Publication Date – 6 November 2018
Following on from her immensely popular 2017 release, Renegades, Meyer continues her exciting tale of superpowered duplicity and intrigue with Archenemies, the second book in the Renegades trilogy.
In an alternate version of Earth, superpowers exist and those that have them are known as prodigies. For most of this world’s history, prodigies were tormented and persecuted and many were forced to live in hiding. That was until the Age of Anarchy, when the world’s villainous prodigies rose up and established their own world order of chaos and destruction, led by the notorious Ace Anarchy. It was not until the rise of the superhero syndicate, the Renegades, that order was restored and prodigies were accepted as a part of society. While most people see the Renegades as symbols of hope and virtue, there are some who have good reason to hate them.
Nova is one of these people, and her hatred has led her to live a dangerous double life. Most of the world knows her as Insomnia, a recent recruit to the Renegades, who serves as a member of a patrol team in Gatlon City, the location of the Renegade’s headquarters. However, Nova is also secretly Nightmare, the niece of Ace Anarchy and a member of the Anarchists, a group of villains dedicated to destroying the Renegades. Hating the Renegades for the role she believes they played in the death of her parents, Nova has infiltrated the superhero team in the hope of discovering all their secrets in order to destroy them from within.
While she has so far maintained her cover, Nova’s mission has become complicated due to her relationship with Adrian, and the son of the people she holds most responsible for her family’s tragedy. But Adrian has secrets of his own. While he leads Nova’s patrol team as Sketch, Adrian is also living a double life as the Sentinel, a vigilante superhero acting outside of the codes and restrictions of the Renegades. Although Adrian was only attempting to help, his actions as the Sentinel have placed a target on his back, and the Renegades are determined to stop rogue prodigies.
While Nova is determined to complete her primary mission and retrieve a powerful artefact from within the Renegades’ headquarters, both hers and Adrian’s lives are about to get even more complicated. The Renegades have revealed a game-changing new weapon which forces the two young prodigies to question everything they know about what justice is. Can they keep their respective secrets from each other, or are their worlds about to come crashing down around them?
Archenemies is the latest book from bestselling young adult author Marissa Meyer, and the second book in her Renegades trilogy. The first book in the trilogy, Renegades was one of last year’s most successful young adult hits. Readers may also be familiar with some of Meyer’s other young adult works include The Lunar Chronicles, a series that focuses on a dystopian science fiction reimagining of classic fairy tales; Heartless, a prequel novel to Alice in Wonderland; and the young adult graphic novel series Wires and Nerve.
This second book in the trilogy continues Meyer’s incredible story of superhero intrigue and adventure. The central story is a captivating tale told from the point of view of both Nova and Adrian and follows them as they attempt to live their double lives in this exciting world. The storyline that follows Nova attempting to hide her affiliations with the Anarchists as she infiltrates the Renegades is a thrilling and exhilarating narrative. Nova is constantly on edge as she must allay the suspicions and investigations into her background and her motivations for performing certain tasks around the Renegades’ headquarters. The character must also deal with the emotional turmoil that she experiences as she struggles to stay on her original mission of betraying the Renegades, despite some conflicting feelings she develops. The sections of the book that focus on Adrian are also very compelling, especially as his is the direct opposite to Nova’s story, as he begins to disobey the rules of the Renegades to engage in some illegal vigilante work. His struggles about whether to keep up his activities become a major part of his storyline, especially as he experiences some severe consequences for going into the field without backup. He is also determined to keep his identity as the Sentinel hidden from Nova, as she particularly dislikes the Sentinel, although Adrian gets the reason for the dislike completely wrong.
These two separate storylines combine together really well into one central narrative, and Meyer does an incredible job showing how the secret actions of one of the point-of-view characters impacts on the other character. For example, part of Adrian’s storyline focuses of his investigation into the death of his mother, a famous superhero, and his search leads him to believe that Nightmare holds the answers he is looking for. This becomes a big problem for Nova, as she has managed to fool most of the world into believing that Nightmare is dead, and Adrian’s investigation could blow her cover. There are also several fantastic scenes where one of the protagonists comes across a clue that the reader knows could reveal the other character’s dual lifestyle. The suspense that Meyer creates during these sequences is subtle but effective, as the reader is left holding their breath, waiting to see if this will be the event that will lead to the inevitable part of the trilogy when the two characters find out about each other. This second book also contains some interesting hints towards some major reveals that are likely to occur in the final book of this trilogy, as well as some urgent plot points that can only lead to some intense and action-packed scenes in Meyer’s next release.
Meyer also continues the intriguing romance angle between the two main characters that began in the first book of the trilogy. Rather than being ultra-intense, this romantic subplot comes across as more of a slow burn, as Nova and Adrian both like each other but are reluctant to act on their feelings due to the dual lives they are secretly leading. Nova does spend most of the book attempting to heat this relationship up, but this is more in an attempt to seduce Adrian in order to help her further her goals for the Anarchists. However, she truly has feelings for him, which continue to develop throughout the course of Archenemies. There are several nice scenes throughout the book as the two point-of-view characters attempt to initiate the relationship, and despite the deceitful backdrop of the story, their relationship starts to feel like a genuine, heartfelt romance. The eventual reveals about both characters’ secret identities will no doubt result in some significant drama within the next book, and readers will be interested to see the final result of this relationship. For those interested in a less complicated romantic story, there is also a lighter romance angle between Renegades side characters Smokescreen and Red Assassin. Their sweet and awkward flirting and courtship will be instantly recognisable and relatable to most readers, and you can’t help but hope that the two characters will realise how much they like each other.
I quite enjoyed the fantastic world that Meyer has created for the Renegades trilogy. A world filled with superpowered beings is an excellent place to set an intrigue-studded young adult series such as this. The creative and thrilling story of infiltration and morality is amplified by the rich number of superhero elements throughout the book. There are a huge number of diverse superpowers, as well as mysterious and dangerous artefacts and weapons. Meyer has created a number of interesting and unique superpowers, including a woman who makes practical weapons out of her own blood and a man whose power is to make people see the wonder in everything. The sheer amount of different powers and technology available thanks to the author’s imagination allows for a number of cool fight scenes and action sequences throughout the book, which plays wonderfully with the other elements of the story. A superb and creative background location.
While Archenemies’s dramatic story and fun superhero-based location forms a fantastic base for this novel, one of my favourite parts of the book was the moral and ethical issues raised by various characters throughout the story. Both point-of-view characters have different opinions about whether the Renegades or the Anarchists are in the right and what constitutes justice. While Nova’s opinions about the Renegades could potentially be explained away as brainwashing from her uncle and the other Anarchists, several of the actions and attitudes she encounters while undercover seem to justify her beliefs. Her belief that the Anarchists might be in the right is supported by the fact that most of the remaining members of the team of villains seem to be really nice people who are supportive and helpful to Nova. Several members also have somewhat tragic backgrounds which highlight why they choose to live their lives apart from the rest of society. Adrian, on the other hand, has been raised to believe in the Renegades’ methods and code, but he has started to find them too restrictive and begins fighting crime outside them in his guise as the Sentinel. However, he finds himself targeted by the Renegades for doing heroics outside of their code, and begins to wonder if they are making the right decisions, a feeling that becomes amplified thanks to his interactions with Nova. Meyer further complicates matters by diving into the history of the prodigy persecution and discussing how it only ended when the villains rose up and took control, and this current golden age of super heroes only exists because they did.
This moral debate about what a group of superheroes should be able to do is further amplified by the introduction of the Renegades’ new weapon, Agent N, a formula that can permanently remove the powers of any prodigy. Nova, in her guise as Insomnia, argues strongly against the Renegades’ policy of wilfully administrating Agent N against any rogue prodigy they encounter, believing that they don’t have the right to decide who gets to have powers and who doesn’t. While her debates are mostly ignored by her team members, her concerns are validated thanks to the actions of a rogue team of Renegades who abuse Agent N in the field. There is a great scene when Adrian as the Sentinel attempts to stop them committing a terrible crime, and these rogue Renegades actually believe they are still morally superior to Sentinel because they are members of a super team, and he’s not. Despite her misgivings, Nova still utilises Agent N to achieve her own goals, and justifies it as being for the greater good. Thanks to a series of escalating situations within the story, by the end of the book, the reader is left wondering which side, if either, is completely in the right, which personally has got me very excited for the final book in the trilogy.
Archenemies, the second book in the Renegades trilogy, is a captivating and excellent read from Meyer which presents a superb story about dual identities in a morally grey superhero universe. While aimed at a young adult audience, this series will prove to be incredibly intriguing to older readers and is easily suitable for a younger teen audience. Probably best read after enjoying the first book in the trilogy, Archenemies is still quite easy to follow for those who chose to enter the Renegades series at the second book, due to its detailed descriptions of major plot points that occurred earlier in the series. I had a lot of fun with Archenemies and will definitely be checking out the final book in the trilogy when it comes out next year. An incredible adventure from Meyer, this book comes highly recommended.