I bought Renegades with no idea what it was about – but Marissa Meyer wrote it and that was enough for me to ‘add to cart’. Now obviously I knew it was about superheroes, but it turns out it’s a kind of “what if the X-Men became the government” kind of story – which is pretty cool, if not completely original.
The beginning of the book sets you up for an older–teen read and I was all about that – I love me a dark superhero story! – but except for the beginning introductory chapter, the rest of the story is really, really soft. But never mind, I’ll settle for PG-13 if I can’t have R Rated.
So what we find out is that the main focus of the story is on Nova and her cause. I just want to say that I am insanely jealous of Nova’s superpower – ignoring putting people to sleep, I don’t care about that – she biologically doesn’t need sleep! There is very little I wouldn’t do to be able to have that gift! I’d get so much more done with my life!
But anyway, Nova is pissed at the Renegades because they weren’t around to save her family when they said they would be, so she’s making it her mission (along with the Anarchists, the villain gang she runs with) to take them all down – regardless of the fact that the Renegades involved are now Council members and there are a whole bunch of new people in the mix now.
Now, I fully understand why Nova would want to wipe out the Council – they promised her family protection and they failed, epically. They failed to such an extent that her baby sister (and I mean that literally, her baby sister was a baby) was shot point blank and killed, along with the rest of her family. So I’m with you there girl, you go get your vengeance.
“She remembered that in that moment, she had not felt sad. She had only felt anger. Blinding, breathless rage.”
But she wants to continue down the route to wiping out all Renegades, not just the council. Plus she hangs out with wilful and joyful killers – the Anarchists – people who proudly admit to killing innocent people. Nova lives with these people – nah girl, you’re a bad egg!
I also kinda see Nova’s point about wanting to destroy the Renegades because normal people (non-supers) have begun to rely on the Renegades for everything and have damn near no independence. I get that – but mass murder isn’t really the way to go.
Now you might be thinking “but V, Nova’s a villain! That’s the point; she’s supposed to be evil!” and I hear you – I do, I hear you. Except that Nova is not believable as being that kind of villain; pure, unadulterated evil. Nope. She’s a manipulated teenager who quite obviously lacks the courage of the conviction of those around her. She she’s just a bad egg. And a bit of a dumb-ass.
Whilst I’m throwing shade at Nova, I just want to point out her pretend alias for joining the Renegades as a spy: Nova Mclain. That sounds an awful lot like Novocaine to me (a brand name for procaine) which is an anaesthetic – ok it’s a local one, not a general one – but come on! Something that blocks pain and feeling? A little on the nose for me.
The whole main plot really does centre around Nova; is she going to sympathise with the Renegades? Or join them for real, not just as a spy? Will she turn her back on the Anarchists? Thanks to the twist ending we’re left a little unsure, and thank god for that because the whole story was beginning to look a little too predictable.
On top of the predictability, the cringe was also quite real in Renegades. Granted, it’s a YA superhero story, so there’s going to be some clichés, and most are a mix between tongue-in-cheek and so-bad-they’re-good but some are just downright cringey.
For example – no one recognises Nova as the Anarchist, Nightmare. Let’s see – Nightmare and Insomnia (Nova’s pretend Renegade name) are both the same: gender, height, hair colour, body type, rough age as far as you can tell and both called fucking Nova! On top of this they have strikingly connected powers! Nightmare can put people to sleep with her touch if she wants, and Insomnia doesn’t need to sleep. And they both specialise in weaponry that they create. It’s a serious Clark Kent/Superman glasses situation and it’s so frustrating that NO ONE can see it!
There’s also some pretty painful dialogue too. It’s so bad! Check out this gem:
“Your days of villainy are over, Nightmare!”
Even the backstories of some of the characters were a bit too cliché. The obvious one is Ruby, whose grandmother owned a jewellery shop. Ruby and her siblings have names that are precious jewels and Ruby has jewels for blood which she can turn into a weapon. There were a lot of ‘generic tragic background’ stories for our cast and it got a bit tired after a while. It’s also a shame because I think it helped put a lot of characters into the background as they didn’t stand out.
Unfortunately, the tropes weren’t the only things ripped from more established comic book stories. Some characters – like Frost and Gargoyle – seem to be direct rips from Marvel and DC characters and even the eugenics programme was a complete rip-off of Magneto’s plan in one of the X-Men films, except the aims were reversed. However, it was still a slightly unexpected antagonist moment.
There is a romance in Renegades… I guess. I’m not living for it though and I don’t care about it. So that’s all I’m saying on that.
Renegades is probably a bit too long for what it is, I really did enjoy it (despite my rantings above) but it did feel a few chapters/100 pages too long. It definitely had a much stronger second half, and given Marissa Meyer’s tendency for excellent series, I’m hopeful for the second book!
Is this The Lunar Chronicles? –no, but there is still magic to Meyer’s writing and it’s still a lot of silly fun. It’s not exactly ground-breaking, but it was undeniably a fun read and I will absolutely read the sequel!
“But you did not choose this life, Nova. Not like we did. You could still choose differently.”
Do you want to choose your side? Are you one of the Renegades or an Anarchist? You can find out by reading the book! You can buy it here!
[PLEASE NOTE]: I was not paid or sponsored to write this review – all the opinions are honest and my own.