Title: Wonder Woman: Warbringer
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: YA / Superheros
Series: DC Icons
Synopsis: She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .
Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.
Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.
Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war. (taken from Goodreads)
Even though Wonder Woman isn’t exactly a fave (Nightwing has my heart), of course I’d still buy the book. It’s Leigh freaking Bardugo. If anyone could make me fall in love with a superhero that I don’t really care for, it’d be her. Did she succeed? YEP.
Probably an error in printing but for some reason, my original paperback was missing around 33 pages and I had to get it replaced. So that was a thing. I wouldn’t say it ruined my reading experience but it was pretty frustrating to be so immersed in the book, then have the story abruptly jump to another chapter in the middle of an action-packed scene. And okay, maybe it was kinda hilarious as well. My friends certainly had a good laugh out of my misery.
Wonder Woman: Warbringer is full of feminism. Note that it doesn’t try to be feminist–it just is. Nothing about it feels forced or preachy or anything of the sort. Romance takes a backseat in this one, and emphasis is placed on friendships. Female friendships, especially. Diana and Alia’s friendship remains to be the most important aspect of the book. Their relationship is what helps them get through their journey.
It’s also diverse. Majority of the characters are PoC. We also get a fat character who is queer, and an awkward, lanky love interest (usually we get the brooding bad boy with a hot bod). They also work well together as a cast. Their interactions and relationships with one another are fantastic! And hilarious enough to have me pause my reading so I can laugh out loud.
Some issues I had: I could’ve gone with a bit more exploration of Themyscira, and maybe have more Amazon warriors involved in the story. Also, it didn’t completely feel like a superhero book to me, leaning more toward contemporary that would turn fantasy all of a sudden. The story sometimes feels slow, but as long as you care for the characters, it really isn’t all that bothersome.
Something I can wholly credit the book for is how incredibly empowering it is. The characters are composed of outcasts proving their worth, humans trying to be extraordinary, and normal teenagers wanting to know their place in the world. They learn how to use their strengths to their advantage and rely on each other during their weaker moments. Each one of them comes out stronger at the end.
Heart-pounding thrills and unexpected twists make up the last few chapters, which makes it extremely difficult to put down. Exciting and heartening, Wonder Woman: Warbringer is definitely worth a read!
This portion of the review is a slightly more in-depth discussion of the book and will contain spoilers/rants/raves. Read at your own discretion.
The first quarter or so of the book starts off in Themyscira, the island of the amazons. It’s easily one of the more interesting settings we get to see (sorry, NYC!). Unfortunately, we only do get to see it for a short time. By the fifth chapter, we’re whisked away to modern day New York. Damn shame. We have here an island filled with nothing but kickass warrior ladies. Couldn’t we have spent more of the book getting to explore that instead?
I feel like because the descriptions end up being lumped together, the world-building for Themyscira goes by too fast. Don’t get me wrong, the actual writing and imagery is amazing, but everything we need to know about it gets dumped within the first hundred pages. We basically just follow Diana around, learn a bit about how the island works, then poof! Goodbye Themyscira. There are so many things that I wanted to learn about the island but we don’t exactly get the opportunity to do so.
For the most part, Themyscira is described to have this lush and thriving environment. Flowers, trees, vineyards, and greenery galore. But as gorgeous as it is, my favorite has got to be the marsh. It’s eerie, it’s creepy, and it managed to send chills down my spine despite getting only a couple of paragraphs dedicated to it.
Onto the characters. First up, we have Diana Prince, the one and only Wonder Woman. The book serves more as a prequel of her orgin story since she does return to Themyscira at the end. Though I do find it a bit strange because if we’re going with the canon, that’d mean Diana would end up staying in the human world anyway (and not be allowed to return to Themyscira thereafter). But then again, it’s DC we’re talking about and they’re pretty known for having multiple universes so I suppose that doesn’t really matter. Diana is the sole white character; the rest of the cast is made up of explicitly POC, which I adore greatly. Representation is always appreciated and I didn’t expect any less from Bardugo.
Understandably, Diana can be rather naïve, both while in Themyscira and in our world. It certainly results in hilarious situations and conversations. Still, she doesn’t take shit from anyone, especially not from leering men who decided it was a good idea to flirt with her in the subway (I laughed so fucking hard at that part).
Next we have Alia Keralis. She’s a science nerd and the daughter of two renowned scientists. Oh and she’s also a Warbringer. Very cool. It’s her story as much as it is Diana’s, and I actually hadn’t been expecting a dual POV so I was pleasantly surprised when I found that we would be getting Alia’s side of the story as well. I definitely shipped her and Diana at the beginning of the book, and I might be a little bitter that they didn’t end up together. Diana is canonically bisexual in the comics and it would’ve been great to have her be with a woman.
I love Alia’s character. A stereotype that I absolutely hate is the nerdy kid with glasses and braces and respiratory problems or whatever else. I was a huge science nerd when I was little but I gave up my interest in it because it wasn’t “cool” so yeah, it’s nice to see a smart teen who’s as regular as any other teen (or as regular as she could be considering that she’s a Warbringer). And okay, even though she didn’t end up with Diana like I would’ve wanted, I’m still glad for the strong friendship that they have. Friendships can be just as powerful as romantic relationships, and I love that Bardugo put emphasis on that.
Something to note about the way Bardugo wrote Alia is how she weaved in the actual effects of Alia being a PoC. Alia has a guard following her around a convenience store, and even when talking about her past, we see glimpses of her mother expressing caution because of her heritage. Same goes for Nim; she’s ostracised for being Indian. We also see its effects on Jason, who decides to focus more on the fact that he’s Greek. As someone with mixed heritage, I’ve been in Jason’s shoes before, so that I can definitely relate to. Clearly, Bardugo doesn’t just make them PoC for the sake of being PoC. I can’t speak for the rep and whether or not it is 100% accurate, but I really appreciate what Bardugo did here. Three characters who end up with vastly different personalities because of the way they choose to deal with the prejudice they experience.
Aside from those two, we also get Nim and Theo. They’re both humans, though they’re far from ordinary. Nim is by far my favorite character. She’s fierce and badass and god, I just love her so much. I live for her friendship with Alia and subsequently, Diana as well. Aside from being another PoC (Indian, to be precise), Nim is also queer and fat. Bless. Also, she has a thing for random facts. Theo, on the other hand, is described to be gangly. He’s perceived as irresponsible, even an idiot at times, but he has his own strengths and he comes through when needed. He’s good with technology and is an expert at hacking. Admittedly, I don’t like Theo as much as I do the others. I feel like there could be more to his character and he could use a bit more development.
What I admire the most about them is how brave they both are. They still choose to fight alongside Diana, despite going through traumatic experiences (I imagine being possessed by ancient deities of chaos and fear isn’t any fun) and having no powers of their own. Just as I said earlier, this book is empowering, not only because of Diana, but also because of the incredible side characters like Nim and Theo.
Last but not the least, we have Jason Keralis. I didn’t really care for him or the romance between him and Diana, even before the big reveal. He’s uptight, rigid, and incredibly bossy. I thought he was sketchy from the start, and it turns out my hunch was right. He’s actually some mad scientist, insane enough to mess around with DNA and create a half-scorpion half-woman creature named Pinon. Generally, I do feel like his story needs more wrapping up. At the end, Diana gets to see what happened to Alia, Theo, and Nim… but not Jason. It left me wondering where he was, what he was doing, and if Alia bothered to reach out to him.
There are some parts I feel are slow. Nothing too drastic happens up until they get attacked at the party (a.k.a. THE PART WHERE MY FIRST COPY CUTS OFF). After that, it’s all continuous page-turning action and reveals. Gods and goddesses start showing up while they’re on the run from their pursuers. And said deities posses Nim and Theo. That caught me by surprise. It upped the stakes and made the entire story even more thrilling. (Also, fun fact: Eris is my favorite Greek goddess so I was a bit ecstatic when she showed up heh).
I’m not going to touch on the writing anymore because at this point, I think it’s pretty clear that Bardugo’s writing style is amazing. She hasn’t failed to impress me so far, and I hope the streak will keep going with her future books because I’m definitely going to be reading each and every one.