Tuesday, December 28, 2021

REVIEW: Wonder Woman: Warbringer (book) by Leigh Bardugo

Wonder Woman: Warbringer is a YA Wonder Woman tie-in novel. According to my records, I bought it brand new, but I can't actually remember buying it.


Princess Diana is keenly aware that, unlike the other Amazons on the island of Themyscira, she was born an Amazon and has never really had to prove herself. She's so desperate to show that she's worthy that she joins a race even her own mother doesn't think she can win. But she has trained in secret and knows she'll manage it...until she spots a shipwreck and sees a human girl drowning. Although it'll cost her the race and there are strict rules against bringing mortals to Themyscira, Diana can't bring herself to just let the girl die.

Unfortunately, the girl, Alia Keralis, turns out to be a Warbringer, a descendant of Helen of Troy. She's unknowingly a catalyst for conflict, and her power has only gotten stronger as she's gotten older. Unless she's killed, she's doomed to plunge the world into war by her very existence. However, there's another solution: the Warbringer can be purified and her curse kept from being passed on if she makes it to a spring at Therapne before the sun sets on the first day of Hekatombaion, which is happening in about a week.

I'm guessing I bought this not long after seeing the 2017 Wonder Woman movie, which I really enjoyed. I thought it might be a related sidestory or possibly some kind of prequel, but instead it had zero relation to the movie. I'm not sure if its events tie in to the comics in any way, but it read like it was its own thing. I mean that in the best possible way - unlike some tie-ins, which struggle against the confines of the movie/series/etc. that they're based on, this didn't come across as stiff or flat. It felt like Bardugo had room to play around and make the world and characters more her own.

The way Bardugo incorporated Helen of Troy and other aspects of Greek mythology was interesting, although I'm not sure all the details held together in the end. I also generally really liked the characters. Bardugo's Diana was just as awesome and capable as you'd expect from an Amazon, but she also had an edge of vulnerability and uncertainty that reminded you she was technically still a teen. 

I was prepared for Alia to be annoying and useless by comparison, but I ended up liking her and appreciating her POV sections quite a bit, even if her crush on Theo made me wince and had me instantly wondering if we were going to be entering "surprise" betrayal territory. It was fun seeing the disconnect between Diana's perception of herself (desperately wanting to measure up to older and more experienced Amazons) and Alia's perception of her (an awesome cross between a supermodel and an action hero). I was glad, though, that this didn't devolve into Alia negatively comparing herself to Diana - Alia and her friend Nim could appreciate Diana without it dragging down their own perceptions of themselves. It probably helped that Diana appreciated them and their strengths right back.

After a while, I got a bit impatient with the book's pacing - it was a good thing the characters generally appealed to me, because the story itself was pretty simple, just "journey to the spring and deal with occasional obstacles in the way." About a third of the book was devoted to the characters either flying or driving to their destination as they were occasionally interrupted by either enemies trying to kill Alia or gods and goddesses causing trouble with Alia's friends.

The last 60 or so pages didn't really work for me for various reasons. The one big revelation didn't exactly come out of nowhere but still didn't seem to fit (only one person ever noticed anything was off?). Also, Bardugo resorted to something that, while technically not a violation of this world's rules, still kind of felt like cheating.

Still, this was overall a good reading experience, and it definitely made me want to try Bardugo's other books.


A short author's note in which Bardugo lays out some of the areas where she took artistic liberties. Also, a folded poster that can be torn out (perforated edge), featuring Wonder Woman art by Afua Richardson.

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