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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 314

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Marie Lu’s novel, which is a follow-up to Warcross, is concerned with the impact of a role-play, virtual reality game called Warcross, which has come to dominate society. Moving beyond the internal relationships of the game players, in the first book, the game had assumed outsized importance because its founder, Hideo Tanaka, saw it as a vehicle for social domination. Emika Chen, the protagonist, is a champion game-player whose moral scruples hold her back from using her skills for gaining further power. Although she discovers that Hideo has planned to use the NeuroLink to implement mind control, she cannot fully believe that he is irredeemably evil—especially because they have become lovers. Lu utilizes a limited amount of character analysis of Emika and Hideo as two conflicted human beings but relies heavily on plot-driven developments and a number of tropes common to the techno-science fiction genre. Numerous complexities of deception and disguise arise as the reader must uncover the characters’ deeper motivations and ways they mask the truth about those intentions.

As Emika comes dangerously close to uncovering those truths, she becomes the quarry of those who aim to profit from the nefarious plans. Trying to escape capture and death, as there is now a bounty on her head, she turns to an outlaw group for protection. The Blackcoats and their leader, Zero, initially seem to offer the alternative she seeks by protecting the world from Hideo’s megalomania. The truth is more complex, however, as Zero is actually Hideo’s missing brother, Sasuke. As truth and reality become blurred, Emika realizes she must be wholly self-reliant and delver into her inner reserves of strength. The reader is supposedly drawn in to sharing her fear of the dangers she faces in navigating multiple hazards, but the degree of engagement may vary widely depending on how much one can identify with her super-heroic qualities.