by Andrea Tang
Publication: February 25, 2020
Series: Rebelwing #1
Prep school student Prudence Wu regularly smuggles out illicit materials to customers outside of the city. In her haste to complete a deal, she leaves without her partner Anabel Park and, of course, it just has to be the one where she meets with dire consequences–her customer double-crosses her, and enforcers come after her. After being unexpectedly rescued by a cybernetic dragon, Pru is forced to work for a secret organization to keep her “extracurricular activities” off her records.
The overall story and the world Tang creates is an interesting one. The story is set in an alternate United States, in a different Washington D.C., one of the last places that has yet to be consumed by a growing authoritarian regime the UCC. The efforts of a past resistance have kept New Columbia one of the last strongholds of democratic governance; it’s not only independent but thriving in the aftermath of wars fought long ago. Although a tenuous peace has been established between it and the UCC, it’s becoming more difficult to determine how long peace can be maintained. This is the world that Pru, an Asian American teen, is trying to survive in.
Pru is a tough, wise-cracking heroine, and I liked her a lot. I’m prone to liking sarcastic heroines who stand up for themselves when life tries to shove them around. It’s especially when in the face of authority that her sarcasm and defiance are entertaining. In many ways, Pru bucks the model minority myth placed on Asian Americans. She is by no means a straight-laced rule follower, but one who takes risks (i.e. smuggling censored materials like graphic novels to UCC incorporated areas). She isn’t as privileged as her colleagues but does the best she can with what she has. Sure, she might be taking calculus but things don’t necessarily come easily to her–you know, like bonding with a mechanical dragon. As a fan of science fiction growing up, Pru and Rebelwing would have been the book I needed to feel represented in the literature I was so fond of.
While the story was promising, it was lacking in one of the elements I was most excited about: the sentient cybernetic dragon. Rebelwing is the mecha dragon that saves Pru, imprinting on Pru and leaving her in a difficult situation. While Rebelwing is pivotal to the plot, there are only glimpses of her whereas I expected more interaction and bonding between Pru and the sentient dragon. I would have gladly read on for another hundred or so pages if it meant that I got more Pru and Rebelwing together, hopefully getting a better understanding of why Pru was chosen when there were so many potential pilots such as Alex or Anabel that would have been better options. Of course, this is touched on slightly, but not near the extent I was hoping for.
While I enjoyed Pru’s story, the more interesting storylines were not that of Pru or her peers, rather it was of Pru’s mom and Alex’s uncle. Who were they in their past lives? Who are they now? Who could have they been in the present had they made different choices? The little that is revealed about Pru’s mom and Alex’s uncle, of each of their past and how those decisions shaped who they eventually became was intriguing to me. Yes, I would have settled for more reading if it meant reading more about these two as well. Or, how about a prequel novella?
Rebelwing is a fun book and packed with action. Is it good? Yes. Is the writing good? Yes. However, it left me somewhat unfulfilled due to my expectations of the Pru and dragon imprinting bond. If you’re expecting a metal dragon, you won’t see too much so it’s best to put that notion aside and soak up what you do get. If you can set that hope aside, you’ll be able to enjoy the novel a lot more. The sequel Renegade Flight was released on March 23, 2021. That will be a forthcoming review while I wait for it to arrive.
**If you’ve read Rebelwing, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ve read reviews that range in ratings, from one end to the other, so I’d like to know what you think. There are different themes it touches on that I didn’t talk about in the review, but I’d love to discuss some more as well. And the ending was pretty good.**