Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
Published August 28, 2017
I have a confession to make. When I added this to my goodreads list and placed it on hold at the local library, I didn’t investigate very closely; I looked at the cover and assumed it was a graphic novel. As someone who plans her library holds with precision, carefully ensuring that I don’t have more books out than I can read in the allotted three weeks, I viewed the holds shelf with surprise and disappointment when it came in. “Ah, it’s a book,” I said. I already had out a few books that I knew I couldn’t renew and that I was more interested in reading. After all, I had only picked this up because it was written by Leigh Bardugo. Friends, I’m happy to report that even for the most casual of Wonder Woman fans (aka. those who saw the recent movie and enjoyed it), Wonder Woman: Warbringer is worth reading!
I enjoy comics and comic-based movies but I’m more of a Marvel fan than a D.C. fan. I’ve always found Superman and Batman to be a little too perfect, without enough flaws to compensate for, say, being incredibly rich, and your only weakness being a space rock from your home planet, respectively. The idea of a female-led superhero movie (and, let’s be honest, the appeal of Chris Pine) was too great for me to pass up though and I saw, and enjoyed, the Patty Jenkins’ directed Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman: Warbringer is certain to appeal to people like me, fans of the superhero genre who don’t have a strong attachment to Wonder Woman, but who do enjoy empowering novels about kickass women.
The premise features a teenage, unproven, Diana who worries that her status as the only resident of Themyscira who has not been tested in battle, will always make her lesser in the eyes of her companions and family members. Yet when her chance for glory in a grueling foot race comes, Diana breaks Amazon law by rescuing a mortal girl, Alia, instead. Unfortunately the girl is the latest in a line of Warbringers, direct descendants of Helen of Troy, who bring about an age of bloodshed and warfare. Unable to let Alia die, Diana embarks on a race against time quest to break the chain of Warbringers by bringing her to Helen’s resting place in Greece.
Bardugo proves why she’s an author that I will read absolutely anything by with Wonder Woman: Warbringer. Diana is a heroine to root for. She’s naive, as befits a girl out of her comfort zone for the rest time, but also kind, brave, and loyal. She’s joined by Alia, a young Greek/African-American woman who is shy and unwilling to put herself out there, but also has a bright scientific mind. I loved Nim, Alia’s best friend, as well. An overweight, gay, brown girl, Nim exudes confidence, is a brilliant fashion designer, and a loyal friend. I loved how the characters interacted with one another, and how they were always supportive, sticking up for and helping one another, as women should. I was less thrilled with the male characters in the book, but still found them interesting.
Much like the other books I read in November, That Inevitable Victorian Thing, and Provenance, Wonder Woman is a coming-of-age story. Tackling themes of identity, it forces its teenage heroines to confront their fears and to figure out where they fit in the world. Ultimately both Alia and Diana Prince come away from their quest with a stronger sense of self and an assurance about their strengths and their place in their respective worlds.
Bardugo retains tension throughout, as Diana and the others race against both the clock and external forces, such as enemies who would rather see the Warbringer dead. The plot is full of twists and turns, and those familiar with Greek mythology will undoubtedly get an extra thrill out of some of the references throughout the novel.
My favourite thing about the novel is how empowering I found it. The majority of the characters are female, and they’re all unique from one another, but supportive and talented. The twists to Greek Mythology (something that usually bothers me, but here they’ve been well-researched and are presented as credible) also have a feminist slant, as Helen is examined not just as Helen of Troy, the beauty who launched a thousand ships, but as the woman she was before her famous suitors. As you would expect from a Lerigh Bardugo novel, Wonder Woman: Warbringer is a delightful YA take on one of DC’s most famous properties, and is recommended even for those who aren’t big on DC Comics heroes.