Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons #1)
By: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 29th, 2017
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.
When I first heard about the DC Icons series, I was excited, but also fairly skeptical. Marvel’s attempt to move into YA, Black Widow: Forever Red, fell fairly flat for me. And despite the fact that DC was boasting some of the biggest names in YA currently, I was a little wary that DC wouldn’t manage any better than Marvel had. But boy, was I wrong: Warbringer is a strong read, one that builds on who the essence of Wonder Woman is without trying to mimic either the comics or the recent movie.
Since I’m fairly convinced Leigh Bardugo can do no wrong (and might also be an Amazon her own self), I shouldn’t have been surprised by how much I liked it. I mean, from the first mention of multicultural Amazons, I was squealing. But it really did take me by surprise. I enjoyed the slow buildup, from introducing Diana and her place among the Amazons, and moving to give her a valid, important reason to leave the island (even though that bit felt murky to me until it was explained in more depth later). I assume this is how almost every Wonder Woman franchise starts out, from sheer necessity. But I liked how much time Leigh Bardugo took to cement our understanding of Diana as a teenager unsure of her place in the world. It felt important, more so than just portraying her as a crazy powerful Amazon goddess.
But where I really fell in love with the story was when Alia and Diana made it to New York. Because yes, Diana was wandering around New York in Roman leather gear, and breaking the fingers of creepy dudes on the Subway. And the story quickly escalated–the two only have a few few days to get to Greece and make it so that Alia never comes into her full power, despite a whole army of men trying to stop them.
Although the action was fast-paced, it never felt frenetic. Some parts of the plot veered into the category of stereotypical (ballroom battle, anyone?), but I honestly appreciated some of that. After all, would it really be a superhero story without parachutes, stolen cars, or a last-minute supervillain reveal? But at the same time, I really appreciated the way that some of that was subverted and used in a humorous way–it felt like Leigh was deliberately playing with the superhero tropes, both as homage and as a self-deprecating laugh.
The story alternated between Alia and Diana for POV, which might irk some readers. But I never found it irritating or confusing. This might be because they sound so very different–Diana has such a different mentality and way of seeing things that, even though the shift in POV wasn’t always emphasized, I could always tell who was speaking. And I thought the combination of voices added something that wouldn’t otherwise have been there: we HAD to have Diana, as the title character, but Alia added a humanity that grounded the story. I also liked the inclusion of other people into the quest. Nim, Theo, and Jason all added interest, and made it more than just Diana and Alia arguing for the entire book.
There was a smidge of romance–just enough to make the story interesting, without distracting from the superhero awesomeness. And kudos to having an LGBTQ character who openly crushes on Wonder Woman (in place of all of us, I’m sure). Actually, let me just go ahead and shout this from the rooftops: ALL THE APPLAUSE to Leigh Bardugo, for doing her best to represent as much diverse humanity as she can. I’m applauding her for a black descendant of Helen of Troy; for having Chinese, Irish, and generally not-Greek Amazons; for her humanization of every part of humanity; and for generally being a queen herself. Also for reminding us that before Helen of Troy became the beauty/sex icon of Western Civilization, she was a girl with her own hopes, dreams and life. Applaud, people.
I’m not sure we’ll be getting a sequel out of this, what with the volume of Wonder Woman stuff already in the works, but a girl can always dream. And if not, I have my own theories about how Warbringer fits into at least the film franchise. But either way, I’m genuinely excited to see what other wonderful works come out of the DC Icons series–I’ll be keeping an eager eye out for the next one, Marie Lu’s Batman novel.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.