A little over a month ago, I dropped my review for Warcross. I know, I know. It’s a mess. Not my finest work, to be sure. I struggled to write that review because I was so distractedly annoyed with a single aspect of the book… the romance.
I’m still thinking about this on and off, so I’ve decided to expand upon it. If you haven’t read Warcross, there’s going to be spoilers here, so if you don’t want parts of the book ruined for you… thank you for stopping by, but it may be best for you to go now. <3
More specifically – the romance in Warcross.
Emika Chen as a character was set up so well at the beginning of this story. There are a lot of motivators in place – she has $13 to her name and is about to be kicked out of her apartment. She’s a bounty hunter that was just essentially robbed of her bounty, and she has mountains of debt. All this sets Emi up with plenty of motivation to do something desperate. So the beginning starts off really well.
Then her debts are all paid off. Whelp, okay. There goes that drive. However… even after all that is cleared up… Emily has motivation to work for Hideo Tanaka. He’s her idol. That was all that was needed. She clearly admires him. Everything she does in this book could have been realistically driven by her idolization of the tech giant. End of story.
I think about 60% of this book is spent developing Emika and Hideo’s relationship and I don’t understand why. I have so many problems with how this relationship was developed. Outside of it being completely unnecessary, it’s not believable. Emika and Hideo have know each other for a few weeks by the end of the book. In that time, the reclusive Hideo has not only been extremely impressed by Emika, but has opened up to her in ways nobody else had. And there’s no reason for this. She brings him out of his shell, gets him to talk about his brother’s kidnapping, and even meets his parents. At the beginning she is told specifically “don’t mention his brother” and a couple weeks later BOOM he’s spilling everything to her willingly.
He even cares for her so much that he tries to get her out of the line of fire when the real plan starts to unfold.
All of the information the reader gets about the plot from this relationship could have very easily been gotten in other ways. I called the very ending twist so early… it may have been more impactful if it was a bit less obvious? Not to mention how unbalanced this relationship is! Hideo Tanaka has all the power here – he’s incredibly rich, he erased all her debt, and he owns the largest tech company in the world. They aren’t equals in any way – I don’t see how the relationship could grow and remain healthy.
In spending so much time with the romantic relationship, Lu never really got around to developing Emika’s relationship with her teammates. The romance scenes quickly overpower the actual Warcross scenes. Considering what Emika asks of her team at the end, their relationships should be better. More defined. Especially as she’s been a rubbish player for the team, quite frankly. Unless they really liked her, I can’t understand why they would do something so risky. And how could they grow to like her if she doesn’t do any of the team bonding activities, sneaks off every night to go make out with Tanaka, and otherwise stays locked in her room?
Don’t even get me started on how interesting the tech and the world building is in Warcross. What a waste.
I’m not a writer, but I can see so many other ways Warcorss could have rolled out without falling into the same tired tropes and cheap romances. So I”m sure Lu could see those paths as well. And as much as I hate it, I think I know why she went with the romance. *sigh* It’s because romance sells. Relationships like this have come to be expected in YA books. Especially YA fantasy, largely driven by the success of books like Shadow & Bone, Throne of Glass, and other similar books. Lu’s own books have been very successful with this same formula.
I know Lu can write an amazing book without romance taking over the whole thing because I read Skyhunter earlier this year and it was fantastic. It was also an adult fantasy. Where there is not expectations of a cheesy romance.
Come on YA. Get your act together on this.
Do you agree with my analysis? Did the cheesy romance plot rob Warcross of its potential? Did you like the romance and I’m completely wrong? Spill your thoughts in the comments!