My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Length: 576 pages
Release date: 7 November 2017
Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.
The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew.
Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.
Renegades is a full-fledged superhero story with one foot in our modern world and one foot in post-apocalyptic dystopia. The comic book-lite premise, resounding with echoes of Watchmen, manages to be surprisingly lighthearted despite the doom and gloom underneath.
It takes a while to get used to the setting–up until about a 100 pages into the book when it’s mentioned that our protagonist is half Italian, half Filipina, I didn’t even know whether Gatlon City was supposed to be on earth. But once you realise that it’s essentially American Metropolis 2017 with more gadgets and less Internet, things are fairly straightforward. The U.S. government presumably having been dissolved a murky, unspecified amount of years ago, the country is now ruled by the Council, the five survivors of the original six Renegades who stepped up in the equally murky Age of Anarchy to defeat the villain gangs. None of this is amazing worldbuilding, but it’s not “China invades the US because it can’t pay its debts and renames it the American State of China” level of bad, so I’ll take it. Hopefully Meyer expands on the Age of Anarchy and Renegade history in future instalments, because I was expecting to discover a lot more about Ace Anarchy, Captain Chromium, the Dread Warden et al. than we get in this first book.
One of several things that Renegades should be commended for is keeping the story engaging through well over 500 pages. Even if the flow is a little choppy at times, the plot never lapses into outright boredom. That said, I do feel like more action could have been gone down in the allotted length. This book doesn’t really work as a thriller because dual perspectives mean that the reader is in possession of almost all relevant information at any given point, eliminating the potential for mystery and shocking revelations, such that the story rests solely on the backbone of interactions between and choices of characters. Those interactions didn’t quite have as much of a spark as they could have, with banter oftentimes falling flat. The only times I was genuinely excited reading Renegades were the trial and the final scenes when the pace finally picked up. The cliffhanger of an ending is rather out of place in an otherwise solidly PG novel, but it’s what I’m hinging my hopes for a more twisty sequel on.
I have to admit that I’m bothered by the plot armour that prevents Nova and Adrian’s secret identities from ever being exposed. I kept waiting for someone to realise that Adrian was the Sentinel, but aside from a temporarily minor Chekhov’s Gun of a character who’ll undoubtedly have a big role in the sequel, no one ever does.
Seriously, it’s like that scene where Peter Parker eats dinner with the villain, but more ridiculous. Adrian’s profile and powers make him basically the only known person who could masquerade as the Sentinel, one always seems to appear when the other one goes missing, and Adrian’s behaviour whenever talking about Nightmare (who he’s obsessed with tracking down) or the Sentinel is beyond obvious. It’s similar with Nova aka Nightmare, who’s never discovered to be an Anarchist even though she’s such a bad double agent that she fails to feign a basic level of enthusiasm for the Renegades. In any superhero agency worth their salt both of the leads should have been exposed near-immediately, but this is an agency run by teenagers as far as I can tell, so maybe it’s not so surprising that they make poor decisions at every turn.
Kudos to Meyer for inventing some fairly unique superpowers for her characters. Right now with five or six blockbuster superhero movies coming out every year and making hundreds of millions of dollars, not to mention a deluge of YA novels where the heroine has one gift or another, it’s no small task to come up with something new. Some of Meyer’s powers–namely Adrian/Sketch, whose drawings turn into real objects if he wishes–make no scientific sense whatsoever (screw you, conservation of mass!), and she makes zero attempt to justify them logically, which is for the best. Other highlights include a character whose blood turns into sharp rubies when she’s cut and character who can turn into a swarm of monarch butterflies.
There’s a lot of potential here. All the building blocks are present. Here’s to wishing they’re crafted into something great when Renegades 2 rolls around.
*Thanks to Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for providing a review copy of this book! All opinions represented remain my own.*