Renegades

Renegades was written by Marissa Meyer and first published in 2017. It is a science fiction novel, set in a city where a faction of superheroes protect the innocent. The novel forms the first part of a planned duology, though at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

The Age of Anarchy almost tore society apart. Lead by the powerful Ace Anarchy, a band of super-powered “prodigies” sought to overthrow the status quo and earn freedom for their oppressed people. They were eventually defeated by the Renegades – a group of prodigies who believed in law and justice. Now, the Renegades control Gatlon City, doing their best to use their powers to fight crime and give a better quality of life to all people who live there.

Nova revered the Renegades, until they failed to save the lives of her family. Ten years later, she has taken on the mantle of Nightmare – a prodigy with the power to put anyone that she touches to sleep. When her attempt to assassinate a high-ranking Renegade fails, Nova and her fellow Anarchists realise that they need to be cunning to defeat their enemies. Giving Nova a false identity, they enrol her in the Renegade Trials in the hope that she will be accepted and become their spy on the inside.

Nova quickly gets accepted onto a team run by Adrian – otherwise known as Sketch – who has the power to make his drawings come to life. Adrian also has a secret. He has used his power to create himself a bio-mechanical suit of armour and moonlights as a vigilante called the Sentinel. Adrian has a personal vendetta against Nightmare and will stop at nothing to capture her. Will Nova be able to deceive him for long enough, or will he realise her true identity long before she can take down the Renegades?

If you follow me on Goodreads, you’ll be aware that I am an avid reader of comic books. I love a good superhero story and am always on the look out for new series to obsess over. Because of this, I was really excited to read Renegades. There aren’t that many young adult series of this sort that are not adaptions of existing comic titles and so I really wanted to like this novel.

While Renegades is not badly written, it was unfortunately not an especially innovative story. If you are a fan of comics, or even the recent wave of superhero films, you will know exactly what to expect. The crime-ridden, almost dystopian landscape of Gatlon City can be found in any number of comics and the plot took elements of both Marvel’s Civil War and Vertigo’s Watchmen.

The story hinged on the interaction between three factions: Normal, unpowered humans (who barely featured in the story), law-enforcing Renegades and villainous Anarchists. The focus was largely divided between the latter two as the third person narrative followed two main protagonists – Nova the Anarchist and Adrian the Renegade. In doing this it makes clear the differences in their mindsets and shows that both sides exist as shades of grey, striving for justice or freedom but not necessarily going about this the right way.

Or that’s the idea, anyway. The execution of this was a little clumsy and this message didn’t always quite come across. My biggest issue with the story was that even the Anarchists referred to themselves as being villains. They were basically terrorists, taking pride in their kills and not really caring about collateral damage. I’m a believer that villains should never acknowledge the fact that they are the bad guys. They should always be the heroes of their own story. This is heavily undermined if they outright acknowledge themselves as villains!

The novel also contained every trope and cliché that you associate with superheroes. These are the kind of things that were mocked in The Incredibles. Almost every character gained their power due to a tragic event in their past, villains give lengthy monologues, and heroes wear spandex and domino masks. While this can be amusing at times, I did find it a bit tiresome. While these kinds of things used to be acceptable in comics, now they are now so overused that even comic writers try to avoid them. Their inclusion just made the novel feel dated.

I also felt that Renegades was far longer than it really needed to be. The book was close to 600 pages in length and a lot of that was filled with expository dialogue and repeated ideas. A lot of this was wholly unnecessary and could have easily been edited down to better streamline the story. The pacing of the overarching plot was also very slow and built to a sudden and unsatisfying climax. This took place over the final 10% of the story and really didn’t provide a lot of closure. It was one of those open-ended cliff-hangers that act as a hook for the next book in the series, but leave the novel feeling incomplete on the whole.

However, for all my gripes, I was never bored while reading this story. While the book did have a lot of problems, it was really carried by its characters. While a lot of the supporting heroes and villains borrowed the personas and powers of well-known comic book characters, it was interesting to see how they all interacted with each other. Some of the powers were also really quite creative, with Adrian’s drawing skills and Monarch’s ability to turn into a swarm of butterflies being amongst the most interesting. However, the book began with a character list that revealed many of the true identities and powers of the cast. Personally, I’d advise not reading this. It’s a lot more fun to discover these things over the course of the story.

The protagonists of the novel were also both very strong. While Renegades had a large, diverse and very memorable cast, Nova and Adrian were the ones that truly stood out. While Nova’s plan to infiltrate the Renegades is very week and riddled with problems, it does allow plenty of opportunities for these two to spend time together and discuss their very different points of view. Their attraction was a bit too instantaneous for my liking, but it was interesting to see how both of their opinions changed over the course of story. Adrian began to understand the Anarchists a bit better, while Nova grew conflicted as she began to feel a kinship with members of both factions.

Anyway, I’m starting to ramble so perhaps I should wrap up this review. While Renegades is not a bad novel, it does have a number of problems. It is a very generic superhero story and leaves a lot of hanging loose ends to be resolved in the sequel. However, it does make up for its weak plot with an abundance of character. I really grew attached to both Nova and Adrian, and certainly didn’t want to see them come to any harm. While this book wasn’t fantastic, I was left curious to find out how it will be resolved and will certainly be looking at its sequel in a future review.

Renegades can be purchased as a Paperback and ebook on Amazon.co.uk

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Archenemies | Arkham Reviews

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