Marissa Meyer’s Archenemies Favors Romance and Secrets Over Action

I was unbelievably excited for Archenemies. I read the first book in the series, Renegades, back in January and fell in love. I was looking forward to another book that would continue the stories of Adrian Everhart and Nova Artino, and I hoped that all of my burning questions would finally be answered after over half a year of waiting.

Archenemies cover

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Archenemies, unfortunately, was a bit of a letdown. Maybe I had psyched myself up too much. Maybe, because I was reading critically instead of just as a fan, I was realizing that Marissa Meyer might not be as amazing as I initially thought. Or maybe reading the second installment nine months after the first was too much downtime. Whatever the reason, I feel like Archenemies had a lot of potential to be a great follow-up. Instead, I got a mixed bag of a great beginning, a great end, and a mediocre middle.

This time around, Nova and Adrian are facing the possibility of having all of the Anarchists in Gatlon City wiped out for good. The Renegades have created Agent N, a neutralizing substance that, when digested or injected, will instantly strip a prodigy of their abilities permanently. Afraid that some of the Renegades might abuse Agent N, Nova makes it her mission to retrieve her uncle Ace’s helmet—the one thing that will give him enough strength to rise up and take down the Renegades once and for all. In the meantime, she’s battling with her growing feelings for Adrian, who in turn is having trouble giving up his identity as the Sentinel.

The book opens with Adrian’s team on a stakeout mission, and the first several chapters are fast paced and gripping. It’s five Renegades up against seven thieves, one of them a prodigy, which makes things a little more interesting. The action is nonstop, and Meyer also throws in a few humorous moments courtesy of Oscar (Smokescreen), Ruby (Red Assassin), and their will-they-or-won’t-they flirting and joking around. Fans of Adrian and Nova’s unresolved romantic tension also get treated to a sweet moment between the two, which I genuinely enjoyed. It was a very promising beginning, and one I hoped would lead to an action-packed second installment. However, while the ending delivered on that front, the chapters in between weren’t nearly as exciting.

It’s important to note that the story is much more focused on Nova’s and Adrian’s internal conflicts than the first book was. Renegades was lengthy, but it did a great job of giving time to the side characters as well as the leads, really immersing the reader into the world of Gatlon City and populating it with a diverse cast of heroes and villains. In every chapter of Archenemies, however, there are lengthy inner monologues by both Nova and Adrian, and while they’re both pretty interesting characters on their own, it gets to be too much. “Show, don’t tell” is one of the golden rules of writing, and Meyer breaks it constantly in this book. There’s only so much of Nova and Adrian silently brooding about their secrets—over and over and over again—that I can take.

Another issue I had concerning the two leads was their romance. It was teased and hinted at in Renegades, and there’s quite a bit more of the two interacting romantically this time, something fans of the pairing will definitely enjoy. Unfortunately, I’m just not one of those people. Even in the first book, I wasn’t completely on board with them as a couple, and other than the aforementioned adorable moment at the beginning of this book, I felt like there was something missing from their awkward banter and terrible flirting, and that was chemistry. Things don’t unfold naturally for them; their love story is doomed right from the start, and I feel like it’s only in place because they’re supposed to be enemies. Each one’s hate for the other’s secret alter ego is really all they have in common, and there isn’t enough of Meyer’s insistence that there’s actually something there that can convince me otherwise. On top of that, each is convinced the other no longer has feelings for them, even though they both make it painfully obvious that they’re interested. This might come off as cute for some readers, but for me it was absolutely maddening, to the point where I wanted to scream at them, Monty Python style, to get on with it.

I only wish Meyer could have used all those pages of trying to force Nova and Adrian’s relationship onto us to actually further the story. The plot is at a standstill for a good chunk of the book, with the author choosing to forgo the side characters and new characters to focus on a love story we’ve seen numerous times. Ruby and Oscar once again prove they’re more than worthy of being in the spotlight with their quick dialogue and vibrant personalities, while Danna, the fifth member of Adrian’s team, makes her presence a welcome dynamic (especially since she doesn’t quite trust Nova). What we see of Honey and Leroy, Nova’s fellow Anarchists, is hilarious and left me wanting more from them. There are also a couple of new faces who get introduced, both prodigies, but nothing much is done with them—to the point where I had to ask myself why they were there in the first place. They were cool characters, sure, but ultimately wasted potential.

Still, despite these criticisms, I did enjoy myself quite a bit with Archenemies—I may have had issues with how it was written, but the story overall sucked me in and had me eager to keep reading just as Renegades did. The beginning was exciting and a great way to delve back into the world of this series, while the ending was absolutely devastating and a fantastic setup to the final installment; I can confidently say that those were the best parts of the book. Without giving too much away, the last six chapters switch back and forth between two battles taking place, culminating in a series of events that will leave readers breathless and crying, “That’s the end? There has to be more than that!” The state of affairs in Gatlon City is thrown into chaos, and it’s unclear who is going to come out on the other side triumphant—or alive. Just as she did with the end of Renegades, Meyer proves she’s a master of cliffhanger endings and leaves the reader with more questions than ever, wondering when we’ll get a satisfying resolution.

Marissa Meyer is one of my favorite YA authors at the moment, and I usually love whatever she writes, but I have to remember that not every book will be what I want it to be. This was disappointing, but I won’t let that deter me from being excited about the last book. Even when there are a lot of not-so-great things in one of her books, Meyer manages to always balance it out with a few things I end up loving. I’ll be anxiously waiting for the conclusion of the Renegades trilogy—just with a little less hype this time around.

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