The Sequel is Better: Marissa Meyer – Archenemies

It’s been quite a while since I read the first book in Marissa Meyer’s Renegades trilogy and, as I said in my review, I mostly remember the good parts and have forgotten all the book’s problems. Despite my failing memory, I feel confident in saying that this sequel is much better than the first book because it finally gets the plot moving. Plus, it’s a quick read with nice action, a little romance, and very cool ideas. Not necessarily a book that would get an award but so much fun that I can’t help but love it.

ARCHENEMIES
by Marissa Meyer

Published: 2018
Ebook: 560 pages
Series: Renegades #2
My rating: 7/10

Opening line: Adrian crouched on the rooftop, peering at the delivery entrance behind Gatlon City Hospital.

The Renegades Trilogy continues, in this fiercely awaited second installment after the New York Times-bestselling Renegades by Marissa Meyer, author of the Lunar Chronicles.

Time is running out.
Together, they can save the world.
But they each other’s worst nightmare.

In Renegades, Nova and Adrian (aka Insomnia and Sketch) fought the battle of their lives against the Anarchist known as the Detonator. It was a short-lived victory.
The Anarchists still have a secret weapon, one that Nova believes will protect her. The Renegades also have a strategy for overpowering the Anarchists, but both Nova and Adrian understand that it could mean the end of Gatlon City – and the world – as they know it.

Nova and Adrian are back and their secrets are as much in danger of being found out as ever. Nova is still hiding her real identity as the Anarchist Nightmare, posing as the Renegade Insomnia, and Adrian – who is known as Sketch – still hasn’t told anyone about his alter alter ego the Sentinel. And things are brewing in Gatlon city as a villain named Hawthorn is stealing medical supplies which then show up throughout the city, altered and used as drugs that claimed several people’s lives…

Nova has a new plan to retrieve Ace Anarchy’s helmet and hit the Renegades where it hurts. Except that plan also needs her to stay close to Adrian and maybe even make him fall in love with her. Because when feelings are involved, people slip up, and Nova may just find out important secrets from the boy she’s not quite pretending to flirt with.

The Renegades have also developed a new and terrifying weapon – one that can take away a prodigy’s powers. Forever! What I particularly liked about that was the question of whether this weapon should even ethically be used. Sure, the Renegades are of the opinion that they’ll only use it “on bad guys” but who decides who’s bad and who’s good? And who makes sure accidents don’t happen? Nova asks these questions outright from the start, with varying responses from her teammates. And while we are meant to sympathise with Nova first and foremost, we also know there are bad guys in this story and they deserve punishment. But whether such a horrible, irreversible method should be used is definitely food for thought. My stance on the matter is pretty clear but I like that ethics and human rights play such a big part in this YA book.

The lines between good and evil or Renegades and Anarchist also get blurrier and less easily defined than in the first book. Of course the entire premise of the story is that all prodigies have the potential to use their powers for good or not-so-good but I still found that the Anarchists were pretty obviously more reckless and didn’t care as much about civilians’ lives lost, if that served their bigger cause. Nova’s reasons for hating the Renegades so much were always rather weak and in this middle book, she learns more and more that not all Renegades are the same, that most of them truly do want to help people and that she doesn’t entirely disagree with them.

What I also enjoyed was that it becomes much clearer why the way the Renegades run Gatlon City may not be the best, even if they have good intentions. Nova’s biggest criticism is that civilians rely too much on prodigies to save the day and don’t even bother acquiring the skills necessary to take care of themselves. While this was mentioned several times before, it is only in Archenemies that it is really shown for the problem it is. Because if everyone just lies back and waits for the Renegades to solve their problems, it not only drains the Renegades’ resources (there are many prodigies, but their number is finite) and it paths the way to a less and less educated population. I was rooting pretty much for the Renegades in the first book and waited for Nova to come around, but  after this one, I see that neither option – Renegades or Anarchists ruling – is a good one and people will have to think of a new and better solution to run their society.

The plot is as exciting as you’d expect from Marissa Meyer. While her characters may not be very deep, they are always involved in great action scenes, quieter moments with plenty of romance, and in this case many situations that are tense simply because they are keeping so many secrets from each other. The ending is a culmination of many plot strings. Everything comes together in one pretty explosive climax that made me itch to pick up the next book immediately. I won’t spoil anything about it, but let me just say that things really go batshit. Stuff happens that will change this world forever. The setup for the third novel makes sure that we, knowing more than the characters, are more excited than ever about how Nova and Adrian’s story will end. Because there is no easy solution to these kids’ problems… they’ve just been sliding deeper and deeper into trouble and I am there for it!

I always mention this when I talk about Marissa Meyer’s books and I want to repeat it here again. This is kind of a guilty pleasure for me because I could nitpick so many things, so many little flaws about this book (the at times uneven pacing, the cheesy lines, the romance, how oblivious certain characters are, etc.) but Meyer’s writing is just so damn engaging and fun that I just don’t mind these things. When I pick up her books I’m not looking for literary enlightenment. I just want to have fun, to fall into an exciting story with characters I can root for, and maybe a few cool twists on the way. And she delivers exactly that. I don’t want to sound snobbish either when I say this because as much as I appreciate authors playing with language, the world would be a much sadder place if that was all there was to read. I will gladly keep throwing my money at Marissa Meyer because, boy, do her books make  me happy.

MY RATING: 7/10 – Very good

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