Highly original, well written fusion of disparate ideas. Ties for the most creative book I’ve read this year along with Exurbia, by Alex McKechnie.
Wick is what happens when you take wrestling...
...and of all things, Yugioh...
And mix it in a blender on the highest setting. You’d think you’d get a mess with such a mix, but instead you get something quite rare and even a tad beautiful.
Wick starts in a very confusing way as we’re dropped right into the action with no explanations given. And the action we’re dropped into is...a beauty pageant...no it’s a setup for a wrestling match or something? Oh, it’s...a card game?
Though not clear at first, it’s soon revealed that all the POV characters are a part of some vast and very popular tournament style eSport called Spark Forming. This futuristic eSport uses digital cards as a medium to summon impressively dangerous and beautiful looking beasts and humanoids that do battle in digital arenas. Each of the tournament combatants has his or her own POV, with the exception of two or three characters. And there are certainly some memorable POVs and other characters in the book.
Here’s hoping that I succeed in not ruining or spoiling anything here. The plot revolves around several different mysteries as each character has his or her own reasons for participating in the tournament. Though what each character presents on the surface is not always their true intentions. On the surface everyone is in the tournament for fame, glory, and prize money. Though most of their goals seem to be for things outside the arena. It’s revealed that there is much more going on behind the scenes and Spark Forming may not be as innocent and fun as the world thinks it is. I think that’s all I can say without spoiling too much. It’s vague, I know, but each reveal in the plot was major to me so I reeeeeallly don’t want to spoil anything for anyone else. I’ll just add that there’s some really good character drama that heats up from the middle to the end and the plot comes together nicely as each character’s earlier behaviors are given more light.
The Arena Battles
The futuristic eSport known as Spark Forming has several unique components to it that made it very unique to me. The first has to be the player entrances. Some of my favorite scenes in the book came from these entrances, which were reminiscent of professional wrestling to me. Each player would have their own music that was presented in this way:
“Song: Came Out Bruised (But Still Breathing)
Band: Addicted to my Rut
And then once the player is out and ready to start the match you have EPIC summoning descriptions for the Spark Forms like:
“His scales, rippling gently as he breathes, glow a deep, fiery red, Punctuated only by the curious black markings adorning his back and tail. Dark as a starless night, they run the length of his body, forming a line of symmetry for the scimitar-like patterns that trace paths out from the spine.”
Then there are the battles themselves which are far faster, more ferocious, and bloodier than I imagined they’d be. The players themselves experienced some sort of fatigue from the battles along with their Spark Form creatures as each battle required them to be “plugged in” and to use much of their own fortitude along with physical and mental dexterity.
I liked the strategies formed for these matches and thought that the play-by-play by the announcers was a clever way to teach the reader how the game is played. I will say that this is where the book’s lack of exposition hurts it the most. These battles would be much more enjoyable if the ground rules were laid before many of these battles took place. Since I didn’t know how the game was really even played, I never had any sense as to who would win or lose until the very end, so I was never on the edge of my seat for any of the battles. It was more like watching a laser light show until the end and finally going “that was neat,” at the end of it. So I hope more is explained about the card game itself in future books. Maybe even a card list so that we can take note of potential strategies ahead of time. Even with that said, the creativeness of the battles was enough to enthrall me and those were some of the chapters I read through the quickest.
Going hand in hand with the book’s uniqueness is the strength of each of Wick’s characters. As I said before there are many POVs in Wick, about five or seven if my memory serves and each character brings a unique perspective and rationale to the story. There were a few that I thought I’d dread reading in the beginning, but by the middle I must say that everyone had chapters that I looked forward to. It was mostly to unlock further mysteries in the story which everyone had fragments of, but I was surprised that a book with this many POVs didn’t really offer any weak links for me. Even A Song of Ice and Fire had those Sansa chapters that I freaking HATED, and many of the POVs in A Feast for Crows felt dry and pointless to me, but here, even with so many characters, I had a good time. If you’re anything like me you’ll really become a fan of John Forrester who’s just a fun character in every sense of the word. I kind of want to say more, but I prefer to leave some surprises.
The Quick and Dirty
-Confusing beginning. A lot is being said without much context. You don’t know if you’re reading about a pageant, a card game, or wrestling.
-The extra POVs in the beginning only added to the confusion.
-Could use some better explanations on the cards and the game mechanics to get you more invested in the card game. -The game isn't explained clearly enough in the first few matches forcing you to pay close attention to each match to understand how its played.
+Cool mix of wrestling and Yugioh or whatever combat card game you like. I really liked the on-camera dramatic “promos.” It felt like the 80’s all over again.
+Loaded with intelligence at every turn including characters, dialogue, plot, and much more. +The wrestling references are too good.
+Brilliant creature design and fight choreography.
+eSports taken to the next level.
+The announcers are a clever source of exposition.
+Spark form action is bloody brutal fast and intense. +In depth ideas and concepts, very well thought out, with great execution.
+John Forrester is a brilliant character. So are many others, but he is by far my favorite.
All in all, I have to say that I absolutely loved this book. It was one that I had received by the author for review, but I have to say that it's a series that I look forward to reading more of. My interest has been piqued with the mysteries, I have come to like the characters very much, and it's a unique world that I am interested in seeing more of. I'll definitely be reading the sequels. Don't just take my word for it. Check out the book for yourselves with the links below.
Author's website: http://mattdoylemedia.com/