Warcross-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Science-fiction

Rating: 5/5

As you may know, if you have seen/read any of my other book reviews, I have not given a whole lot of 5/5 scores, so that tells you something about this book. Hopefully the view is not biased, but the majority of other 5’s I have given are to books that are likewise by Marie Lu, which either means I am biased, or that Marie Lu is a phenomenal author. None of her book series’ are of quite the same genre, which demonstrates her skill as a writer across genres. The Legend trilogy (Legend, Prodigy, Champion) is a young adult dystopian series that is often described as a young adult version of Les Miserables but in a dystopian U.S.A. The Young Elites trilogy (The Young Elites, The Rose Society, The Midnight Star) is more of a fantasy series based on Italy during the time of the plague, although the world building and powers involved in this series are very unique and interesting. That leads us to Warcross, the first in a duology that takes place in a world where virtual gaming is immensely popular and the technology is so fine-tuned that people virtually play e-sports or gamble in the world of the internet using an avatar that a person can make and use in a virtual way with special glasses and contacts.

Warcross is told from the perspective of Emika Chen, a rainbow-haired 18-year-old bounty hunter living off of sparsely capturing and turning in Warcross gamblers. When Emika is desperate for money, considering she is a few months behind in rent, she hacks into Warcross during a major event in the hopes of stealing a hacked item to sell to sell to someone in the notorious underworld of Warcross. But something goes wrong with her hack.

Industrial master, Hideo Tanaka, the creator of Warcross, along with millions of other people, see Emika’s slip-up. She is instantly asked to be flown to Japan to meet Hideo in person. What she thinks might be some terrible fate for her hacking slip-up turns into a job for a master a hacker such as herself, a job to find another hacker who is going into Warcross and messing with a number of the game’s mainframes. Using the traces that this hacker has left behind, Hideo asks Emika to track the hacker down and prevent him from foiling Hideo’s industrial plans. Emika’s rent is paid off, she is gifted the newest virtual glasses for logging into the game, virtual glasses that are going to soon be distributed to people on a global level, and there’s a catch. Hideo has hired other hackers to track down the person messing with his game, and whoever finds the person first wins an unrealistic amount of money, something Emika could sure use to stay afloat in the world.

Emika is undercover as a hacker, being brought into the Warcross championships as a wild card, a player that will be selected by one of the main teams competing in the championships. When selected for the Phoenix Riders, Emika finds that she can access and hack their personal data much easier by being on their team and living in the same dorms as them. When she finds that one of her teammates, Ren, has more shields and safeguards up against hackers, Emika immediately selects him as a suspect. When she is able to get at least something out of his data, she trails him only to find the hacker messing with Warcross known as Zero.

Among all the hustle and bustle of living a double life, hacker on the side and gamer as a front, Emika and Hideo find that they are interested in each other for more than just their gaming or hacking skills. Hideo, a closed-off person, eventually breaks down and tells Emika that everything he does is for his brother, a brother who went missing one day and was never found again, a brother who enjoyed playing in the park, and whose games became the basis for Warcross.

When Zero comes forth and asks Emika to hack on his side instead of Hideo’s, a number of events fall through that lead to the climactic ending, leaving the reader in anticipation for what Emika will do next.

This book is well-written and fast-paced. It is a book I would recommend for fans of .hack// or Sword Art Online, or even James Dashner’s The Mortality Doctrine series. I would also recommend this for video gamer’s who play League of Legends, Overwatch, or Smite, because it has the feel to it that would hit any gamer’s itch. Lu’s craft is refined and her presentation of first person perspective is done well in present tense, a feat that is not easy for many writers to accomplish. Being one of the few 5/5’s that I have given, I would strongly recommend this book to the appeals I have mentioned above, as well as any young reader who is itching for something exciting that they cannot put down.


Champions of the Force (Jedi Academy #3)-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Science-fiction

Rating: 4/5

Champions of the Force is the final volume in the Jedi Academy trilogy, following Jedi Search and Dark Apprentice. While the first book was pretty exciting, the second was a bit lacking. This book makes up for the lack in the second novel by far. 

With Luke in a coma, the Jedi apprentices struggle to find a way to bring him back. While they perceive Luke as defenseless, his Force ghost fights the evil Sith Force ghost of Exar Kun. Only one can see and hear Luke in his Force state: Jacen Solo, a mere toddler. While Exar Kun uses the forces of Yavin 4 to kill Luke’s physical body, little Jacen makes a stand to keep his uncle safe.

Meanwhile, Kyp still has the Sun Crusher and aims to save his brother and destroy any solar systems with planets with Empire loyalists. Han is the only person who might be able to get through to Kyp, but when he almost has the Jedi apprentice back on the good side, his trick to get him there angers Kyp even more.

The Maw instillation is officially being searched and taken by the New Republic force led by Wedge. They aim to gain the technology and resources that may be useful to them, and then destroy the Maw, but some of the scientists have escaped in the Death Star prototype!

On Kessel, Lando and Mara Jade are aiming to become business partners using the mines of Kessel for its glitterstim in more legal ways than Doole. Speaking of Doole, he is still a problem, having locked himself up in his own facility. Mara and Lando aim to get Doole out, but when the Death Star prototype shows up, they have a bigger problem at hand.  The scientists want to test their prototype on Kessel, but their practice round misses the planet and hits the moon instead, lucky for Mara and Lando.

Maw Instillation turns into a massive battle site where Kyp aims to use the Sun Crusher on it, the Death Star prototype returns to collect their research, and Admiral Daala, who narrowly escaped the scourge of the Sun Crusher, returns to destroy everything in the Maw, including all the New Republic citizens therein.

With Kyp’s quick thinking, the Death Star Prototype falls into the black hole cluster, and Daala manages to escape…AGAIN.

Back on Coruscant, Mon Mothma no longer hides her illness, and Leia is nominated as Chief of State. With the new Jedi, one may be able to heal Mon Mothma, who was poisoned by Furgan. Furgan, who escapes the Sun Crusher and aims to take Anakin Solo from his safe planet. Luckily, Winter has a number of massive tactics and defenses for herself and the infant until help arrives.

In this book, we learn a bit more about the different Jedi apprentices and some of their more unique abilities. It was a good conclusion to the trilogy and leaves a lot of open-ended things that will be explored in further novels, which is nice. We will see Daala again eventually, and we will get to learn a lot more about the Jedi apprentices in both I, Jedi, which takes place during the events of the Jedi Academy trilogy (from a different perspective), and Jedi Academy: Leviathan.

Overall, while the series has its high and low points and is not quite as good as the Thrawn Trilogy, it is still a great installment to the expanded universe and leaves the reader wanting to know more about Luke’s new Jedi apprentices, Han and Leia’s Jedi children, and the New Republic’s endeavors. Overall a wonderful addition to the Star Wars universe that any fan would enjoy!

Star Wars: Rebel Rising-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Science-fiction

Rating: 4/5

Rebel Rising is a part of the Rogue One story line in the Star Wars franchise. This book can be found in the young adult section of your local book store, and is written for more of a teen audience, which made this a fun and unique read in addition to the Star Wars collection of books.

This novel features Jyn Erso for the ten years she spends between the time of her mother’s death and the time that she truly joins the rebellion. When Jyn is taken from her hiding place by Saw, a Clone Wars veteran, she finds she could learn to care for him as if he were family, but Saw has treated Jyn as a rising rebel rather than a daughter. At times, he does claim her as his daughter and he ingrains into her that she must never share her true identity, since her father is working for the Empire.

Jyn learns how to use a blaster and how to fight and defend using hand-to-hand combat. She becomes antiquated with a number of rebels that begin forming small strikes against the Empire, and she even demonstrates her strength against them, proving her worth to join Saw and the rebels on a mission.

When a mission goes sour and the rebels find a traitor in their midst, they must be careful. When the wrong person is accused, the real spy makes himself known, and Jyn is separated from Saw. She spends a year with the Ponta family (Hadder and his mother, Akshaya), finding new meaning to life, and even romance.

Even though Jyn constantly warns Akshaya that the Empire will eventually come down on their planet, the trader does not listen. When the Empire strikes, Jyn must make a new start yet again. Finding jobs hard to come by, Jyn resorts to working codes for the Empire and even selling out rebels, until she lands herself in the Imperial prison on Wobani.

This book is fun and fast-paced with the perfect type font, line spacing, and writing style for a young adult audience and it works for any Star Wars fan as well. There are some time skips that make the book feel rushed, which was noticeable and a bit of a bummer, and there isn’t anything that particularly stands out that makes the book great. Rather, it is the build and background that is placed upon Jyn’s character that makes this book more interesting, especially since we know the events that happen right after the books ends.

All in all, I would recommend this book for Star Wars fans of all ages, whether they be new fans to the franchise or veterans. It was a great installation to the series, to be sure!

Carve the Mark-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Science-fiction

Rating: 4.5/5

Carve the Mark blew me away! At first it was slow and convoluted because there is a lot of information to take in about the world and how it functions, but once that is more clear, the story is interesting, fast-paced, and outstanding! I went into this book not knowing anything about it or what to expect, and it turned out to be one of the best reads of 2017 thus far. The author the the Divergent Series does not disappoint her fans here.

The premise of the story is somewhat complex, but I will try my best to explain: basically there are two groups of people who inhabit the same planet and they are warring with each other. The origin stories for this dispute are different in both societies, so we cannot know which is accurate and which is not. The people of these planets obtain something similar to powers, called “currentgifts,” such as the use of fire or healing. People gain currentgifts from the current stream in their universe when they are around the age where they would go through puberty.

Akos Kereseth is the main male character who obtains the currentgift for interrupting other currentgifts; in other words, he can take them away. He is of the Thuvhe, the northern culture of people inhabiting the planet. When the Shotet people come to take Akos and his brother away, one of them supposedly the new prophet, the violence encourages even more dispute among the people.

Ryzek Noavek, the leader of the Shotet people in the south, believes that if he owns his own prophet (in this case, Akos’s brother), then he can escape his fate or rewrite what the prophet foresees before it happens. Ryzek’s gift is to exchange memories with others, and his hope is to be able to take the prophet’s power away through memory exchange.

When Akos becomes a servant for Cyra Noavek, Ryzek’s sister, the two seemingly hate each other, but their currentgifts are well-paired. Cyra’s currentgift is being in a constant state of nearly chronic pain, pain which she can give to others through touch, and even kill people with it. Since Akos can take currentgifts away, he can help Cyra ease her gift to build her public face for her brother. Because of her gift, Ryzek uses her to torture enemies often, despite how it affects her.

Eventually, Cyra and Akos not only find feelings for each other, but find that they have a common goal: remove (by murdering) Ryzek from power, because he is the one causing the current violence between the two civilizations. Akos also knows his fate: that he will one day die for the Noavek family, but when and how is uncertain, and no one can change their fate.

Overall, this book received a number of mixed reviews and has been called “ableist” and “racist” by many reviewers. While I can see these aspects in the novel, it is the racism and ableism that make the characters and the novel interesting. Basically, Roth is using this science-fiction world to demonstrate issues that we are still struggling with in the world today, issues that may need a bit more light and understanding bestowed upon them.

Despite the mixed reviews, the story is fast-paced (after the large amount of world building and exposition at the beginning of the novel) and has characters that seem to have a sort of Romeo and Juliet type of fate. It is the hardship and tragedy of the characters that make them worth following and growing attached to. It is the hope that they will overcome what fate has written for them, but knowing Roth, Akos and Cyra may yet have a tragic end.

The writing is pretty solid, and I have to say that the only way to really get a feel for what this book has to offer is to pick up a copy and READ IT! I am greatly looking forward to the next one, which I believe will be even better than the first, since the major exposition has been put out in the first novel.

A side note: Why is it called Carve the Mark? Well, every time the Shotet kill someone, people of violence, they carve a mark into their skin and dye it so that everyone knows how many they have killed, and to put those deaths to memory as well.

Dark Apprentice (Jedi Academy Trilogy #2)-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Science-fiction

Rating: 3.5/5

11 ABY

Happy 40 year anniversary to the release of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, released on May 25, 1977! In honor of the anniversary, I ensure that a fresh Star Wars Post makes it onto my blog on May 25th. This post features the second novel in the Jedi Academy Trilogy: Dark Apprentice, preceded by the first in the trilogy, Jedi Search. While not quite as interesting as the events and characters in the first novel, this one still has quite a bit of merit.

The New Republic has taken the Sun Crusher, and in retaliation, Admiral Daala is wreaking havoc across New Republic worlds, including Akbar’s home-world. After his ship is tampered with during a peaceful political talk with a new planet of people, Ackbar crashing into their sacred building has the New Republic remove him from his post, no longer an admiral. Now residing on his home-world, Leia and Ackbar fight against Daala’s assault.

While this battle rages on Mon Calamari, Luke is on Yavin 4 training his new Jedi apprentices. Little does Luke know that a couple of his Jedi are looking to the Dark Side. Gantoris on the Eol Sha people sees visions of dark power, and when he chooses to embrace the Dark Side, it is too much, and his body gives out. Now this dark being has found its way to Kyp Durron, who claims the Sun Crusher can be used against Daala and the rest of the Empire remnants, and that Luke is not teaching his new pupils what they need to know.

Meanwhile, Leia is aiming for peaceful negotiations with various planets while trying to be a good mother at the same time, and the one who sabotaged Ackbar’s ship has found Anakin Solo’s whereabouts!

When Luke finds out about the destruction of the Eol Sha people, wiped out by Daala in an act of pure guerrilla warfare, Luke cannot keep up with the fading Empire remnants and his pupils turning to the Dark Side. When Luke aims to fight whatever this looming darkness is, he falls into a comatose state, leaving his apprentices to fend for themselves, and leaving Kyp to do as he pleases with the Sun Crusher as he aims to exact revenge and save his brother.

All in all, this book was still pretty decent. I was not as interesting as the set-up and character introductions in Jedi Search, it has potential to lead into a climactic finish, and it does keep the reader wanting to know what will happen with many of the characters, including Luke, Kyp, Anakin, Daala, and Mara. Yes, Mara Jade make an appearance in this novel, as Luke is aiming to get her to join his Jedi Academy, and the plays between Mara and Lando are hilarious. Overall, a decent sequel to a decent Star Wars trilogy that any fan would find interest in.

Star Wars: Jedi Search (Jedi Academy Trilogy #1)-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Jedi Search is the first novel in the Jedi Academy Trilogy, a good series to read after the Thrawn Trilogy and the Dark Empire graphic novels. Many of the characters we meet within those books make an appearance in this book (or later books) and this book opens up a new door of adventure for Luke, Han, and everyone.

This novel opens with Han and Chewbacca sent on a mission to the spice mining planet of Kessel, where they aim to bring the remnants of smugglers over to the New Republic. When they are shot down, Han and Chewbacca find themselves enslaved by Moruth Doole, who won control of the spice mines after the fall of the Empire. The luminous glitterstim of Kessel is highly sought after, but dangerous to excavate.

Meanwhile, on Coruscant, Luke has gained permission to begin his new Jedi Academy and he has a few candidates he has found through his travels, but he just needs to find a place for the school, which Leia is slaving over. As Leia explores potential planets for Luke’s academy, Luke ventures to places with rumored candidates who may be strong in the Force.

Luke travels to the volcanic world of Eol Sha where he meets Gantoris and his people. When Luke pleads his case with the people of Eol Sha, and Gantoris has Luke fight through some dangerous trials before agreeing to go with him, his people guaranteed to have a safer planet to reside in the Republic. Afterwards, Luke finds Streen on Bespin, a man who is so sensitive to the Force that he can’t keep the voices quiet in his head, which Luke promises her can train.

Lando is searching for a Jedi lead on Umgul well-known for its blob races. When a man is suspected of using the Force to win big, Lando and Artoo hunt him down, only to find that he was not a force user, although he was wanted by his Duchess, ensuring Lando leaving with a major consolation prize.

Leia is dealing with a bunch of political and diplomatic stuff while taking care of her twins, Jacen and Jaina, who could finally be with her on Coruscant since they turned two, and juggling finding a planet for Luke’s academy. When Han is late in returning, Leia sends Luke and Lando to find out what is going on.

Back on Kessel, Han and Chewbacca are stuck in the spice mines where they meet Kyp Durron, a young Force-user who helps them deviate an escape. Even though they cannot get the Falcon back, the trio manages to escape with on of the spice transports. When Doole’s men go after them, they escape into the Maw Cluster, a dangerous series of black holes. Kyp’s use of the Force guides them through to the center where four Star Destroyers sit in waiting. Apparently Admiral Daala did not get the memo of the Empire’s fall, being stranded in a place that cannot get fluid communication. When she questions Han, she finds his truth to be devastating and has a hard time believing him.

Of course, our trio finds a way to escape: the Sun Crusher, a tiny ship with more power than the Death Star and can annihilate solar systems. It’s developer, Qui Xux (an Omwati), didn’t really think she was doing anything bad by creating these devastating things, only knowing the lies Tarkin told to manipulate and use her intellect.

When Luke and Lando finally find the Falcon and that Doole had done something with their friends, they steal back the Falcon, get caught up in a space brawl, and narrowly escape (after meeting up with the Sun Crusher) when Daala’s Star Destroyers enter out of the Maw onto Kessel’s air space.

With Han home, the Sun Crusher in Republic hands, and the perfect planet, Luke can now take his candidates and begin training a new era of Jedi, but what will come of Daala and her sought revenge for the Empire?

This was a very fun novel and continuation of events after the fall of the Empire. It had a bit of a slow start, but the appearance of Daala and all the new Force users are interesting additions that have potential to be in the books chronologically from here on out. So my question, when reading, was “Where’s Mara Jade? She’s my favorite, isn’t she going to be in this?” Yes, she is mentioned, but she doesn’t make an appearance again until Dark Apprentice, the second book in the trilogy.

Some people go straight to The Hand of Thrawn Duology after the Thrawn Trilogy, but Luke and Mara are growing close in  that series, and I didn’t want to just jump into their relationship without seeing how they arrived there through the other events chronologically, so while the pace is slow-going, it is interesting to see her interactions with Luke in the Jedi Academy Trilogy.

Star Wars: Knight Errant-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Science-fiction

Rating: 4/5

This book takes place in the Old Republic times and is harder to grasp if you are not too familiar with how old Sith space works and how Sith ruled before the Rule of Two.

It’s 1032 BBY and Sith are still rampant in the space that is uncontrolled by the Republic. Jedi Knight Kerra Holt aims to destroy one of the Sith Lords: Daiman. Rather than destroying him, she finds it more important to save all the innocent people who fall helplessly under the battle between Daiman (who thinks he is the creator of the universe) and his Sith brother Odion.

Kerra forces all the refugees onto Rusher’s ship, someone who happened to be doing business in Sith space and was not expecting the huge number of refugees that Kerra has forced onto his ship. As they try to make their way out of Sith space, Rusher and Kerra, along with their ship of refugees, find themselves on a world ruled by Sith Brother and sister Dromika and Quillian.

Timing is unlucky when Arkadia, another Sith ruler, has come to Byllura to retrieve her Sith cousins that Kerra was going to remove from the planet! 

Arkadia seems different than other Sith. She treats Kerra more respectfully and shows her around Calimondretta, an ice city that seems very scholarly. While the citizens under Arkadia’s rule don’t seem enslaved, as they were under Daiman’s rule, Kerra notices that the citizens, who are assigned new jobs everyday, are unhappy. This leads Kerra to believe that perhaps Arkadia isn’t as nice as she seems.

When Arkadia invites Kerra to hide during one of her Sith meetings, Kerra learns that all the Sith she has encountered–Daiman, Odion, Quillan, Dromika, Arkadia, and the newly mentioned Vilia–are all related. And yet they all war with each other for who will take Vilia’s place in the future. After the meeting, Arkadia proposed that Kerra assassinate Vilia so that she may claim the Sith high seat. When Kerra denies, saying that is not the Jedi way, Arkadia has Kerra sentenced to death.

Of course, Kerra is rescued by an interesting Bothan who has been present throughout the novel, working for some Sith or another, but ultimately for Vilia.

Kerra may have saved many lives from the brutality of Sith space, but there are many more to save. While the Sith in Vilia’s domain learn to handle a single Jedi, Kerra continues to fight her way through Sith space, Rusher at her side.

Overall this book was pretty interesting. It is a great way to learn about how Sith used to be (in comparison to the main story of Star Wars). It adds an interesting element to the history and focuses on a single Jedi fighting through that time. I would recommend reading it anytime, as long as you are a die-hard Star Wars fan. If you aren’t too interested in anyone except Luke, Han, and the gang, then skill this novel, along with the majority of Old Republic era books (although I would still recommend Red Harvest).