In Review: EndGames

Protagonist Blue's importance is lost among a large supporting cast and over several settings.

EndGames by Ru Xu

Published by Graphix/Scholastic, January 29, 2019. Hardback of 208 pages at $24.99, paperback at $12.99, and Ebook at $7.99. Intended for ages 8 – 12, grades 3 – 7. 

Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication.

The cover: Blue faces the reader while Red and Snow have turned around to watch the fleet fly above them. This is a good, colorful tease for what’s within this book. However, I do admit to taking more than a moment to try to recall this scene. Overall grade: B

The premise: From the back cover, “Blue arrives in the capital city of Altalus, where she is determined to find her friend Crow, the boy who was created to be a flying machine, and Jack, the engineer who built him. But soon she is inadvertently kidnapped by Snow and Red, twins from the enemy side of their ten-year war. They set off on a dangerous adventure that brings them to the front lines of the war, and eventually realize that they must work together to help end it. But with larger, more powerful forces at work, the fight for peace — and survival — will be more difficult than they ever imagined.” I did read the first book, NewsPrints, but I don’t remember much of it. I’m all for reading about young heroes trying to stop war. Overall grade: B

The characters: Blue is the protagonist of this book and she’s on a mission to find Blue. She’s the voice of the reader, asking the questions that shouldn’t be asked of other characters, cutting through pomp and circumstance to get to the truth of the matter. I liked that she’s trying to keep both sides of this war from going after each other and her speech on 190 and 191 is outstanding. However, Blue does get lost in the story, with other characters having their own side stories. Her companion from the beginning of the book is reporter Hector. He’s quickly separated from Blue and finds himself at the front line, checking in with the troops to get a real story, and ultimately finding that there are those who don’t want it told. He was an okay character. Jack Jingle is a character who works for Queen Lina and has a slight bond with Blue and becomes a possibly ally as things begin to go south for her majesty. Queen Corazana Lina is blind, seventeen, and is motivated by revenge. She’s not the power crazed ruler; she wants what’s best for her people, though she does want to get revenge for the death of her family. I didn’t know what to make of her after the book’s climax at the front lines. Is she a good person? Bad person? My confusion left me ultimately not caring for her. Snow and Red are twins that kidnap Blue, but quickly become her friends. They were extremely engaging. So much so that they began to overshadow Blue. That’s not good when supporting characters inspire so much more interest over the protagonists. The characters in this book are fine, but there are so many that Blue is lost often in the mix. There were several times when I found myself having to remember that she’s the lead. Overall grade: B-

The settings: The book opens in Altalus, a beautiful city that’s classical metropolitan, with even the streetlights looking gorgeous. The palace is then shown, looking as one would expect, though the quarters where Crow is discovered are pretty creepy. The front line is comprised of very open spaces with a lot of dirt and mountains. They’re interesting and give a good sense of reality to the proceedings there. The settings of this book are good. Overall grade: A

The action: There’s some decent action at the front lines and the drama whenever Crow comes into the story is terrific. Other than that, there’s a lot of “Will they or won’t they fight?” It’s okay, but wasn’t thrilling. Overall grade: C

The conclusion: Once the battle segments have ended, there’s a lot of dialogue about where each country stands, and Blue making blanket statements. It just had no impact on me. There could be more adventures in future books, but after this, I’m done. Overall grade: C

The artwork: Xu is also the illustrator of her book and this looks good. I enjoyed the design of the characters, the planes and mechanical devices look outstanding, the settings excellent, and she moves her point of view around well. My advanced copy was primarily in black and white, which reminded of Viz’s early American publications, though the pages that were in color looked exceptionally vivid. Overall grade: A 

The final line: Protagonist Blue’s importance is lost among a large supporting cast and over several settings. The war overshadows her and had me losing interest, and that’s a flaw. When the book was done, it had no impact on me. I didn’t feel happy or sad with the ending. I enjoyed the visuals more than the story. This might go over better with the intended audience, but I just couldn’t warm to this graphic novel. Overall grade: B-

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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