Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

I haven't watched the Wonder Woman movie yet - I know, right - but I've heard and read so much about it that I almost feel like I already have. When I found out that YA fantasy author, Leigh Bardugo, was writing a Wonder Woman novel, I assumed it was going to be a tie-in to the film that would expand on that universe. You can imagine my shock, then, when the film has Wonder Woman as a fully grown (but still young) woman during WWI, whereas this book has Wonder Woman as a teenager now.

Um, what?

DC timelines, you're harder to follow than a private Twitter user.

Once I got over that funhouse mirror-style discrepancy in the space-time continuum and other wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey matters, it was a matter of figuring out the "canon" of this universe. Themyscira is thrown into chaos when a mortal girl named Alia washes up upon the shores. Rather than let her die, Diana decides to save her. But saving her is no simple matter, because as it turns every other fantasy heroine ever, Alia is no ordinary mortal girl.

Their journey takes them into New York City, where Diana meets Alia's friends, Theo and Nim, and her billionaire older brother, Jason. From there, it's a matter of figuring out the secrets of the titular "Warbringer" and attempting to stop a prophecy before it can be carried into motion and doom the world (and result in Diana's being ostracized from the people she holds dear).

I won't lie to you - the beginning of this book is bad. The pace is gruelingly slow, and Diana comes off as a total Mary Sue, one minute sounding wise beyond her years, the next acting painfully naive. It suits her character, but it had me clenching my teeth because of how twee it felt. I didn't really care for the other Amazons, either. They were all a bunch of jerks. Oh, I'm sorry, your island is in danger? Well, so sorry about that, don't let the ocean hit you on the way out, ya bunch of jerks. They treat Diana the way Rudolph the Red-Nose reindeer was treated, pre-saving Christmas.*

The book doesn't really pick up until p.150 or so. The introduction of secondary teenager characters had me clutching my pearls in horror - MILLENNIALS!!!! - but these characters are actually pretty great. They're all people of color, one of them is LGBT+, they all have distinct personalities, and they act like the teenagers they are, only with some of the best oneliners ever. Sometimes the oneliners are a little too heavy-handed, like you can tell the author is winking at you because of how clever it all is, but most of the time it works. Nim is probably my favorite, but Alia was a close second. Female friendships are bomb, and you really don't see enough of those in YA fiction, sadly.

Also - the twist with the villain? Did not see that coming. The climax had a total cinematic feel. It was like watching a movie play out in book form.

So, one star deducted for turning Diana into a Mary Sue and being too cute with the 80s action hero lines. One star deducted for being boring AF in the beginning and almost having me DNF and miss out on the redeeming second half. WARBRINGER earned those last remaining three stars fair and square, though. Those last two lines in the book were pure perfection.

*And she doesn't even get credit for saving the world at the end. WTF.

3 out of 5 stars

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