So, in this latest chapter from the Virals, the Gamemaster is now in court and is destined for jail. But what might be destined to fall apart is the Virals themselves however, because Ben has been expelled from Bolton Prep after an aggravating affair in the last book (and no, he didn't cheat on Tory, don't worry). But Tory is basically feeling like he did, and isn't talking to him, but they have to join up again when two siblings and twins from Bolton Prep, Lucy and Peter Gable, are abducted with a ransom video and a five million dollar ransom along with it. And after three books, the Virals are famous among police headquarters, and famous with Candela Pharmaceuticals, one of the many companies Chance Claybourne owns, who is getting closer and closer to finding out the truth of the kids who exposed his father and saved his life more than a few times. The only clues the Virals have is a hunch and a calling card the abducter left behind, and a calling card that doesn't leap from the pile. This might be the hardest Virals detective mission yet, especially with the burden between Tory and Ben.
After four books, let me say that I've grown to love Tory, Ben, Hi and Shelton. I can see each character as a person with individual personality, and I think they are the perfect examples of "The Ninja Turtles of Superpowers." Tory is Leo, Ben is Raph, Hi is Mikey, and Shelton is Donnie. And the side characters are now crystal clear, apart from a fraction of police officers. So character development? No need.
Despite this advantage, I wasn't enjoying myself as much as I was hoping for at the beginning of the book. First of all, Tory explains their story of catching the Parvovirus pretty much right off the bat, and after four books, I don't think it needs to update in on itself like the Captain Underpants books. Then it emphasizes on a girl named Ella, who Tory says has grown to be a best friend. Good for her, except I didn't learn much about her and she was quite new to the Virals series to be shown as a best friend. It was when the Virals are investigating the Gable's house and Hi says this. "But someone bought The Last Airbender on Blu-ray, and that has to be the worst purchase ever!" Okay, I'm glad Hi has a sense of humour, and I understand people have hated on that movie, but The Last Airbender is one of my favourite movies of all time, a movie that kicked off my film critic career. The point is, I'm like a feminist when it comes to people hating on that movie, and I seriously could've gone without that reference. Watch my YouTube video on the movie if you don't believe me. Plus, the book doesn't talk about the gossip girl bullies or the relationship between Tory and Whitney that seemed to have grown after Code, all the while taking a break from the powers of the Virals and doesn't use the individuality of any special abilities the way they did it in the last two books, (ex. Ben's super strength and Tory's super sniffer) all the while having a side story with Chance where he says he doesn't know what's going on but it's pretty clear he's already connected the dots, or should've by now.
So all of these flaws despite the fact that I really blasted through this book without anything that really offended me (other than the TLA thing which wasn't as bad as the Christian thing in Code) are the primary reasons for my up-and-down rating. Some positive things to show are, even if the Virals don't have as much fun, I got used to their bogey powers by the second half, because it sneaks up a mystery and leaves it hanging by the end, but still acknowledges it. Is what one character revealed the reason for their powers gone haywire, or is there something still hidden in Karsten's files? And while the mystery is sometimes filler, by the end of the book I didn't care and felt the mystery was anything but, this one being the most loose and blind out of all the Virals mysteries, and I mean that in a good way, how the minuscule and guessing-game clues create some pleasant fun and a certain clue makes a surprise return after several dozen pages, making us once again delighted to have forgotten so we could be reminded gleefully. The book also goes back to some of its roots with its stiff policemen, and while the Virals have proven themselves not crazy numerous times, Ben's expulsion from Bolton Prep makes the reluctance of the cops believable. And you know something? One thing I stupendously enjoyed at the beginning was the Gamemaster's outbreak about his Game at court. I was as shocked as the jury and it was a ton of fun seeing the madman's fury after all his outsmarts from the last book; it really paid off here. Finally, there is more than just one twist at the end of this book. There are several gargantuan ones, enough for me to add this to the thumbs up category in one thumb.
Exposure isn't perfect, and I was actually very close to giving it 1 and a half stars, but in the end it's a solid and liquid entry in the franchise.