“We were all villains in the beginning.”
Renegades, though made to feel as if ripped from the pages of comics, is actually far from the typical comic-book style story. While we deal with heroes and villains, the more you read, the more you realize that the lines between those two aren’t quite as clear as we’d like them to be. It’s this exploration of what it means to be good, what it means to be evil, and if the two are perhaps closer to each other than we realize, that makes Renegades such a spectacular novel.
We land in a world where some people are known as ‘prodigies’. Whether they are born with their abilities or develop them, to everyone without powers, they are simply a threat. Persecuted. Hunted. Tormented. The prodigies found themselves oppressed, terrified and often at the mercy of a mob. All that changed when one prodigy, Ace Anarchy, rose up and destroyed the foundation of that society.
“Sometimes the weak much be sacrificed so that the strong may flourish.”
Vicious gangs rose in the chaos, bringing their own tidal wave of terror and fear in their wake. Until a group of prodigies decided that the world needed heroes. The Renegades challenged the gangs, fought the villains, ultimately winning the battle for power and restoring peace and structure to the city. Fast forward and The Renegades are still in power, training prodigies from all over the world. All in the name of heroism. All to help other countries establish the peace they’ve built.
Nova believed in The Renegades once. She believed they would come and save her family when the gangs came. She believed they would make her safe. Except they didn’t. Her uncle, Ace himself, is the one who did that. Raised with the remaining villains, segregated to the abandoned subway tunnels and at the mercy of Renegade harassment, Nova doesn’t believe in The Renegades. When the chance to undo the system under Renegade control, to free everyone from the grasp of superheroes emerges, Nova jumps to seize it.
“They were not superheroes. They were frauds, and this whole system that was meant to protect and serve was nothing more than a failed social experiment.”
Adrian was adopted by to of the original Renegades. Raised by superheroes, it’s only natural that he becomes one. He believes in everything they stand for. Doesn’t he? As Nova’s mission brings her closer to Adrian, and his own search for the truth brings him closer to buried secrets, they’ll discover that the line between vengeance and justice is thinner than they ever thought possible.
I am a huge fan of books that explore that dingy gray areas that force the reader to question everything they think they believe in. The line between good and evil in not clear cut, or neatly defined in this story. As we learn more about The Renegades, and even The Villains, we realize that they both have valid reasons for their beliefs. To make things more complicated, as Nova discovers new information on programs The Renegades are planning, the line between good and evil blurs even more.
“Now, they weren’t so much vigilantes as celebrities. Celebrities who had an important job to do, but celebrities nonetheless.”
Secret identities, betrayal, action filled fight scenes, and even superhero tryouts, Renegades has it all! It’s fun, and complex, and just enough of a slow-burn romance that even the blackest of villain hearts will melt just a little.
If you stay on the surface of Renegades, you’ll have a good time. You’ll be entertained and shocked in equal measure. The themes of good and evil are obvious and predominant. However, it’s the more subtle study of power that make Renegades far more than just an addition to the good versus evil trope. The Renegades were founded on a mountain of good intentions. Unfortunately, good intentions don’t always translate to good public policies. We see multiple examples of this sprinkled throughout the pages.
More interesting than that, is Meyer’s discussion on the reliance of power. How ordinary people stopped believing they could make a difference, that they could be part of the power structure because of their lack of abilities. That is a fascinating analysis of how people can give up their own individual power. While this is in a universe where the powerful have actual powers, the correlation that we can draw to actual events is frightening. How often have large portions of the public given up their power with detrimental and atrocious results? Too many.
“How long before all of humanity gave up on personal freedom and responsibility? How long before they forgot what that felt like at all?”
I also loved how Nova is presented throughout the book. Raised by the villains means she isn’t quite as enamored with the Renegades as the rest of society. So she comes across as bold, when really she’s simply the only one questioning what she sees. We don’t always need people rebelling in a society. A little active participation and asking questions rather than trusting good intentions is always the better course of action in terms of citizenry.
By the end of the book, who is good and who is evil is nearly impossible to decipher. Meyer forces the reader to really sit back and examine the information presented and form your own opinion. But she doesn’t make it easy. No one is entirely good, and while there are a few characters easily classified as proper villains, they aren’t all as simple to categorize. Even if they ally themselves with the villains.
“Heroism wasn’t about what you could do, it was about what you did.”
Renegades is the first in a Duology, with the sequel due out this fall. The title was also just announced: Arch Enemies. If you’ve read this and know how it ends, you’ll die screaming a thousand deaths at all the promise held in those two words! If not, you’ll know what sweet agony is promised as soon as you finish the final page.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Meyer’s, and am once again enthralled with her writing. She handles diversity and inclusiveness like no one’s business. I’m dying for November!
I read this as part of Mary Weber’s Facebook Book Club. The book was a gift from the best #bookfairy I’ve ever known, Tracy @thepagesinbetween. She’s an awesome blogger and is Queen of Thrillers! Go check her out!