for things I liked and one was for things that made me emotional but looking back through them, they definitely blended together at some point. I don’t do a lot of rereads so I didn’t reread Warcross prior to jumping into Wildcard. I found out I didn’t really need a reread! I was quite foggy in the beginning but in the first chapter or two, everything was referenced and I was brought back up to speed. I loved loved LOVED the plot. There was a certain point in the plot that I thought could have been executed a wee bit better, but not enough for it to strongly hinder my enjoyment of the book. I was excited to know what happened and I was gasping at new plot details. I was emotionally invested. I cared what happened and I found myself with a feeling of dread in my chest when things were going wrong and how things couldn’t go wrong and if they did, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. We were introduced to a few new characters and expanded on Zero’s story. Zero’s story was PHENOMENAL. It was written so well and I was so connected. Jax was a wonderful girl, but I feel like a certain characteristic of hers could have been revealed better, but that’s more of a plot issue. Boy did I love the romance. I really liked it in the first book and I liked it even more in Wildcard. I also may have feelings for Hideo but that’s beyond the point. Anytime Hideo and Emika interacted, my whole heart was screaming for them. As for the ending, it fit. Was it what I wanted? Not exactly but it made sense. That being said, I want another book so bad. I’m sad that this is the final book and I’m never going to get to see more into the world of Warcross and all of our characters. I want more of Emika. I want more of Hideo. I want more of all the Phoenix Riders. I want more of Jax. I want SO MUCH more of Sasuke. I loved Wildcard and I'm sad I'm not going to get more books in this world with these characters.
MaleehaS More than 1 year ago
OK. So. I don't care about what the haters have to say. It could be because I went into this book with low expectations given the mixed reviews before its publication, but I loved this follow-up to Warcross and the conclusion to Emika and Hideo's story. It made me feel so many things, and I wasn't expecting that. I teared up at several points. Honestly, the best thing about this entire duology for me is Zero's character. It did take me halfway through the book to become truly invested, but once I got there it hit the ground running. Bravo, Marie Lu.
LaynieBee-Blog More than 1 year ago
Just a warning about this book: If you haven’t read Warcross (and what are you waiting for?) do not read this novel yet. You start right where the last book left off. There is no time jump and there is no back story explanation. Warcross took us into a not so far off universe in which a video game designer found a way to hack the human brain to experience the game in a dream-like state. Besides the actual game, which is now a prominent sport that has overtaken all sporting events (Olympics, World Cup, etc) in terms of renown, the users also encounter a realm outside their own struggles. They can adjust their avatar to anything they prefer, frequent places they would never have the money to visit otherwise, and get lost in the virtual experience. Similar to the Oasis from Ready Player One, the virtual space has taken over peoples’ physical lives. They are never without their “lenses” which act a a portal to the software, even interacting with the physical world in many cases. Emika Chen, the main character, hacks into the world tournament of the game, catching the attention of Hideo, the designer of the program. He recruits Emika to join one of the most famous teams as a cover while she tracks down a hacker that has been messing with their systems. While working for him, Emika falls for Hideo and he reveals that his brother was kidnapped as a small child. When Emika comes in contact with the hacker, “Zero”, she discovers that he is Hideo’s little brother. Hideo, unaware of the turn of events, then releases an algorithm that shifts the weight of the entire world. And THAT is where Wildcard starts. People are now rendered incapable of committing crimes and they are turning themselves in to authorities in droves. Sounds like a good thing right? In fact, it’s easy to see where Hideo’s motivation comes from. Devastated over the loss of his brother nearly twenty years ago, a life free of crime sounds like paradise. But anytime someone attempts to strip freewill from humanity, there are consequences they do not expect. Here it is thousands committing suicide since they cannot live with the thought of their unlawful acts. Now the tables have turned and Emika must stop Hideo before he can release the algorithm to every set of lenses (including hers) and the suicides continue. To do so, she must fall into an unlikely team with Zero, Hideo’s brother and former hacker, and his Dark Coats. In doing so she learns more about his past, what actually happened with his kidnapping, and the reason Zero is so set on stopping Hideo. All of your favorite Phoenix Rider characters are back in action in this sequel, although we do not see too much of them. But during the scenes where they are involved, we learn more about their background as well as see Emika's transformation from a loner to someone who can depend on her friends. The pacing of the book during the first half was pretty slow, even without any backstory. I was a bit lost in the timeline. There's a ton of things happening, but nothing ever really moves the story along until a little past halfway through where the MAJOR twist leaves you reeling. I almost started to hope for some sort of romantic connection between Zero and Emika just to have this book be the complete inverse of the last, but the author nips that in the bud pretty quickly. So if that's what you are going in for, you will be disappointed. Emika is still head over heels for Hideo, even though he is on some "take o
brittanysbookrambles More than 1 year ago
4.5/5 Stars Wow, what a turnaround! Between this and The Wicked King this year, I'm just so blown away by how the sequels are making me rethink everything I felt about the series as a whole. I went into Wildcard with extremely low expectations and yet . . . I wanted to know how it was all going to end. Though I'll be honest, I was tempted to wait until some of my friends read this book and then ask them to sum it up for me. But one night, it was just staring at me from my nightstand and I was like oh, what the hell, let's give it a try . . . and I'm so glad that I did. Wildcard somehow made me forget about most of the problems I had with Warcross, such as Emika and Hideo's relationship—where I totally didn't "get" why they liked each other—but in this, I just accepted that they do and was able to finally ship them. I also didn't care about Emika's teammates in Warcross, but Wildcard made me care. The plot was far more intense and even had a few twists that simultaneously caught me off guard and put a dagger in my heart. For those of you who were like me and felt kind of ehhh about Warcross, I definitely recommend giving Wildcard a try.
MinaTheFangirl More than 1 year ago
Wildcard wastes no time and continues soon after the first book ended, and we immediately see the results of that crazy plot twist. I hadn't realized that the effects would be instantaneous and had so many conflicting emotions about it overall. I understood that, objectively, it was brilliant and done with the best intentions, but it also felt too risky, so wrong, and inhumane as it compromised a basic human right. The writing and storytelling were perfect; I never felt too rushed with the pacing or sequence of events, or felt too bogged down with information and static scenes. Similarly in the first book, there were still some plot twists that were highly predictable but as soon as those were revealed, it wasn't long until another one took it's place that completely caught me off guard. One major plot twist in particular shocked me to the core, gave me chills, and broke my heart! Well done, Marie Lu. I didn't realize until I came across it again in this book, but I'm so glad that even after the events of the first one there are still Warcross games! The games were very different in this book, with much higher stakes and more serious motivations for participating in them, but they were still structured the same. As I said in my review for Warcross, the Warcross games were one of my favorite aspects of this world so I couldn't imagine the sequel without them. A new character is introduced and it took me by surprise how much I absolutely adore her! She makes her first appearance during one of the most exciting and dangerous scenes in the book and, like Emika, I couldn't figure out if she was an ally or enemy until later on. Similar to Emika and Hideo, she also has a tragic past but with a more horrifying twist. As necessary for her occupation, she's difficult to read but once she reveals more of herself I couldn't help but empathize with her and everything she's endured since childhood. Consider her added to my favorite kickass female character list! Another thing I really love about this duology is the friendship between Emika and the Phoenix Riders! Within a few short months, Emika has developed such a close and loyal friendship with them all and it's so heartwarming to see them continue to support each other through thick and thin, and despite all the danger. At a certain point in the story I couldn't help but tear up due to their display of unwavering loyalty to Emika. Where can I find friends like them?! Last, but certainly not least, I love all the Emika and Hideo scenes! I'm such a shipper of their relationship; I even loved all the heartbreaking scenes despite it hurting my heart. I enjoyed seeing more development between both of them, especially seeing them continue to work and put effort into their relationship. I really enjoyed how maturely they handled their issues and actively sought to address them. A fast-paced, compelling roller coaster ride, Wildcard is the perfect conclusion to this epic sci-fi duology! Sci-fi books are either a hit or miss with me because I'm really picky, but I really, really enjoyed Warcross. I love the diverse cast of characters, variety of fascinating virtual worlds, and all the crazy plot twists. Consider me an official fan of Marie Lu's writing because I could not put this down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
“Hideo was a trap, too, Ash…and none of us saw that coming.” Hands up if you saw it coming! In all seriousness, the twists and turns in Warcross were a little predictable, but I still enjoyed the book immensely. It’s not a hardcore drama by any means, but it is full of action and heart. Personally, I love Emika Chen and I would read almost any book with her at the helm. Most of my hopes for Wildcard revolve around her. Emika please, for the love of your fans, drop Hideo like a hot potato. I’m worried that a lot of Wildcard is going to focus on her unresolved feelings for him, and I am over it. He’s bad news! There is an atmosphere of paranoia in the sampler cultivated by Hideo’s evil deeds, and I think it will make for a really compelling book. I am both excited and terrified to see what Emika will have to come up against. Overall, I think I will pick up Wildcard though there are some plot elements I hope don’t take up too much focus. I think this installment will feel more like The Matrix than Ready Player One. That will open up a lot of new techy opportunities for Emika and co. that I am looking forward to reading in full.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I normally don't read sneak peeks but I am so looking forward to this one that I just couldn't help myself! I am thrilled that Wildcard seems to pick up right where Warcross left off and am loving the character, Jax. Although this was only the first 3 chapters, I can already tell that my high expectations for this sequel will be met! Come on September!!! Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group for providing this great little tease.
book_junkee More than 1 year ago
I went into this one without a refresher on Warcross, but found that I didn’t quite need it. It was easy to slip back into this series and I was eager to settle in and see what happened...but I wasn’t even close to being ready. Emika is still an awesome MC. She’s strong and loyal and I loved how she is compelled to do the right thing, no matter how dangerous. Of course there are some of the same characters from Warcross, but I won’t mention anything there. Plot wise, I didn’t know what to expect and I was blown away. It’s a slow delicious peel back of reveals and I was captivated the entire time. Yes, I’m being vague on purpose because spoilers. Overall, this series has been intriguing from the start and this ending was everything I could have wanted and a few things I didn’t know I needed. **Huge thanks to GP Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers for providing the arc free of charge**
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a good book, but i personally liked the 1st one better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Exciting and scary and thought provoking and sad all at the same time. I think the author did a great job!