Archenemies by Marissa Meyer is the second instalment of Renegades trilogy. Told in dual perspective between Nova (Insomnia/Nightmare) and Adrian (Sketch/Sentinel), two star crossed lovers on the opposing sides of justice. This instalment picks up immediately from the first book, with Nova continuing her mission to infiltrate the Renegades, the superhero organisation she blames for the murder of her parents. Under the guide of the Anarchists, her adopted family, she continues to learn the secrets of this powerful organisation to bring them down.
The sequel introduces Agent N, a drug which can sap the powers of any Prodigy (those with superpowers) deemed to be abusing their powers. This plot is coupled with the growing attraction between Adrian and Nova, which had taken the backburner in Renegades, who are simultaneously trying to make sure nobody uncovers their respective alter egos, including each other.
One thing Meyer does incredibly well is writing action scenes. Each action scene is heart-pounding, fascinating and unputdownable. The last third had everything we’ve come to expect from a tale of superheroes; action, secrets and betrayal.
Unfortunately, it took far too long to get to that point. This trilogy was originally meant to be a duology and it felt as though by creating a trilogy, Meyer must pad out the sequel. Having read the last book a year ago it was hard to remember every single alias and actual name of over twenty-five characters. Not to mention their superpowers. It became a process of having to recall and constantly flip to the character list every few minutes which interrupted my enjoyment of the book, where as Meyer should have spent the time to reintroduce the minor characters readers may have forgotten about.
Meyer attempts to tackle difficult topics such as what leads disillusioned people to the wrong side of justice. What happens when the line between good and bad seems grey? Yet she does so in a heavy-handed way which makes the reading didactic and preachy. There are no subtleties as we see Nova and Adrian question every move made by the Renegades and bring to light the moral issues with a plethora of rhetorical questions. The idea of the villain infiltrating the good guys is an interesting concept but not when it is used to beat the reader over the head with a constant pointing out of the flaws of the good guys. Nothing is left for the reader to think about for themselves as it is all laid out for them.
It was refreshing to see Meyer go beyond the common clichés of the superhero genre in Archenemies, a pitfall she had not managed to avoid Renegades. This may be because there was a greater emphasis on the romance between Nova and Adrian and the loyalties that their bond might test, to both themselves and their families. Personally, the action scenes were much more engaging, and the romance should have taken the backburner again.
Words by Georgina Banfield