Tour Recap + Review: Wildcard by Marie Lu

Rating: 5 stars
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: young adult science fiction
Format/Source: ARC, ALA annual conference
Status: book 2 of the Warcross duology
Links: Warcross review

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?

Marie Lu has done it again! Warcross was one of my favorite books of 2017, and Wildcard is one of my favorites of 2018! This series is intense and action-packed, but it also has a good amount of character development and great emotional beats as well so that the action sequences had meaning in addition to creating an adrenaline rush as I read.

I need to apologize to Hideo for a second. In Warcross, I didn't like him too much because I knew he had some hidden motives. They become very clear at the end of the book, but because I had that "off" feeling about him early on, it was hard to like him, and it was near impossible to ship Emika with him. Normally I am ALL OVER the romance, but not this time. In Wildcard, I think Hideo is more human. He's not the untouchable tech billionaire. He's so much more vulnerable in his scenes with Emika, and although I still think he made some pretty big mistakes, I have a great deal of sympathy for him. I think Hideo's part of the story concludes very appropriately, and the very last page gave me allll the feels.

I think it was really great that the rest of the Phoenix Riders called Emika out for being a loner and withholding information. So many times with these chosen one stories, the main character intentionally exiles themselves "to save" their friends, but Ash, Hammy, Roshan, and the rest of the crew not only WANT to help, they also have the ability, and I love that they stand up to Emika in order to best support her.

Wildcard is definitely darker than Warcross, and I think people should be aware. Marie mentioned it at her OKC stop of the tour (you can read below) that Warcross is shiny and exciting and bright, while Wildcard demonstrates the darker consequences of being so reliant on technology, especially interactive/VR (although toward the end, Emika also mentions the great benefits of being globally connected and the good things that have come from high tech). Wildcard also explores the importance of agency and justice, while still being a high tech, fast-paced adventure.

I adored this series, and I will both recommend Marie Lu's books and eagerly anticipate each one myself forever.

Wildcard Tour Recap:
Warcross in general is probably the most fun book I've ever written. It's mostly present day, maybe just a few years in the future.

Which book did you enjoy writing more? Warcross was definitely more fun. I've been wanting to write a book another video games for years. I used to work in video games. There's a society in Champion where everything is game-ified. And the points you get for doing things affects what you can do, where you can work. But I only got to write it for two chapters so I wanted to do more. Warcross scratched that itch. I really enjoyed writing the first draft of Warcross, which is unusual. Wildcard was excruciating. Part of the reason is because I had to tie up all the loose threads. Warcross is the shiny story, but Wildcard is the dark side. That darkness made it difficult to write and explore.

Can you tell us how you create this bright, colorful world? I'm a very visual thinker, and working in video games contributed to that. Sometimes it's hard to convert something I envision in 3D into words. It takes some finagling to get it into words. I approach it how I saw games being made. I was constantly getting notes from game designers, and I kind of wrote a game design document for Warcross. What are the power ups and what do the glasses look like? What are the jobs of the team members and the team colors? For this, I got to do whatever I want. There were no limitations to creating this game like in real like. It was like wish fulfillment.

What has been your favorite series to write as a whole? Probably Legend. It was my first baby, and it was special that way. It was also easy for me to write because I didn't know what I was doing. I wasn't thinking about the market so there was no pressure that way. The characters had been in my head for four years, and I love all my books, all my characters, but you only get that with your first characters. I knew Day really really well. He was like a real person in my had. Whereas with Warcross, especially Hideo, he's a mystery to Emika and he was a mystery to me.

Who is your favorite character? Who do you relate the most to? I would probably say Emika. I love writing about her. She's kind of my wish fulfillment character. She's like the best version of myself, and it was easy to get into her headspace. I also have a soft spot for June and Day. Adelina was the hardest. I love her but she was difficult.

What video games? I worked at Disney Interactive. My first job was as an intern in a think tank so we just thought up new games for Disney, and if they liked it, they'd greenlight it. I pitched an idea of dark Peter Pan. Peter starts growing up and Neverland starts getting darker and it's like a mystery to figure out why. And a Fantasia game, like Guitar Hero but with an orchestra. Affter that I worked a little bit on other games like Club Penguin.

What don't you like about first drafts and what;s your favorite part of the writing process? I hate looking at a blank page and working with things I can't see. I'm a pantser. I don't outline. Well, I do outline but I don't follow it. I feel like a director who has no control over his actors. I feel like staring at a blank page is terrifying. I have no idea what comes next. But afterward, I like the revision process because I get to see the story become closer to a book and the story become what I see in my head. I don't enjoy the first two rounds [of revisions], but then I see my vision come together.

Can you tell me about your historical fantasy? Kingdom of Back. Spring of 2020 and it's my first standalone. It's a historical fantasy about Mozart and his sister Nannerl. She was every bit as accomplished as her brother but because she was a woman, she couldn't be a composer professionally. When he was 5 and she was maybe 9, they were touring together. I read a biography that said while they were touring, they were riding a carriage for weeks at a time. They made up their own pretend kingdom and created a map and everything. So that always stuck in my head and I knew I had to write it. It's half historical, half fantasy. Amadeus meets Pan's Labyrinth. The magical world starts seeping into the real world. I had a lot of fun writing it, but it's very different from anything I've done before

What can you tell us about Zero's back story? I can't say a lot, but I didn't know it when I was writing Warcross. I said, "future me will figure it out!" And then future me became present me, and I was like, "ohhh, mannn." So I had to stop to do a full character profile. He was one of the most fun character to write.

Are Legend and Warcross connected? Yes. Warcross is set about 100 years before Legend. The world of Warcross [the game] is what becomes the Antartican society in Legend. And Asher's brother Daniel Batu Wing is a direct ancestor of Day's.

Do you have a favorite rainy day book? Old favorites! Something comforting. I really love Watership Down. When I was a middle schooler, I loved Brian Jacques' Redwall series. It was the golden series of my childhood. So after I finished it, I wanted something similar. That's how I found Watership Down.

Can you say anything about the Legend movie? It's with a production company, and they're great. They seem intent to make the fans happy, which makes me happy. I've seen the first draft of the sceipt, and I like it a lot. I think they have a director on board, but that's all I know. In Hollywood, writers have very little control.

What made you stop working in video games? I had been writing on the side for years. I fell into video games. I initially wanted to go to law school. My senior year I walked past a board with a flier from Disney that said do you love video games? Yes I do! Do you like to draw? That was something else I did on the side. So I went to work to Disney. But my first goal was always to be a writer. I used to write in my emails! After I got my Legend deal, I had to choose. I've been very lucky to stay in the writing world.

What is your fave genre/book to read? There are so many. I LOVE reading YA. Once I found it was a category, I started reading it exclusively. I almost exclusively read fantasy and sci-fi. I love Leigh Bardugo. I think she's one of the best. I love her. Tahereh Magi is another favorite. I think she's great at switching. She writes very commercial Shatter Me, and now she has a contemporary. I don't usually read a lot of contemporary but I blew through it. I read it sitting on the floor for four hours. Sabaa Tahir. An Ember in the Ashes is fantastic. S. Jae-Jones' Wintersong duology. It has a lot of things that really appeal to me. Alexander London has Black Wings Beating and yeah. It's a fantasy about falconry. It's the coolest. His first YA series is Proxy, and I highly highly recommend it. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. You just know sometimes when you read a book it's gonna be big, that it's gonna hit home. Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone. In short I love love love YA. Oh! And Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls. It was some of the first YA I read. They are snappy, they are funny, and they have so much heart.

Ally Carter: Go back to your signing, Marie Lu! This concludes the commercial portion of tonight!

How do you maintain author relationships? This community is a very unique thing. I don't think adult authors talk to each other much. It was so easy to fall into this community. I didn't know anyone when I first published, but I got pulled in. Ellen Oh sent me an email, and she was like, come join us on twitter! It's like the water cooler! I think the YA community is warm and considerate. And  also passionate. We're a sometimes dysfunctional family. People in YA support each other because a high tide lifts all boats. Because of The Hunger Games, I got to do what I did with Legend. I guess we compete, but we also lift each other up. I find it rewarding.

Tell us about The Young Elites. Your favorite character, the power you'd choose. I love Adelina, but she was so difficult to write. I had a lot of fun writing Raffaele. He was the original protagonist, but I had a hard time getting his voice. He was just so average. I wrote 100 ages of that. I sent it to my agent. Kristen called me and she said, "did you think this was good?" I said, "I can feel my heart cracking." She said, "this book sucks except for Adelina." Weirdly when I switched it around, Raffaele blossomed and his whole personality popped out. I thought he was so fun to write. It was like a candy scene. What would my power be? This might be boring, but I think I'd like the power to turn back time or stop time to get more things done. I could ake a nap for 8 hours and also get stuff done. That would be awesome. I'd get a lot more books done that way too.

Who got you into reading? I was a reluctant reader. I came over to the US from China when I was five so English was not my first language. My mom would force me to do little assignments like I'd look up five words in the dictionary and write sentences with them so I hated writing at first. But I started liking it better. It was hard for me to latch on, but the library helped me get past that. My parents would tell me to go do something, and I'd go to the library. I went through Goosebumps and The Baby-sitters Club and Sweet Valley High. The Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, all the books like that. The librarian got me into them. Where the Red Fern Grows and that's how I got into animal books. Oh, The Rats of NIMH and Margaret Henry. She gave them to me.

I don't believe in judging people for a book they like.

Are any of your plots inspired by things in real life? I was five when Tiananmen Square massacre happened. I was there. My aunt took me there. I remembered the students protesting. I remember seeing the Statue of Liberty there. I remember seeing tanks at the entrance and exits of the square. My aunt leaned down and said, "this is not a good day to be here." We should leave. I didn't realize what a big deal it was when I moved to the US. When you're in a dystopia, you don't always realize it. It's hard to see. We are in a dystopia now, and it's easy to become complacent, but we can't. On a lighter note, Warcross is based a lot on my experience in the gaming industry. A lot of the anecdotes were things my fellow interns and I did. Like the blue shell hitting the guy at the finish line of the Mario Kart game in Warcross. Elon musk is making a neuro link. My agent sent me this story right when Warcross went to print, and I wondered if we'd need to change the name. It's all here today.

Was it hard to send off the book after the last round of edits? Yes. It is always hard. I'm like, I just want to change one last word. I would edit until the end of time.

Purchase Links:

About the Author:
Marie Lu is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Legend trilogy and The Young Elites trilogy. She graduated from the University of Southern California and jumped into the video game industry, working for Disney Interactive Studios as a Flash artist. Now a full-time writer, she spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing Assassin’s Creed, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles, California (see above: traffic), with one husband, one Chihuahua mix, and two Pembroke Welsh corgis.

Author Links:

One winner will receive a signed copy of Wildcard. Open to US. Entrants must be 13+. Giveaway is open until 12 AM CST October 15. Please enter via Rafflecopter below; winner will be chosen at random, and odds are determined by number of entries. I reserve the right to disqualify any entries that are not in accordance with my giveaway policies as stated in the Review & Site Policies tab at the top of the page.Good luck!


  1. I loved Warcross! So excited to get to this finale!

  2. Warcross is my favorite Marie Lu book so far.

  3. The Rose Society was my favorite Marie Lu book, but Warcross is definitely close on the list after that series!

    1. *hides face* I haven't read Rose Society or Midnight Star yet. I feel like such a fake fan! lol

  4. "What's your favorite Marie Lu book?" The first book, "Warcross," for that great cover!

    1. Do you prefer the white/rainbow of the hardcover or the silvery paperback cover?

  5. My favorite Marie Lu book is definitely Warcross!

    1. I could go for some more books like it for sure!

  6. This is my first introduction to this author, so I don't have a favorite.

  7. I haven't actually read anything by Marie Lu but they are high on my TBR! I've heard great things about this series!

  8. WarCross is my favorite so far and hopefully this will fuel that further.