I was anticipating Ru Xu’s EndGames, the sequel to NewsPrints, because I enjoyed the previous book, a steampunk-y tale of the first girl newsboy in a world at war.

Unfortunately, EndGames was almost exactly what I didn’t want to read. I missed the individual character work with Blue and Crow, the AI built to fly warplanes. Instead, it’s a story of two countries at war and the machinations involved with empire-building and hereditary royalty.

Given that the two lands are called Grimmaea and Goswing, I found it difficult to keep straight which one was which. Part of the problem was that I didn’t care about what was going on with them. There’s a lot happening here, and if you enjoy big-picture scheming and tactics, you might like it. I wanted a more small-scale story about people instead of politics.

The new characters include the princess, two siblings who run around with Blue named Snow and Red, an admiral, a university leader and diplomat, Blue’s former co-worker Hector, and Hector’s friend Leo, a military captain. I don’t feel like I learned much about any of them, except the princess. There’s just too much we’re told about and not enough time for any of it.


A lot of imagination has obviously been put into this world-building, but with so much happening and the story skipping from brief scene to new location, I found myself flipping pages, without enough places to hook into or engage with the story. That kind of sprawling tale is representative of the chaos of war, but it might have had more space to breathe in more than one 200-page book.

There are some insightful observations about life under conflict in individual moments, but like many classic stories, this one turns on one scrappy publisher being willing to publish the truth, which brings down all the plots and schemers and rallies the public. Do we still believe that’s the case?

Perhaps my asking that question shows that I’m too jaded for this kind of fantasy. Younger readers with time for multiple re-reads and attention to keep up with all the detail may like it a lot more than I did.

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