Straight off the bat, this series has given me major Ready Player One vibes. It has the same basic premise: the world has become hooked on a high tech virtual reality world which a big bad guy wants to take advantage of. The first book in this series, Warcross, was a fun, but majorly forgettable book. My hopes weren’t high for Wildcard (it didn’t feel necessary after Warcross) and unfortunately, this book really didn’t deliver.
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?
Honestly, this whole book felt really forced. It centers around the idea that Emika is madly in love with Hideo who is doing bad stuff and it’s making her really conflicted about her feelings. The first book frames Emika as a logical programmer who was starkly against abusing the Warcross technology, but then in this book she basically spent the entire time trying to justify why Hideo was abusing this technology. Also, the relationship between Hideo and Emika barely existed in the first book (and was sorely lacking chemistry) but then she spent all of this book mooning over him. It was annoying and really took away from the story.
While I found Warcross to be a bit predictable but fun (those fight scenes!), Wildcard was downright boring. It wasn’t hard to guess the resolutions to most of the big twists: they were generic and unsurprising. The fight scenes felt repetitive and tedious to read, which was a departure from the first book where they were what made the book enjoyable. Also, far too much of the book was spent with Emika being wishy-washy and being a bit of a Mary Sue. That brings me to my biggest problem with this book: the characters are very one dimensional. Emika lost most of her main characteristics (and didn’t seem to even be a hacker any more) and her teammates from the Pheonix Riders were used mostly as props with no emotional value.
Unless you’ve already read Warcross and are dying to find out what happens next, I would recommend giving this book a pass. It felt drawn out and boring – the events of Wildcard felt like they should have been shortened and just added to the end of Warcross instead of being a sequel. 1.5/5.