Archenemies by Marissa Meyer Book Review

Will Marissa Meyer ever write a bad book? Cause this is her sixth book in a row I’ve thoroughly recommended, and her quality hasn’t yet shown a dip of any sort.

This is the sequel to Renegades, taking place in a world where, well, some are born with superpowers. Some use them for everyday simple uses, like plant growth or mathematics, but others have the possibility to be used on a grand scale, enough to be given superhero (or villain, depending on who’s doing the talking) nicknames. A lot happened in the last book. Nova is an undercover Anarchist posing as a Renegade. She is known as Nightmare, because with a single touch she can put someone to sleep (but not in the lethal way some may think from reading that line.) She entered under the alias Insomnia, because another power she has, apart from good martial arts skills, is not needing to ever sleep herself. She’s like a vampire when it comes to not needing sleep but her symptoms that would result from zero sleep just bottle up waiting to go to someone else.

Nova has now kind of settled in to Renegade headquarters, trying to distance herself from Adrian so her developing feelings don’t get so bad she can’t stay strong for her people when she must turn the gun the other way. The promise of full-on war between Renegades and Anarchists ends up skyrocketing, however, when Renegade scientists manage to develop, based around the mysterious isolated prodigy Max, a drug that just might end up weaponized to silence not only the Anarchists, but anyone who dares challenge Renegades ever again. Nova realizes she has to gear up and fast, and find her uncle Ace’s helmet so he can be brought to full power again. That’s the only way this upcoming and probable totalitarian society can be stopped. Meanwhile Adrian is still on the hunt for Nightmare, and still goes by the alias The Sentinel, performing public services under a helmet when he feels the Renegades have a corruption that will do disservice if they’re the ones to lead an operation. 

Meyer’s debut Lunar Chronicles quartet was a borderline clever fairy-tale retelling of various old stories, which doesn’t sound enticing when you put in only like that, but mix in a splash of Star Wars, The Fugitive, and ruling beings with body control powers, and you got one of my favourite book series. Just like that series, Meyer has taken a premise that at first sounds meh and breathes generous life back into it. It at first sounds uninvolving, two superhero groups politically clashing with both protagonists being moles in their own ways within the ruling group’s system. You may even think the power-killing premise is unoriginal too. But Meyer has the perfect way with telling the actual story. The plot doesn’t stall. The politics are straightforward and given the spotlight. The secrets get more and more pressuring as we know sooner or later the balloon will burst. We get the impression the people in this society are very angry, and have been wronged by the corrupt and ignored when they thought the world would at least help them up. And Meyer puts this anger on front stage passionately and riotously.

In my review of Renegades, what I wrote was Meyer and I have similar taste in what sort of story we like to tell, and that is a story which takes place not over a long period of time but maybe just several days, with loads of stuff happening and keeping us on our toes. She inspires me to keep writing the way I do, and I expect Supernova will convince me to go right to my notebook passionately. What I wrote with some criticism is the Renegade team seems a little overly gullible, too many coincidences pointing to Nova being the result of malfunctions and the connection to strange calamities. There’s a bit of that in here too. But I liked this one more than the first, and I think it might be because over time, I’m falling more and more in love with these people. Not to get too overdramatic, of course, but I really ship Nova and Adrian, the fact that one day their secrets will be out making me truly understand the delicacy of their relationship. The uptight but likeable Ruby and the silly, fun Oscar seem like a realistic match. Adrian’s two fathers, Hugh and Simon, are a gay couple who are put in unfamiliar shoes, as both world leaders, and are strict but loving and do not fall under toxic masculinity. They clearly have a lot on their plates and have forced themselves to be uptight. You don’t get the impression they enjoy being that way. Meyer makes her characters complex without ever overdoing it, and I don’t know how she does so.

There’s also a plethora of imagination on display on the actual powers, like Nova’s ability to both not sleep and give sleep, like a scale in balance. We look further into Adrian, or Sketch’s tattoos. Tattoos are when ink is injected deeply enough into the skin to be permanently there, and with his ability to make drawings come to life…it kinda makes sense. Honey’s bees and wasps with all their hives and nests, not so much, but her resemblance to Hugh from the Miss Peregrine series is completely welcoming, as well as her plucky optimism. I really hope nothing happens to her in Supernova. A new character, Callum, has the ability to reach into people (well, okay, not in the way some might assume) and get them to see things in ways they hadn’t considered, but were there in them somewhere. His optimism towards the world aids in his powers, which is a great metaphor for the importance of therapists in harsh times of need.

The stakes also are clearly more amped up. As we progress more and more to whatever finish line ends up happening, there’s so many more threats, more possibilities as to what will happen in Supernova, how and if the war between Renegades and Anarchists will ever end, and Archenemies gets us ready for the final chapter with imagination, heartbreak and lots of fright. It also gets extra points for an extremely unpredictable ending.

If you like this, I would try: Marissa Meyer’s other books, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans, and the Miss Peregrine series by Ransom Riggs

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