This summer’s Wonder Woman movie was a breath of fresh air and gave many of us an immense feeling of relief. In an era when the idea that something must be dark and gritty to be good, and that the only way for a female character to be considered strong is to be damaged and emotionally unavailable, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman proved that women- and heroes- can be good and just and loving and light. Leigh Bardugo’s Warbringer follows in that tradition.
Warbringer is the first in a series of four books from Penguin Random House featuring young adult adaptations of popular DC characters. Bardugo gives us a teenage Diana of Themyscira, struggling to fit in a culture where she feels she hasn’t earned the right to be there. In Warbringer, Themyscira is populated by women of all cultures who died in battle and called out to a goddess – any goddess – and were granted immortality on the island. It is untouched by weather, by hunger, by disease, and Diana, who was born to Hippolyta and never been in battle, is constantly unsure of her place in the society.
It is this Diana who happens to spot a shipwreck survivor and brings her to the island. It’s forbidden to bring outsiders to Themyscira, but Diana wants to prove that she is worthy of the other Amazons. Once Alia Keralis is on shore, though, things start going very bad. A visit to the Oracle reveals that Alia is a Warbringer – descended from Helen of Troy, the arrival of a Warbringer often brings on cataclysmic destruction. Alia must either be killed or be purified in Helen’s spring to end the curse forever.
Warbringer introduces a fantastic Diana. She is principled but also selfish; at first she wants to help Alia in order to bring glory to herself, but as she spends more time with her, they grow to be friends. She is strong-willed and capable of amazing things, but she is also loyal and trusting (at times). Her friendship with Alia – and later Nim, Alia’s best friend – is a perfect example of how to do female friendships. Strong women having each other’s backs; I am all for that.
As much as this is a book about Diana finding her place, it is not a book that treats the other characters as secondary or less important. They are all distinct and memorable, and when everything hits the fan, they fight just as fiercely as the super-powered Diana. It’s also a book that’s just as diverse as the world we live in. Of the five main characters, only one – Diana – is white. Alia and her brother Jason are black, Jason’s best friend Theo is Brazilian, and Nim is Indian. (Nim is also gay, fat, and fashionable, and quite possibly my favorite character.) These characters are nuanced and developed, each with their own issues and neuroses.
Warbringer is a wonderfully well-written, action-packed story with almost non-stop thrills, plot twists, compelling characters, and strong messages. The dialogue is sharp and funny, and the action scenes are gripping. I devoured this book; I couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend this book to basically everyone. If you saw Wonder Woman and loved it, you will probably enjoy this book as well. It has the same spirit.
Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo is published by Random House Books for Young Readers and will be available August 29 wherever books are sold.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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