There are odd times in a bookworms reading life where you read two books and don’t think they are very similar but then you read them back to back and you think… WOW! These two books have so MUCH in common yet are two totally different books! This happened to me with this book and Warcross…
by Axie Oh
Published September 15th 2017
by Tu Books
Set in a future war torn Korea, Lee Jaewon has scraped and clawed to become the best runner at the academy. In a world where your battle prowess determines your status his only desire is to escape his roots, as the abandoned son of a rebel and an ex-gang member. Recruited by a weapons development division after his high profile friend Alex handpicks him, Jaewon is shocked to meet Tera a girl he’d seen enjoying a concert. One of a pair of supersoilders she is a master combatist created to pilot the massive war robots called God Machines. As he becomes closer to his partner Jaewon will have to decide just what he believes in…
I’ve got to lead with the fact this is MY FAVORITE BOOK OF 2017 SO FAR!!
As a total fangirl of Korean dramas I was SOOOO excited to read this premise!! There is a definite lack of Korean protagonists and worlds with which to choose from so I had HIGH HOPES for this book!! And it DID NOT disappoint me!!
I enjoy dystopian worlds but I’m not a huge fan of the big robot war machines. I don’t hate them but I’m not looking for stories about this topic… YET I LOVED them in this book!! Jaewon is a student at a war academy who explains in a very engaging way the world in which he finds himself after a rather rough childhood. What is now Korea has been embroiled in wars for many years now… and they are still fighting. The present day class system is still present but is all about where you fit in the war… the Old Seoul residents are the foot soldiers and cannon fodder while the Neo Seoul residents are the creme de la creme veterans and their families. Even the focus on family and a man’s relationship with his father is explored at length and is SOO Korean.
It’s not all info dumped in the beginning but is layered well amongst Jaewon’s everyday movements. I think the world came alive so well for me because we got to see what Jaewon explained or rather he explained when he was in situations where explanation was needed! It made the information he shared very natural to the situation. I didn’t feel like the author was preparing me for things that would be used later rather I felt Jaewon was my guide in this new and unknown world.
The use of native Korean words that the reader could learn easily in the way they were used really did a lot to add the flavor of Seoul. And the advanced society was very developed but NOT an in your face sort of way. Again whatever Jaewon interacted with we got the lowdown from his floating phone, to the simulation capsules, to the grid (i.e. streets of Neo Seoul) to the God Machines and the science of enhancement. It’s not just the tech that was cool either, all the little Korean references like the notable pop star, the street stands, the director’s tech savvy mansion and differences between Old and Neo Seoul. I didn’t feel anything was off or didn’t make sense. It all worked and felt genuine. I felt like I was in the future!!
I just really enjoyed the premise of this…
It is totally centered on Jaewon and his experiences. I feel like Jaewon’s story could have been anything and i would have enjoyed myself. He was a very engaging POV character and I really related to his life and all the different elements and moving parts it had: his father shamed him, his mother abandoned him and his relationship with his childhood friend wad not working. I just cared so much about Jaewon!
Tera, Ama, Alex, Young, Sela and Tsuko were all engaging as well… I cared for them too because Jaewon cared about them! The interactions between the characters were developed and each played a role in Jaewon’s story.* Even the minor characters like Jaewon’s two school friends were integral to his world. While Jaewon is a loner he wasn’t alone. So many times a character is so obviously a character because they are all alone. Even when they have people in their lives those people are presented as flat and ONLY there to inform the MC. Not so with this cast!! All of the other secondary characters, ALL OF THEM had their own story arc that at one point or another came to bear on Jaewon’s own story. Not in any contrived way but so naturally that it was the perfect mimicry of life!
Tera and forbidden romance!
I’m not sure why forbidden romance is so seductive… probably we all want what we shouldn’t have (chocolate anyone?!) I really liked Tera… I liked how her own situation was the biggest pressure on Jaewon as well as the biggest pleasure. I do wish that there were a couple more scenes with just Tera and Jaewon. While they do interact well and I loved when they were together there were about the same number of scenes with the other secondary characters… if they were falling in love I’d have liked to have seen them together MORE than with others. That said I really enjoyed how Jaewon was introduced to Tera and how he came to see her perspective! Isn’t that why we love someone and how we know they love us!?
Alex and Young plus the bromance! Gah!!
The friendship in this book!! Young is the childhood friend and Alex is the unexpected friend. When your life intersects with another’s you can choose to ignore what you see or you can gain greater understanding of them! That forms friendship… This is shown so beautifully with Alex in a new friendship that started as a convenience for both of them. It is also explored in a more advanced friendship with Young who acted instead of expressing himself to his best friend. I JUST LOVED these relationships and I can’t fault them for keeping their own space in Jaewon’s life (and not giving it up to love interest Tera!!)
There is this whole other part of the story that is connected to Jaewon’s personal back history as well as the back history of the world as a whole. It is used to great effect in the plot adding depth and breathe to the situations that Jaewon finds himself. I was quite affected at one point where Jaewon learns something of his father… it about broke my heart!! If because Tera is this bad ass super human you think this is going to be ALL action then you are mistaken!
This is a book that mimics life and so there is drama, history, routine, meetings AND action. It’s balanced!! And the pacing is spot on. There was always something going on or something coming up and so I was anticipating events with this ebb and flow. Because everything was very naturally developed I wasn’t suddenly surprised by anything. Unexpected things happened but it wasn’t a sudden twist that was hidden very deliberately and manipulatively.
What Didn’t I Like?
Okay, Okay if you insist that there has to be something that I don’t like then I will have to say the cover! With all the pretty covers nowadays this one is very dull. Not that it doesn’t sort of reflect Seoul I just feel like it could be SOOO much better! I do love the guy standing in the middle as if he is a God Machine. And I do LOVE the title of the book! It did suit the story quite well… So there you have it the one mar on an otherwise perfect record!
As a Reader…
I’m going to have to say it… but I LOVED Rebel Seoul… it was BETTER than Warcross!! (Settle down I still really liked Warcross but this one is just better…) The end was everything with God Machines that I wanted! It was the completion of the subtle events that were forming around Tera and Ama and their weapons development department! And the people swirling around Jaewon all played their part.
If you want to read something truly Korean which is exciting but also true to life then you’ve got to pick up Rebel Seoul!! Seriously I could read this again (and I NEVER say that!!)
Korea! War Games! Technology! Asian Protagonists! Future World! Mechs! Sci-Fi! Father-Son Relationships!
As a writer my preference is for multiple POVs, but that is my writing style… I still LOVED the prose and felt it really worked well!
*The only thing that would have made this book even better is if there were multiple POVs… like Tera, Ama, and Young as well as Jaewon or alternatively Jaewon, with Alex, Young and Tsuko!! That would have been testosterone filled… Not that this being only Jaewon’s story is bad but that we could have gotten a more complete view of the world with more than one POV character…
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Premise & World Building
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Development & Storycraft
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Writing & Narrative
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Plot & Pacing
⋆ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Cover & Title
A Korea centered YA sci-fi war machines masterpiece!
Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.