If you are a fan of the X-Men, you may find quite a bit to enjoy in Marissa Meyer’s Renegades.
The story takes place in Gatlon City, where a council of superheroes not only protects civilians, but governs them as well. This system arose after twenty years of anarchy following supervillain Ace Anarchy’s overthrow of the city’s original infrastructure, which itself was a backlash against years of “prodigy” (aka super-powered people) oppression and discrimination.
And all of that’s just the backstory. Once again, Marissa Meyer proves she knows how to build a layered world.
With all of this background, it makes for an interesting mix of character views. It’s easier to automatically side with the superheroes and their familiar good-guy rhetoric, but some of the villains are rather sympathetic. For instance, Nova, our “anarchist” narrator, makes some valid points about how her society ought to run, though I don’t exactly condone all her methods.
The plot centers around our two narrators: Nova, an anarchist who believes people should learn to be responsible for themselves instead of dependent upon superheroes, and Adrian, a Renegade who wants to be a hero free to fight crime without the restraint of political red tape.
Nova Artino, a.k.a. Nightmare, Ace Anarchy’s niece, joined the Anarchists when she was six after the Renegades failed to rescue her family from an assassination. Her uncle was defeated within the following year, so much of her life has been spent living in the shadows, nursing a grudge against the Renegades who beat him.
Nova joins the Renegades to work as a double-agent, gaining intel for the Anarchists so they can destroy the council and bring their idea of freedom back to Gatlon City. Once there, she’s put on a team with Adrian Everheart, a.k.a. Sketch, adopted son of two of the original Renegades.
But Adrian Everheart isn’t just a Renegade. He also moonlights as the vigilante Sentinel, unbeknownst to anyone else. At first, being Sentinel is just a way to prove himself to his friends and family, but after an altercation with Nightmare, Adrian comes to believe she could lead him to the person who killed his mother, the hero Lady Indomitable.
As their stories overlap, Nova and Adrian grow closer, but the truth about Nightmare and Sentinel threatens to ruin them.
I will say, as much as I personally enjoyed Renegades, it wasn’t exactly groundbreaking. I called Lady Indomitable’s killer from the first mention of her death (though I suppose it wasn’t definitively stated in this book, so the sequel could still prove me wrong), and I think I have a pretty good idea of how Nova’s family’s murder is going to have some new importance in the sequel. And the big twist at the end, which I didn’t see coming, kind of felt like a twist for twist’s sake and, while I’m hoping it takes some exciting turns in the sequel, right now it feels like it undermines some of the first book.
So, my advice is if you’re going to read Renegades, don’t worry about where it’s going; enjoy how it’s getting there. Because it really is an interesting story, with a complex world and likable characters, and while it doesn’t delve too deeply into philosophy, it does make you think a bit about civic responsibility and accountability, and shows that both heroes and villains can have good intentions, but good intentions don’t always lead to good results.
All in all, three out of five stars for a fun ride and thorough world-building.