Nova is an anarchist, a girl on a mission for revenge after the heroes sworn to protect her family failed her.
Adrian is a renegade, a boy with extraordinary abilities who believes in justice, and in Nova.
They should be sworn enemies, but Nova finds herself torn between Adrian and the Renegades, and a villain that could destroy them both.
Renegades by Marissa Meyer is a fun and exhilarating adventure through a world filled with super heroes and super villains – the definition of which really depends which side you’re on. The mainstream narrative dictates that the Renegades are the Good Guys – in charge after putting an end to the bloody age of anarchy many years before. They now govern Gatlon City (full of prodigies, AKA powered people and normies, AKA not really in the story cause, boring) with a bureaucracy entangled iron fist and public opinion 100% behind them – supposedly.
The book opens in dark and dramatic – Meyer-ian, you might say – fashion, with the tragic origin story of Nova, one of our two narrators. Baby Nova witnesses her entire family gunned down in front of her (i.e. not rescued by the Renegades who are supposed to save people from such horrifying ends) before being swept away by her Uncle Ace who just happens to be head of the Anarchist movement.
Then we jump forward ten or so years and 17-year-old Nova is PISSED. Shortly after losing her family, Nova’s Uncle Ace was killed in the aforementioned Renegade’s taking back the city battle and our girl has an axe to grind, a gun and a carefully thought out assassination plan. Her target? Captain Chromium, head of the Renegades and de facto leader of Gatlon City – after, I think, stabbing Ace Anarchy through the head? He carries his helmet around on a spear for public holidays while the crowd cheers about the idea of a man having a pike pushed through his skull.
Not that I’m judging. I live in England where every November 5th we burn effigies of a would-be 17th century terrorist.
Hey, it’s tradition.
All this, and we’ve only just hit the second chapter. If you’ve read and loved The Lunar Chronicles then you know that Meyer knows how to build a politically complicated world. Gatlon City is certainly that, with the war between the Renegades and the Anarchists finished but never really over – especially when the Anarchists are still living in the sewers (surprisingly, nicer than it sounds).
As all powerful as the Renegades certainly seem, opposing worldviews still struggle for dominance. For the Renegades, it’s about order at all costs – even if people are disempowered and afraid, at least they are behaving. Coming into power off the back of so much lawlessness there is a sense with the Renegades that they can accept the world isn’t getting any better so long as it isn’t getting any worse. They fight for Good Enough and for the young people of Gatlon City, that isn’t going to cut it for much longer.
The Anarchists, on the other hand, were all about freedom. Before they came along, prodigies were discriminated against and abused. Ace Anarchy changed all that by tearing down the government and its affiliated institutions – he created a world with no order and no consequences. It wasn’t long before crime and violence filled the hole institutions left behind. Gatlon City became a dangerous place, where, as Meyer says “It became the strong against the weak, and, as it turns out, the strong were usually jerks.”
Aint that the truth.
Ace Anarchy dreamed of a world free from tyranny, and he failed to create that for everyone. But the deeper you get into this book the more prominent the question becomes of whether the Renegades are really any better. Nova, as much as she enjoys having super powers (she can put people to sleep when she touches them. So handy. Imagine the boring conversations you could get out of), believes the world would ultimately be better if super heroes didn’t exist, because, she argues, if people didn’t spend all of their time waiting for someone to come save them, they would be forced to think up ways of saving themselves.
In a book about super heroes and super villains, Meyer is really talking about the real threats to the world – complacency, apathy and indifference. Renegades is about fighting the assumption that, because there are powers at be that are greater than you, you are therefore powerless. Nova believes that powerlessness is a choice that we’re all making, and she’ll give her life to fight for a world where people are brave enough to choose something else.
“They saw prodigies themselves as only good or evil, leaving the rest of humanity somewhere in the realm of neutral.
There was potential for evil everywhere, and the only way to combat it was if more people chose goodness. If more people chose heroism.
Not laziness. Not apathy. Not indifference.”
This entertaining book about teenage super heroes (and their delicious, slow burning romances) asks vital questions about activism, personal responsibility and determination to fight for what you believe in. It looks at whether people can ever join hands across political lines or if ideological divides are too greater gap to bridge.
It also has one hell of a twist at the end that I did not see coming. Bring on book 2!